Sunday, February 28, 2010

review: Desk Set

This is an interesting little movie that boils down to the adaption of people and industry to the computer age. All wrapped up in a romantic comedy. Its a little strange. The moral of the story is: computers are your friends. The other moral: there is no such thing as replacing a human.
Again, with a little romance thrown in.
The movie is not exactly wonderful cinema, but it is entertaining enough. If nothing else, than to see how far computers have come - or, the idea of computers.
3 out of 5 stars

review: The Wild Bunch

Less than 20 minutes in and I already have a feeling that I am going to hate this movie. Mostly because of the opening sequence. First of all, you see a bunch of kids looking at something, and then you see what it is they are "playing" with. A couple of scorpions in a nest of red ants. *shudder* Then, you have those shoot-out in which you are immediately informed that this is not going to be a pleasant movie. As the group goes back out of town, they pass children again, and to end their game, they put hay in the nest and light it on fire. Lovely children, aren't they?
So, immediately, you don't like anyone in this movie.
It does not get much better. At least, not for me.
It is highly honored though. It was nominated for 2 Oscars for Screenplay and Score. It is also on numerous top lists including AFI's Top 100 movies, Top 100 Thrills, and 10 Top 10 Genre.
The overall idea sounds appealing - an aging group of outlaws try to pull one last job. But - something goes wrong and it turns into something like 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' with a betrayer from the old gang.
The acting is also quite fine. A wonderful group of actors including William Holden and Ernest Borgnine. Design is ... I don't know - just there. Direction - I don't know.
This is one I would have to watch again to gain any appreciation other than what I have said.
2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Saturday, February 27, 2010

review: Lost in LaMancha

This has to be one of the most depressing Show Biz documentaries I have ever seen.
It started out well enough, with a humor about the whole project - even its downfalls. But then it just stops - and everyone seems to give up.
The story is about the making of a movie: 'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote' or rather, the non-making of it. From the very beginning things do not go smoothly, and it just gets worse from there.
This is a film I would have loved to see. But not so much the movie about not being able to make it. Like I said, the beginning is very wonderful and there is humor there and art and enthusiasm. I guess like life, that just goes away. On one hand, I can understand why they did that- because that is the story of 'Don Quixote' and the parrallel they wanted to make, but on the other hand (my personal preference), it made it a heck of a lot less interesting.
1 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

review: The Gold Rush

So, by now, we all know my love for Chaplin. I will say that the first time I tried to watch this movie, I was disturbed by the voice-over. It was the first silent film I had ever the chance to watch, and I was so disappointed that there was narration added that I refused to watch it at the time. Luckily, I got over that, and the next time I had a chance, I watched it, utterly delighted that this was Charlie Chaplin providing his own narration.
(Sorry, I had to provide that little background information.)
Now, as ever, I watch it and I love it. It is not ruined with sound being added so many years later, rather, it is increased by it. With Chaplin providing his own narration, it doesn't hinder the movie at all, it helps. The same humor is in the words that is in the silent moments.
This movie is on both of the AFI top 100 lists as well as the 100 Laughs list. It is also one of his most well known movies and one of his most beloved. Mostly because of 2 scenes: eating a shoe, and dancing rolls. What I love most about these films is that is beckons for out-loud laughter. I would love to watch his movies with someone who would appreciate them as much as I do. And this movie does just make you want to share the experience.
This is, I think, the movie with the best introduction of the little Tramp ever. After a quick narration of where we are, the scene cuts to a mountain side where the litte Tramp is walking along. He looks so out of place in the Klondike with his cane and little hat and overlarge shoes. You just have to laugh.
This film is a little different from the others. It is not so much of a social commentary. It is more of a traditional comedy, although he does deal with issues like hunger. What I love most about this movie is the physical comedy. He's brilliant with physical comedy in all of his movies, but it is in scenes like the tilting house or the wind keeping him from getting outside of the cabin. Just the way Chaplin moves, it's extraordinary.
Chaplin is the best comic, I think, of all time. He has mastered every aspect.
5 out of 5 stars

review: Spartacus

Politics and War in Roman times. Just as terrible as Politics and War in these times.
A good movie, a rather good movie. Wonderful performances. This is definately worthy of the title "sprawling epic" Rightfully so.
Popular lore has it that Kirk Douglas was disappointed that he did not get the lead in Ben-Hur, so he decided to have his own epic. And he got Stanley Kubrick to direct. Again, this is a movie I would never have expected him to make. But then again, it does fit, with its twisted human acts.
It is honored by being on 5, count them, 5 AFI lists. Those being 100 Thrills, 100 Heros & Villians, 100 Cheers, top 10 Genre, and on the over Top 100 movies list. Quite the honors, isn't it? It was nominated for 6 Oscars, winning 4 of them for Colored Costume Design, Art Direction, and Cinematography, and for Best Suppurtoing Actor Peter Ustinov.
All are well deserved - especially Ustinov's honor. He plays a wonderful, part evil man. His character is not bad, but he is intirely driven by money, which makes him less than savory. Laurence Olivier plays a truly maddening guy - what makes him so maddening is that he is so noble in his mind. Everything he goes is for the "good of Rome" Rome this, Rome that, and oh, he has so much pride! Drives you crazy, a little. So much so that you really do begin to prefer the lechery and outright "badness" of the Gracchus character. Who, is also quite wonderful in his role. His own trechery is his downfall, but you can't help but admire the old bastard despite of, or maybe even because of his ways. Of course, Kirk Douglas is wonderful, and Jean Simmons is apporpraite.
The trouble, for all actors, I think, is that since this took place so long ago, you often wonder if any of these portrayals are at all accurate. How can you know? And does it really matter? Movies like these are not for the glory of history and men so much as it is a allegory(?do I even have that right?) for the modern age. Maybe what I mean is a fictional representation for the purpose of a moral. In which case, it doesn't really matter, so long as the idea gets accross.
All in all, a good epic.
3 out of 5 stars

Friday, February 26, 2010

review: Modern Times

Thank God! I needed this after 'Platoon' Bless Charlie Chaplin! I love his movies. I like them because they are funny, and they are also social commentary. Satire at its best! This movie is a doosey! It is honored by being on both AFI Top 100 lists as well as its 100 Laughs list.
It starts right away with a scene of a sheep herd moving together, which fades into a scene of workers coming out of the subway on their way to work. Now, who hasn't been in a traffic jam, or in a footrace to work or class, and not thought of that? Me, personally, I think more along the lines of ants, but you get the idea. You know from that first moment that this movie is not only going to make you laugh, it is going to say something!
This time the little Tramp is trying to make it in a modern world. He is a bolt tightener on an assembly line in a factory. One day, he has a bit of a breakdown and is sent to the hospital. After he recovers, he is sent out on the streets, where is mistakenly taken for a red leader and put in jail. The whole movie is really about the plight of both the employed and the unemployed, the search for work, and some humanity.
This movie is just utterly brilliant. Chaplin is so wonderful in this! And, considering this was the last true Tramp movie, the ending is particularly poignant. Walking into the sunset with hope.
This movie also features Charlie Chaplin's song "Smile" - although it is just instrumental in the piece. It really is a beautiful and touching song - just as this movie is both of those.
I can only gush over this movie so much without repeating myself, so I'll end the praise here.
See it!
5 out of 5 stars

review: Platoon

Another horrid Vietnam war film. I don't mean that the movie is bad, just the war and the story. It makes me so mad, so you know it has to be somewhat good. It horrifies me to think that this is based on the director's (Oliver Stone's) experiences in the war. Well, that is reality I guess. But I don't have to like it.
The movie is good, the acting is good, the feeling is just terrible. I'm sorry, I don't want to review this movie. I am so sick of Vietnam films.
Again, I don't want anyone to misunderstand me. I respect the films, the filmmakers, and the people who lived through such times, but I just don't want to see any more films about it. I don't want to think about it any more than I have to, and I certainly don't want to write about it.
Sorry. Again, I apologize.
I will say this about the movie: it is very highly respected. It was nominated for 8 Oscars, winning 4, including Best Picture and Best Director. And it is honored by AFI on both Top 100 Movies lists as well as on the 100 Thrills list.
2 out of 5 stars

review: Charade

No kidding, I love Cary Grant. And Audrey Hepburn. And Alfred Hitchcock ... wait. Hitchcock didn't direct this film?? Really? Oh, Stanely Donan.
The famous joke goes that this was the best Hitchcock film that Hitchcock never made. This is almost a perfect example of his kind of movie.
The story is about this woman (Audrey Hepburn) who plans to divorce her husband. Only when she returns home from vacation, she finds out that he is dead - and he is not who she thinks he is. Now, somebody is after her - and some money that her husband apparently stole. While on vacation she meets a nice man (Cary Grant) who shows up later on, convieniently.
The story has so many plot twists that you can't even begin to tell about them. It's a wonderful film with delightful scriptwriting and performances. Walter Matthau is wonderful, and, of course, Grant and Hepburn are delightful. Imagine: Cary Grant was 59 when he made this film. 59 and he still charms the hell out of the role! That man is sexier at 59 then most men are at 25! And funnier! He is delightful in this film! Hepburn is always known as a glamour girl, but most of the time people forget what a wonderful comic she is too. Utterly delightful!
5 out of 5 stars

review: An Affair to Remember

This movie is a remake of a 1939 movie called 'Love Affair' by the same director, Leo McCarey. It was a success, then they made this one almost 18 years later, and then it was made again, using the original title in 1994. It also is said to have been the inspiration for 'Sleepless in Seattle'
So, it is obviously a popular story.
I haven't seen either the original, or the remakes. This one is quite charming. I mean, it has Cary Grant. And I love Cary Grant movies. I don't mind at all that he often plays the same kind of roles. He is just so charming in them. Deborah Kerr is also quite nice. I have only ever seen her in 'The King and I' so I don't know much of her work, or how to judge her.
The movie is a little bit of a tearjerker near the end. The story is about a man and a woman who meet on a boat and, naturally, fall in love. The problem is that both of them are engaged or attached to another person. Sounds like a Astaire/Rogers movie right? Except no dancing and no singing. Which is not entirely true because there is some dancing and some singing. Anyways - they agree to meet in 6 months if they are unattached and in a economical standing to get married. Sadly, they do not meet and from there, the story goes.
All in all, a lovely story - and so touching. It is listed as #5 on AFI's 100 Passions list.
3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Thursday, February 25, 2010

review: State of the Union

This is my kind of political drama. I actually understand most of it! I would love to read this play.
The story is kind of similar to Mr. Smith goes to Washington, but not. Which makes sense because this is a Capra film. I love and admire Frank Capra's work. I don't think there has been a single film of his that I did not enjoy thoroughly. This one was no exception. It focuses on the beginning of a man's champaign for the White House. A flashy newspaper syndicate owner, Miss Thorndyke (Angela Lansbury) and a political correspondent (Adolphe Menjou) team together with another newspaperman, turned Champaign Manager (Van Johnson), to turn Grant Matthews (Spencer Tracy), a prominent businessman, into the Republican candidate for the Presidency. Although incredibly against the idea at first Matthews soon gives in, and by doing so, drags his estranged wife (Katherine Hepburn) into the champaign. Things start off well, as all of these things do, with the candidate speaking his own mind and scaring the hell out of the politicians, but making amends with his wife and fighting the good fight. Then he loses his way, and things start to go adrift.
Everyone is utterly marvelous in this movie. Hepburn is utterly delightful, and hysterically funny. Tracy is a wonderful blend of sense and fun - then compromise. Lansbury seems like pure evil - which is interesting to watch. She's smart, determined, ciniving, but incredibly determined and driven. A wonderful character composite! And I love Van Johnson in this movie!
A great political film!
4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

review: The Ox-Bow Incident

I figured I would like this. I didn't realize how many actors I would like a recognize. Including Harry Morgan(!)- although he is credited as Henry Morgan, Dana Andrews. Anthony Quinn, Henry Davenport, and Jane Darwell - and, I could be wrong, but I think, in a very quick appearence, Margaret Hamilton.
I did like this movie, but it made me mad. Which I guess is the point. You can't take the law into your own hands! The part that most made me mad is that there seems to be no justice. The story just ended. You never knew what happened or how most of them felt about it. Its probably more powerful this way, but I just wished there was more.
The only part I didn't get was why they had the part about the girl. Why did that need to be there? What possible use was it to the story? It didn't even make a good side-story because it was just thrown in there.
Aside from that, I was not at all disappointed. Wonderful story, wonderful film! It was nominated for Best Picture, but it lost. Respectfully, to Casablanca. It was selected to be preserved by the National Film Registry.
Needless to say, it has stood the test of time. It is also considered by many to be Henry Fonda's finest performance. That is debateable - he has so many good ones - but this is certainly one of his best.
4 out of 5 stars

review: Ninotchka

I know I should like this film more than I did.
I don't know why. The script is okay. The acting is okay. Directing is okay. Design is okay. It just lacks something.
I don't think that this was a good first film to see Garbo in. She is built up so much as a glamorous woman. This film is exactly the opposite of that. Like I said, its not bad -it just doesn't live up to her image. I was excited to see one of my favorite character actors: Felix Bressart. He kind of reminds me of an older Groucho Marx - in looks. He's a funny little guy. And, from what I have seen of his work, I do like the director, Ernst Lubitsch. I also notice in the cast, Bela Lugosi. Hardly recognizable.
Underneath all of this is a very definate satire about Russia. That is, I think, the most interesting aspect of the film. The political mess and he propaganda. I'm torn. On one hand, you don't want to like the Grand Duchess, because she is scheming and doesn't exactly have a kind heart, but politically, you can't fault her claim on the jewels. It was personal property handed down through family. The government had no right to confiscate such a thing. I understand that they are to be used to feed the people, but shouldn't a government like that expect to take care of its own people without taking private property? Which, I know they don't believe in. I just can't wrap my head around their views. It makes you think.
It was made into a musical called 'Silk Stockings' in the 50s with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charrise, which I love! A brilliant little rendition with music. It was selected for preservations by the Library of Congress, it was nominated for 4 Academy Awards, and is on two AFI lists: one for 100 Passions, and one for 100 Laughs.
3 out of 5 stars

review: Laura

Murder mystery with a little bit of a twist.
Laura is about the death of a woman and the investigation into her murder.
The men in this film basically fall down in front of this gorgeous woman. Rightfully so, Gene Tierny is gorgeous in this film. And more than that, she is kind, and something about her calls out to be taken care of.
All acting is quite good -especially Clifton Web. Seriously odd. This also features a younger Vincent Price. If it weren't for the voice, you would never know it was him.
I kind of like this movie. It's interesting, with a quite a unique way of working in this established genre.
Very interesting.
It was nominated for 4 academy awards but only won the Oscar for B&W Cinematography. It is on 2 AFI lists - one for Best Scores, and in the Top 10 of the Mystery genre.
4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

review: A Night at the Opera

I am a little prejudice against this film. I'm not a huge fan of the Marxs - I know, that is terrible. I like most of their comedy, but it goes too far for me and generally gets too ridiculous. I formed this opinion when I was in High School. So, I am now trying to revisit some of their films to see if I might change my mind.
I will say this: I respect the Marx brothers comedy. So many of their sketches are hilarious! My favorite is in this movie: the crowded stateroom scene. For some reason, the quips in that just hit a spot.
Watching this again, I get more than I did when I first watched it. There is some grand comedy in there, that I will admit. And I love the sequences on the boat with the Italian children watching them play.
I still think that some of the jokes and slapstick goes a little too long sometimes, but there is less of that in this film than I remembered. Surprisingly, I was delighted with most of it.
As far as reception goes, this movie was greatly recieved, despite it being the first without Zeppo. It was their first at MGM - and a lot of the credit goes to Irving Thalberg, boy genius of Hollywood, for its success. It is registered at the Library of Congress, is on AFI's top 100 list as well as being on its top 100 Laughs list.
3 out of 5 stars

review: Brief Encounter

This movie really caught me from the very beginning.
Its about an affair. Very simply, sadly, and sympathetically about two people who are married to other people. Both marriages seem to be polite arrangements - not very I guess what I mean is stoic and slow and sensible. Not extravagant like American film love affairs. This is so utterly simple.
Most everything in this movie is just that: simple. But in a wonderful way. The acting, the direction, the story, the look, everything is so real, so simple - it makes you appreciate the beauty in the simplicity.
The ending scene is so powerful. This only adds to my admiration of things like polite marriage arrangements. I don't think that is the idea of the film, but it endearing that the spouse is not so cheaply written off.
I can't really review this movie - not like I do others. I'm kinda under its spell right now.
I have a very high admiration for this movie after the first watching, and I definitely want to watch it again.
4 out of 5 stars

review: Adam's Rib

It is considered the best of the Tracy/Hepburn movies. It's not my favorite, but it is quite delightful.
A husband and wife go to battle in court against each other in a trial between a woman and her filandering husband.
It was nominated for Best Screenplay. And it is on the AFI Top 10 Romantic Comedies list as well as the Top 100 Laughs list.
The best moment in this entire movie revolves around Spencer Tracy saying "Licorice - if there's anything I'm a sucker for its licorice." I about died with laughter.
I love seeing Tracy and Hepburn spar with each other, and that is one of the delights of this movie. As well as the supporting cast -at least those involved in the trial: Judy Holliday as the wife, Tom Ewell as the husband, and Jean Hagen as the girlfriend.
Overall, quite a fine watch.
3 out of 5 stars

review: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

This is quite the movie.
I don't mean to be mean sounding, but this movie is about a parent's nightmare. Not about the race aspect - but can you imagine, as a parent, how that must feel? Hello, surprise: I'm home. Guess who this is? My fiance. I've only known him 10 days. We're going to be married in a couple weeks. It doesn't matter what you say, we're in love. I need to have your blessing. Today. Oh, and guess what ... his parents are coming over for dinner. Tonight.
A nightmare.
There is so much in this movie is uncomfortable.
The whole episode at the drive-in just made me mad. Stupid, snotty waitress with her gum chewing. Jerk man in the car overreacting. An unfortunate accident happens, and he has to blow up and make a scene - and above all, disrespect people like that - even after he tried to make amends. And then all of those damn people clapped at him! That just made me sick.
This movie is really good - and, it makes a point. I love that. The whole ending speech by Tracy is powerful.
It's hard to watch this movie knowing that Spencer Tracy died 11 days after the film was over. Especially in that last bit, when he refers to Katherine Hepburn's character. I cried. Just knowing how real life was, and what was to come. So sad.
Everyone in this movie does a good job in acting. Katherine Hepburn won Best Actress for her work, and she deserves it. Tracy is also wonderful, and Poitier is good as well. The only person I don't really care for is a character issue. The daughter drives me mad! She's all sunshine and roses. And she is also quite insensitive to the feelings of others. Which is both a good and a bad thing, as far as character goes. But so much of this is a problem because she makes it a problem. They never explain why she is in such a rush other than: why wait? I also don't like the fact that they never explain why she loves him. She just says she does. At least with the Poitier character, you hear what she means to him. It's not completely the actress's fault - it's just a bad character.
This movie is quite honored. It was nominated for 10 Oscars, winning 2. It is on 3 AFI lists: one being the Top 100 Films, and two specifically for 100 Cheers and 100 Passions. Which, I'm sorry, I think they have that one wrong, unless they are referring to Tracy and Hepburn, who far outshine the love of the young couple in this movie.
As far as what I think: it's on my list of movies everyone should see at least once.
4 out of 5 stars

review: Lullaby of Broadway

This movie is just cute. Good songs, good dances, good acting, good comedy. Nothing extravagant or gound-breaking. Just fun. The cast is pretty good, and full with some wonderful characters.
So yeah, I like it a lot.
I've never really counted Doris Day as one of my favorites. I'ne only seen her in, I think, one other film. But her simplicity, I kind of like. Her characters are smart and funny, but not extravagant. She is dubbed as "the girl next door" and she really is. She's not a knockout beauty or extremely glamorous. She seems like the kind of person you could know. And so, you root for her.
This is a nice little movie. And I would love to see more of Doris Day and Gene Nelson.
3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

review: Angels & Demons

My hat is off to Dan Brown, Ron Howard, the scriptwriters, researchers, and the businessmen.
Also to the incredible crew of this film. As well as the task masters, and the workers.
And lest we forget: Ewan McGregor, Tom Hanks, and all of the actors.
That was a wonderful movie experience.
I like these kinds of stories: a little bit of fiction with a lot of historical facts, with mystery and adventure. It's like a modern-day Sherlock Holmes - except this guy (Robert Langdon) is more of an intellectual. Think about it, the man is a symbologist. A professor. But, when you are dealing with people who are extremely intelligent, who work in symbols, and have a place in history - who else do you call?
Back to the movie:
I think the only thing I didn't like about it was a plot twist, that just had to be. I hated it because I loved the character. It's always a problem when you find out your favorite is not who you thought. It just took my by surprise. I can't discuss it without giving away something, but wow. Jeez. I'm still in shock!
I like the intelligence of this movie. It's a history lesson, an art lesson, a religious lesson, and a science lesson wrapped in an action movie. I wish I had someone like Langdon in my life. Someone to just tell me everything - the history, the culture. I'm not kidding when I say that I think that would be so much fun. I can imagine how amazing it would be to get into a place like the Vatican archives. I love reading, and I love learning. I'm just not good at it. So a movie or a book like this is incredibly useful. It's a crash course in a bunch of different subjects, or trivia.
Design gets an A+. Effects gets an A. Directing A. Acting ... between A and A-.
All in all, a wonderful movie. See it.
4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

review: Sergaent York

This movie is wonderful! A fitting tribute to a true American hero, Alvin York, WWI hero and recipient of the Medal of Honor. It's not just about the hero - it is about his ideas. Something I think everyone should think about before going to war. I would rather have an army of consciencous objectors that an army of thoughtless, mindless killers. Of course, there is the middle ground, but you get the idea.
Apparently, the real Alvin York denied having a movie made of his life until WWII came around, and he was adament that Gary Cooper portray him. I would love to know his reasons for that. On the surface, his denial of a movie being made of his life seems like modesty, at least, that is what the romantic in me was thinking. This is partly true, because he did not like the idea of making money from his exploits in the war. It is said that he wrestled with these emotions, even to his death, wondering if God would forgive him for killing the German soldiers. But watching the "making of" special on the dvd also provided a different story. Apparently, the church he belonged to was against movies - and he was skeptical about working with Jews at the time. He was finally convinced on both points, and strangely enough he became good friends with Jack Warner who was a very devote Jew - it seems fitting that York would ultimately respect a man for his beliefs. This also led to York's strong sympathy for the Jews.
The backstory is really interesting. York insisted on Cooper, but Cooper was not up to it at the time. At first, the story was not supposed to do with the war, it was supposed to focus on York's life after the war. Cooper did not like this because he thought it would send the wrong message at a time when Americans needed to be convinced that we needed to support the war in our own time (WWII). However, eventually, York changed his mind - became a supporter of our involvement in the war, and allowed the movie to be rewritten. Cooper wanted to be sure of York's blessing, and so they met, hit is off, and we had the makings of a movie. Apparently the reason Joan Leslie was chosen was because York wanted someone who didn't drink, smoke, or swear to play his wife. Imagine that in 1940s Hollywood. I'm glad they picked her though.
It's almost unbelievable, his success and his accomplishments. I don't like to think that God takes sides in a war, a war IS man's business, but if that is the case, then just plain Luck was on his side. I can't imagine how he must have felt, though, after having killed his first "enemy" That must have been hard.
All the aspects of this movie work together. The camera work, the direction (Howard Hawks), the design, the acting - its all wonderful! Gary Cooper is amazing - his portrayal is so layered - he plays the many different sides of a man and plays them all so well and he is also very real. The way it is described is that he doesn't speak lines, he has thoughts. This is true, and his work is fabulous. But for me, the real show stopper is Walter Brennan. I love Walter Brennan, and I have seen him in a number of films, and I have like him in every one. He is, by far, at his best in this movie. I don't know how he did not win the Oscar for his performance. It is the scene in the church, when York comes to religion that really gets me. Brennan's enthusiasm is so catching. You have to see it! Joan Leslie is also quite wonderful in her role as well. Margaret Wycherly's performance is slow, but very steady and subtly beautiful. You also see June Lockart as York's sister - its not a very big role, and she doesn't make a big impact, but she is adequate and its interesting to see he in this role. Pretty much everyone is incredibly apt to their role.
This movie is very acclaimed. It was nominated for a ton of Oscars. Gary Cooper won for his work, and it won for Best Film editing as well. It is recognized by AFI on 2 of its lists - one for Inspirtational Films, and the other for the top 50 Heros.
I very enthusiastically reccommend this movie!
5 out of 5 stars!

review: Shall We Dance?

Just when you think it can't get any better, they throw in the Gershwins.
I can't pick a favorite of these movies to save my life, but I know this has some of my very favorite songs. Also some ingenius dances. Again, featuring a great supporting cast and reuniting them with Eric Blore and Edward Everett Horton.
This story is a little different. Astaire portrays Petrov, a famous ballet dancer - who really is an American called Peter A Peters. Rogers is Linda Keene (aka: Linda Thompson), a popular dancer. They meet in Paris, and, of couse, get started off on the wrong foot. But Petrov is determined to win Linda, and he books passage on the same boat as her, headed for America. While on the boat, they become friends and a wild rumor begins that they are married.
This movie is a delight for a couple reasons. It is not as funny as some of the previous movies, but the music more than makes up for it. Also, the design. An art deco engine room. Brilliant.
Music like "Slap That Bass" "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" and my personal favorite from this movie: "They Can't Take That Away From Me" - which won an Academy Award for Best Song in 1937.
This is the best moment without dancing that Fred Astaire has given us on film - well, this is my over-enthusiastic viewpoint as of now. Astaire is not a wonderful singer, but he was widely loved for his simple, meaningful expression of the songs he sang. "They Can't Take That Away from Me" is one of the most beautiful songs ever, with a hint of sadness. The characters are there, standing on a ferry together on a foggy night and Astaire sings. And of course, Rogers does what she does best: react. It's such a beautiful moment.
4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Monday, February 22, 2010

review: the Jazz Singer (1927)

Let me clear this little thing up: There is a little twist when people say this is the first talking picture. It is true, this is the first one to have syncopated dialougue spoken after the musical numbers, but it is hardly a talking picture. More than half of the movie plays out like any other silent film. The other thing to mention is that there had been other films before this - but the big difference between those and this one, is that The Jazz Singer made money and became a hit. There is a big difference in art between being the first, and being the first successfully. This is one of those distinctions.
In this classic play turned to movie, a young boy goes against the wishes of his father, a Jewish Cantor, and runs away to become a jazz singer. The plot is more than that, but that is the basic idea. I don't think people give this movie enough credit for plot. It is a classic example of old vs new, father against son, redemption, forgiveness, and family love.
Jolson plays the grown son - and he is interesting. His music performances and his acting are on two different levels. Which tells you something, I think, about him as a performer on stage - although I will like to pre-mention that both sides are wonderful. As a "straight" actor, I was surprised at home simple his performance is. I expected a lot of play-up and gimicks and heavy handed gestures, much like his singing persona. But he doesn't do that (well, I mean, a lot - he does to a certain extent, but that just has to do with expression in a silent film), instead you see him making subtle choices. I don't know why, but that surprised me. When he sings, it is completely different. From what little I know about Jolson, I gather that he used blackface to put on a mask for his performances. A release, in a way. And you can tell that is true, because something about him changes when he performs - even when he is not in blackface. Considering his career, you can see how the mask exceeded the make-up and became an act. This style, this act, this mask carried him to legendary stardom on Broadway and in show business, and with this film, Hollywood.
The songs are delightful - including Irving Berlin's great 'Blue Skies', the story is fascinating - this movie can not go wrong.
It's wonderful, and everyone should see it at least once in thier life.
4 out of 5 stars

review: Kiss of the Spider Woman

Hmmm. This was turned into a Broadway Musical? It's kinda like La Cage Aux Folles meets Les Miserables, I guess, so why not? It just seems strange.
The story involves these two inmates that share the same cell in jail. One of them is a homosexual called Molina (William Hurt) - and a rather flamboyant one. The other called Valentin (Raul Julia) is a political activist. They form a rather unlikely relationship. The most beautiful aspect of the fim are Molina telling about his movies. Not so much the content of them, as his elaborate and imaginative descriptions and the healing effect they seem to have on both them men.
Acting wise, the two leads are great. Other than that, no one is anything special. The movie within the movie is bad acting, and they were bad, so that was at least adequate. Really, the entire movie is a strong focus on these two characters, and so everyone else just kind of melts away.
I'm not sure how I feel about this one yet. I didn't love it, and I didn't hate it. This is one I need to see with other people and get their observations on it.
So, the jury is out on this one.
3 out of 5 stars

Sunday, February 21, 2010

review: The Gay Divorcee

Yet another lovely example of magic.
It is not as funny as the others I have watched, and a little racy in the subject matter for the 1930s,
It was based on a stage musical at the time called The Gay Divorce (the censor board insisted on the change, since divorce was not to be considered happy. The story is about a married woman (Rogers) who is trying to get a divorce from her husband. With a plan put together by an inept lawyer (Edward Everett Horton), she is going to be "caught" with a correspondant. Mistaken identities again play a role, and she mistakes the lawyer's friend, a dancer (Astaire), for the correspondant (actually played by Eric Rhodes). All works out in the end, of course, and everyone is happy.
As usual, a wonderful supporting cast is enlisted. Horton, Eric Rhodes, Eric Blore, Alive Brady, and making an early appearance is Betty Grable.
This was the first movie starring Fred and Ginger as the lead attraction. This movie established the glamor that was to be associated with all of their movies: exotic locale, decadent sets, gorgeous costumes, and wonderful music. Featuring one of the best by Cole Porter: "Night and Day" I love Astiare's rendition of the song - so simple, so true, and so sweet. And the dance - oh, the dance. They are magic together in this sequence. Astaire so dashing, and Rogers is so wonderful at expressing so subtle changes is her face. It's mesmerizing. The ending flourish is prefect - as he sets her down on a couch as the dance is finished - she just stares at him, captived, and at once in love.
Kind of the way I feel about every Astaire/Rogers film.
3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

review: The Ghost and Mrs Muir

I love this movie.
There is a certain side of me (that I have been oppressing lately) that has a weakness for a good, old-fashioned romance.
But I don't like a lot of modern romances - and this movie is so much better than most anything that has come out in the last decade.
Basic Plot: a widow (Gene Tierney), her daughter (Natalie Wood), and their maid move into a haunted house by the seaside. The ghost (Rex Harrison) in this house was once a seaman. They strike up an unlikely friendship.
This movie is a romance without a romance. Muir and the Captain never even kiss - but their feelings for each other are so beautiful, and so obvious, although so repressed. It is one of the sweetest relationships I have seen.
Harrison is wonderful - he's delightful, in fact, as the captain. Utterly delightful! Apparently, he is difficult to work with - but it doesn't matter, because he is fantastic! Tierney is simple and straightforward, and delightfully spunky. You don't see much of Wood, but she is adorable.
I think this is one of the best of his films - although I have only seen a few - but some of the most wonderful - of his films.
4 out of 5 stars

review: Nashville

I hate to be so mean, but I really want to take a sock at the people who made this movie.
I don't understand why it is so acclaimed, I really don't. In fact, if there was a point to this movie, I missed it all together.
The only thing left that I have to say is that the only way I would watch this again is if I had someone to explain it to me so that I would no longer hate it - although I just don't think that will happen,
1 out of 5 stars

Saturday, February 20, 2010

review: East of Eden

This is a multi-watcher, and I can only imagine the book, but I am sure that is also as layered.
Plot: circa WWI California. It comes from the book by John Steinbeck that was written 3 years earlier in 1952. It is essentially a story about family. Father and son. Almost the typical rebel in conflict with his non-loving father. But the story is so much more than that.
James Dean seems perfect in the role. He is so troubled through it all, and you can see his hurt, and you can even see what years of not feeling loved or appreciated will do to a person. I know most people scoff at the idea, but that lack of feeling coming from someone you admire can be so damaging to a person. A story like this proves it. Dean plays that so well. He is not just brooding, he is suffering. He's like a child through most of it, searching, searching desperately for some sign of affection. I mean, just watch his face when his father gives him even the slightest of praise. Most of Dean's acting is in his face. He is very expressive.
Harris is lovely and Hassey is wonderful. Burl Ives is in this one too - although in a small role. I really like his presence on the screen. There is a bit where the citizens of the town go a little crazy and start a big fight. Ives' character walks right into the middle of it and as soon as they see he is there, everyone just stops. That is probably written in the script, but it takes a certain kind of actor to make that believable.
Elia Kazan directed, and as most know, he was definately of the method acting style, so naturally everything seems very real. Hearing people talk about him and his treatment of actors in this film makes me never want to work on a drama like this with someone like him. I say that only because of the off-screen relationship between Dean and Hassey. Apparently, they were not so different from their characters, and both just did not get one another. Kazan fueled the flames in order to get the performance as real as possible. A good thing, but again, I am glad I was not in thier shoes for a work like this. I don't have anything against method acting or directing, but I do believe in the need for a strong working relationship between people - and in a case like this, I think being that method is a cruel way of trying to get what you want. On one hand, this is just him taking advantage of a situation that was not of his making or control, but on the other, it seems a little like the idea of "war profiteering"
Everything is good in this picture, but I can't really think about it because I am so wrapped up in the story. First of all, I got so mad, and now I am so confused about the idea of "war profiteering" Especially now that I am looking at "All My Sons" I have to wonder where the line is. Yes, people are going to make money during wars. People have to work to create everything needed to "supply" a war - food, machinery, etc. On one hand, they deserve to be paid for the work they have done. I mean, should a factory worker feel guilty because he pulls a 9-5 making war materials and people are dying because of his work? Really think about this a bit? Most people would feel bad. I know a part of me would. And where is that line between profiteering and just earning a living? Where do you find that?
Moving on (sorry, tangent there. Really, there is not a single person I really like here. Abra is as close to it as I come, but she too seems to suffer from that irritating and sometimes harmful naivety. I think maybe that is what bothered me most about these people - especially the brother, Aron. I don't think the movie did him justice (of course, I don't know if the book is any better). They just make him into such a sheltered wimp. A paranoid, sheltered, stupid wimp. There really isn't a whole lot of explanation why he turns on Cal like he does. Sure, he is embittered about the war, and sure, after a while he is suspicious of Abra and Cal, but it seems to come out of nowhere. I guess he is the product of his father's influence in a sheltered town living a sheltered life. I also don't like how you don't have any idea what happens to him. Does it matter? Maybe not, but I really would like to know anyways. The father just pisses me off, and Cal jumps from one side to the other with sympathy and anger. He needs to grow up, but I guess he can't until he can get the affection he has sought for all his childhood.
Like I said, this story has layers, and I'm only knicking at the surface after a single watching. So, I hope you will forgive my lack of in-depth understanding.
Highly suggest watching this movie (and reading the book, for it is on my list now)
4 out of 5 stars

Friday, February 19, 2010

review: My Darling Clementine

I like the movie, and I like the title - but not together.
This movie is about the famous gunfight at the OK Corral with the Earps and Doc Holliday. It's an interesting (fictional) view of the story. But it is the same, basic idea. So what makes this movie good: Well John Ford, for one. Henry Fonda and a supporting cast that includes Walter Brennan and Ward Bond, among others.
It's a wonderful old classic. A good old-fashioned western in all its glory and beauty. The acting is wonderful (the first time I have seen Brennan as the bad guy - and he is good at it!) Fonda is Fonda - sweey and easy going, but strong and firm.
Like I said, the only problem I have with it is the title, which refers to a character who is only minimally connected to the main plot of the story.
I knew this movie mostly from the episode of M*A*S*H called "Movie Tonight" where Potter, to boost morale orders this film (his very favorite) for the camp to watch. It is one of my all time favorites.
3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

review: Top Hat

I do so love Astaire and Rogers. And Irving Berlin. With Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore, and Helen Broderick. You can not go wrong with a combination like this.
The story is simple enough: the Astaire/Rogers couple meet and after a little hesitation, fall in love. Through a problem of mistaken-identity, everything gets all mixed up. Of course, it will turn out okay in the end. With songs by Irving Berlin.
This is probably one of the best mistaken identities comedies I have ever seen. It's just wonderfully delightful. The comedy is so wonderful - and almost constant. And with the plot twists there are so many oppurtunities for delightful, poking fun. And dancing. The music isn't exactly plot-integrated, but it's delightful anyways. Plus, one of my favorite songs of all times is in this movie, "Cheek to Cheek" and of course, the best "get ready" song "Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails"
Again, the design on this movie is wonderful. Espcially as an escapist vehichle for audiences of the Depression. No one is worrying about money, it takes place in elegant, European locations with lots of glitx and glamor. Although, one thing I wish they would have changes is Roger's dress in the "Cheek to Cheek" number. Apparently it was a bit of a pain to dance with, especially the top half. All those feathers really make her look like a dainty wholly mammoth. Love Ginger as much as I do - she is not a designer of dresses in dance. The bottom half is perfect, and it moved beautifully - despite the feathers flying every which way. Look it up, there is a very cute story that goes along with that dress.
Again, a perfect example of the glamour of Hollywood and musicals.
4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Thursday, February 18, 2010

review: Sophie's Choice

Oh my. I can't even begin to tell you how powerful this movie is. But the funny thing is, all I ever hear about is "the choice" moment.
Let me tell you, there was so much more to this movie than "the choice" I don't think the rest of the movie gets enough credit. Don't get me wrong, that moment is powerful - terribly so.
Meryl Streep deserves all the praise she gets from this movie. The range of the character in this piece is so impressive. I don't really know how I feel about it because you are watching something that you know is great, you are concious of it being great, but there are also moments when you lose yourself in the moment, then look back and know it is great. I guess it is a matter of choice which you like better. Either way, she's great. I don't think Kevin Kline gets nearly enough credit for his performance. That character really drew me. He's so magnetic in the portrayal of this character, and that is the way it should be. He's perfumed in charm and spirit, but its those cracks in the character's mind that really present a challange (at least, I would think so) and he is fantastic. He is frightening - and you not only feel for the people he is hurting, but once you understand, you feel for him as well. But honestly, the bad parts aside, this man is a knight in shining armor for Sophie - and it is so easy to see why they need each other. Peter MacNicol is a wonderful experiencer, which is really what he is - especially to the audience. Again, a wonderful middle-man. He's also a wonderful southerner - obvious, but not too cliche, which makes Kline's impressions of him work in the context that he is giving them. I mean, in the first one you see this low, cheap mocking, but then when he does it again it is jovial and friendly. You couldn't make that work if the person was at all off in their characterization of a southerner. Also, the character has this real warmth about him - a gallant chivalry mixed with the innocence of a young man, that is so endearing.
I love the flashbacks during the war - not the content, but the style in which they are presented. Everything is flushed out and there is no color and the world is so cold. It just sets the right tone for what you are seeing.
Something I like in this movie, which I rarely like in most films is the sex of it. I'm not talking the romance, but the sex. And I think the reason why it works here is that #1: there is some romance in the sex - and #2: it says something about the people. It expresses are need that has to be filled. It is a motivation, an escape, and a reason. Most films that have these scenes don't take this into consideration, and sex becomes a cheap tool for box office draw. Sophie's Choice is different. I think it is also because the narrator explains all of this in a most touching way.
I highly suggest watching the documentary after seeing the film. It helps explain some things and really opens your eyes to some depths.
As far as recognition goes, the film was nomiated for several Oscars. Streep won for her performance (well deserved). It is on AFI's more recent Top 100 list and was hailed by critcs everywhere.
4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

review: Double Idemnity

This is about as classic film noir as you can get. So classic that is has almost become the essence of the cliche. But, still incredibly delightful. This movie is a lot of interesting. Take the stars: Stanwyck and MacMurray - both of whom were mostly known at the time for their comedies. Then there was Robinson - first and foremost a leading male in gangster films - most of the time as the bad guy. AND - it was directed by Billy Wilder - and all I know of his work is his terrific screwball comedies. So yeah, this was completely different.
The story is based on a true life crime involving an insurance man, a gorgeous woman and the planned death of her husband. The title refers to a insurance term in which the reciepiant recieves 2x the amount of a settlement after an accident or death.
The movie is not only praised for the content and the acting, but also for the great photography. There are many moments of just beautiful camera work. Especially the tight frame on Stanwyck's face as her husband is killed. That moment is a perfect marriage of a shot and a darn fine actress. It's wonderful.
This is one of those films that you just need to see at least once in your life. This is one of the best fim noirs and almost a guidebook on how to do it right.
3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

review: The Sixth Sense

First of all, can I just say that I love this poster? Everything except the "fear" part.
Back to the film: I haven't watched this in quite some time. I remember that I wasn't very thrilled with it at the time. Watching it now, I think I have a better judgement to pass.
The story centers around a doctor of Child Psychology (Bruce Willis) and his latest case (Osment). I don't think I really need to tell anyone much more because the movie has certainly become apart of american pop culture. Want an example how? On the AFI's top quotest list, the line "I see dead people" is placed at #44. It is also on the Top 100 films list and the top Thrills list. It was nominated for a slug of Oscars, but did not win any.
The story is interesting, the twist at the end is surprising, the sound is wonderful, the acting is great - all elements work here. Mostly in the way that they work so that you don't notice them. You don't step back and say "That setting and those costumes are so realistic" and you don't take time in the middle of the movie to say "Willis is a fine actor" - because it just is so natural.
It is nice to see Willis in something outside of action films. (granted, I haven't seen much of his work) He proves that he is not a one-trick pony. Osment is just fantastic. The ability of a kid to take on a role like that is impressive. That is always one thing that I am constantly amazed by child stars. Especially when they take on subjects that are generally thought to be too mature for their age range to even see portrayed.
Good film,
3 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

review: Swing Time

It is so easy to love this movie. I'm in my element with this movie. I love Astaire and Rogers films. They are not dramatic films, but they are very good. They kind of say: sit back, let us entertain you the best way we know how.
And they are wonderful!
The story focuses on a gambler/dancer names Lucky (Astaire) who bargains with his fiance's father that if he comes back with $25,000, he can marry this girl. So off to New York he goes where he by chance meets a beautiful dance instructor named Penny (Rogers). They begin to dance together, and obviously fall in love.
I would love to sit with a cinema critic to discuss this film. I'm sure there are aspects that I can't see. But the thing is, this movie is for an average person. You don't have to be a critic to appreciate its beauty.
First of all, its a bit of an escapist film. It was made in the 30s when the world was in the Depression, so depictions of glamour were very popular. And if nothing else, Fred and Ginger were glamour. Not to mention the design of this film is just gorgeous. The club set is spectacular in the beginning, and gets a make-over midway through. Then there is the scene in the country. Which is the best outdoor winter wonderland I think I have ever seen in a movie. It is too beautiful.
The songs are fantastic. Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields won an Oscar for best song with their gorgeous song which has become a standard known to almost everyone "The Way You Look Tonight" Also in this movie is "Pick Yourself Up" "Bojangles of Harlem" "A Fine Romance" and "Never Gonna Dance" Not bad.
Then there is the dancing. Need I say more than it is Astaire and Rogers? No, but I will anyways. It's so beautiful it looks effortless. This movie is at the height of their popularity and their skill. (well - they never really go down in skill, but you get the point) The dances are more than just that, they tell stories: getting to know you, falling in love, saying good-bye. Then there is the Bojangles number. An excellent combination of cinematic tricks and wonderful dancing. Some people criticize it because the dancing style is not Bojangles, but rather Astaire and Hermes Pan's homage to Mr. Robinson. I don't find fault with that at all - and besides, it is wonderful to watch.
This movie is wonderful! Aside from the Oscar for the song, it also is distinguished by being on AFI's Top 100. Can't think of a reason that everyone should not enjoy this film. So pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and Go See It!
4 out of 5 stars

review: Goodfellas

Now I see what all the fuss is about. A modern day mob picture, which means that it is real. There are ups and downs to it. I like the story, I hate the depiction of drugs and home violence. But that is just me, I don't have a stomach for those kinds of things. But its real, so it gets a point for that. I had no idea that this was based on a book, which was a non-fiction piece. The film is semi-non-fiction though - and it is more interesting knowing that some of this is real.
What I think I liked most about this movie is the storytelling process. The voiceovers, the flashback. And of course, the guys. How can you not like these guys? The thing about this movie is that at first, it is a love letter to the mafia. But then, suddenly, something happens and you're scared of this world that just a second before was being celebrated.
Well - I hate the crazy part of them. You want to know how I know Pesci is good in this movie? I can't stand him - or at least his temper. I love him most of the time, but then I hate him for a bit. Then I am back to loving him. That is both good acting and a well written character. All actors are quite good in this. Liotta is another great medium character. You latch on to him, and you like him. What I like most is his reactions. Especially his face - his "holy shit!" look. deNiro is deNiro. He's great. Powerful and dangerous, but so likable. He is what you want to like about a gangster.
As far as directing goes, this is the first Scorsese film that I knew was his. And I see why he is considered a genius.
This film was nominated for 6 Oscars - only Joe Pesci got his for Best Supporting Actor. It lost Best Picture, but it lost to 'Dances with Wolves' - so at least you know it went down against a great one. It is on both AFI Top 100 lists and ranked #2 on the list of Gangster Films. Also, interesting side note: it is (I think) 9th in the list of movies with the most use of the word "fuck" in it.
Despite that:
4 out of 5 stars

Been Awhile, huh?

Time for a minor update I guess.
Really not much to tell. As you can see from previous entires I have taken up the classic film hobby with renewed vigor. Ever since HS I wanted to get through the American Film Institute's Top 100. So, I am working on that and also just picking up random classics. Escapism is a powerful thing.
On top of that, the last month or so I had been in the employ of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center as a Spotlight Operator for their production of Sweeney Todd. Easily the highlight of my being in Colorado thus far. It was a wonderful experience. I've met people and made aqaintances, although I wouldn't go so far as to call them friends yet. I seemed to impress people with my hard work, so I am praying that they will hire me again for working crew on the next show, 'All My Sons'. It's one of my favorites, and even though it has only been a few days, I really miss the feeling of working on a show. Just knowing that I had that to look forward to made me feel a lot better about being here.
That is not to say that everything about this place is bad. It's not. And if I kept having something like that to look forward to, I would feel much better about it. Work at Rumbi Island Grill is going well. I'm getting along with everyone there, and I do like my job. The people are nice, and I seem to be going a good job at my job - so that is okay. I guess it is just that I need something else to look forward to day after day aside from work and coming home. The movies and all the scripts I have been working on are very fine distractions, but that is what they are: distractions.
Oh yeah - I forgot to mention that. One of the other things I have taken up is analyzing scripts lately. Started with Sweeney Todd since I got to see that show every night. I started forming my own opinions, so I started writing them down as if I were going to direct the show. Then I moved to analyzing a little on All My Sons - again, because I hope to work on it here soon. My latest that I've started looking at is Tracy Lett's "August: Osage County." I'm mostly interested in that because it won a Pulitzer prize and a Tony. So, that is yet another thing.
Other than that, there is nothing to talk much about. Steph and Chris have gotten a house, and we will be moving in a couple weeks. Its brand new and in a nice little grouping of homes way outside of Colorado Springs. So, travel will be a pain, but they're really happy about it. It'll be good for Allie too. There is plenty of room for her to run around and a backyard as well. So, that is their excitment.
The only other exciting thing I can really say is that my boss from the summer asked me if I wanted to Assistant Direct a show this year. I, of course, said yes. I am incredibly excited about it and I am completely geared for the summer. Once I get the script, I will start working on it right away. I'm just afraid that I will get in the way of myself. I've never assistant directed before. During shows I have done, I have kept my thoughts to myself, and now that I have the chance to actually speak my mind, I a little afraid I will be too scared to. But, I'm enthusiastic about it right now, and I can not wait for the summer to get here.
Sorry, no pictures to post. Nothing to really take pictures of as if now. I'm going through a bit of an photographic dry spell. To tell you the truth, I have kind of lost interest in it lately. It'll come back, I know, but the drive just isn't there anymore.
Well - that is about it. Until something comes up, you'll just be getting reviews from me for a while.

review: the Caine Mutiny

Again, a story about a slightly mad officer in the Navy. Two in a row - what are the odds?
While one is more of a comedy, this is quite the drama.
It follows the story of a young navy officer assigned to a down-and-out boat near the end of WWII. Once the serving officer is relieved of duty, the boat gets a new commander: Queeg (Bogart). He is strict, to the book, and also seems to suffer from paranoia. Needless to say, there is a mutiny (not like the one in mutiny on the bounty) and a trial.
This movie is quite interesting, but not exactly a wonderful film. You don't quite know who to cheer for. Queeg is a pain in the ass, but he is also suffering from something. He asks for help, so you can't really blame him. The exec. officer is honestly doing what he thinks is right, and he has to care for the crew, so he's in the right. In the moment of the mutiny, everything seems clear, but the trial tears everything up. People lying, twisting the truth, and so forth. Only at the end, during a party scene, does everything go right, and everyone gets his right way.
Bogart is fantastic. His portrayal of this man has to keep you wondering if he is crazy or not - and then once you know, he has to hold you as a sympathetic character. Not easy, but Bogart certainly is up to the task. The young man, who the story centers around, was played by Robert Francis. His portray is believable convincing, and he does a good job at being the medium man between the audience and the world of the movie. This was his film debut, and he was being groomed for stardom, being a young hotshot at the time - unfortunately, he died in a plane crash in 1955 before his career ever would reach a star status. Jose Ferrer is sublime. He is only in the film a short while (as Maryk's lawyer) but his ending speech maked the whole movie work. Van Johnson (as Maryk - the exec officer) is kind of the conflicted hero. He doesn't like or want to do what he does, but his concious leads him. It is interesting to see him in this movie as I only know him from a couple of musicals. Quite a different role for him. Fred MacMurray is very good at keeping the audience off-balance. Through most of the movie, you really like him. He's smart, witty, and a little bit of a rebel. Then something happens and suddenly, he makes you unsure of him. Then, next thing you know, you're completely at the opposite. It takes talent to make an audience go off-balance, and he does it well.
All in all, a pretty good movie.
3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

review: Julius Caesar

I feel kinda bad about this. I watched the movie last night. And I really liked it.
I just don't have much to say about it.
Acting was good to wonderful, with Brando turning in a Fantastic performance.
Costumes, set, design, all well done.
But that is about it.
3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

review: Mister Roberts

I started out not impressed, and I ended up loving it.
It's not what you would call a life-changing story or an epic, moving drama, but it is a delightful film.
Look at the star power on it: John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy directing. Starring Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell, and Jack Lemmon. Think about that grouping for a second. And they are all fantastic. Cagney was particularly interesting in an unusual "bad guy" role. He played that so incredibly well. Fonda and Powell are delightful as always. It's sad to say that this was Powell's last film before he retired - he was still so good!! Lemmon is wonderful, and he earned an Oscar for his performance.
This movie really makes me wonder what the play was like. It's now on my list of plays to read.
This is one of those films that doesn't tax you too much. It's pure entertainment, with a little message, and a great ending!
4 out of 5 stars!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

review: The Great Dictator

Nobody does it like Chaplin.
This movie is brilliant! I thought I was sitting down to a typical comedy, but I got that and so much more. Chaplin loves Parody and Satire -and his skills in these areas are masterfully shown in this movie. But there is also a side to the film which is a rather disturbing reminder, and a look ahead at the terrible things to come in Europe before and during WWII.
The movie is about a fictional nation: Tomania, and a Jewish barber (Chaplin) during the end of the Great War and through the regime of a mad Dictator (also Chaplin). It obviously is a parody of Hitler and Nazis. Which is pretty damn gutsy, considering it was made in the late 1930s and released in 1940 in America - before we were involved in WWII. It began filming even before England was in the war, so the news of this parody film was met with a lot of hesitation by statesmen, so eager not to anger Hitler towards them.
Also - Hitler, one of the most dangerous leaders, was alive. He saw this movie. This is an artist taking on a political leader of a country. Almost directly. The only way it could have been worse was if Chaplin actually used his name. Not only did he take him on, he made Hitler ridiculous. Now, this is nothing new to our time, when Hitler has become a borderline joke, like in the Producers. This was as it was happening. He was making people laugh at him - which, to a person in power, is the worst thing you could do - being hated and being feared is just about the same as being loved and revered, because it still shows power. But to be laughed at is a lack of respect, a denial of power, and a diminishment of importance in a sense. Chaplin painted Hitler a bafoon to millions of people.
There is something else too. America was not the shining beacon for all people. Partly because of the spill of jewish immigrants that left europe in the 1930s, and because of our Depression, many americans were antisemitic. Mostly, at the time, you just kept your mouth shut about jews - it could have been dangerous to be a jewish activist in those days. And here is Chaplin making a movie which centers around the plight of the jewish people.
Also consider this historic little bit. This was the first time Chaplin spoke in a film. He was a silent picture star, and while he did use some sound in at least one of his earlier pictures, this was the first time HE actually said something. The romantic in me likes to think that this is because he had something to say. But the reality is that Chaplin always had a point, or a message, in all his comedies. Still, this was the perfect film for him to speak in - mostly because of the ending speech. It has been argued that it is not the character, but rather Chaplin himself that is saying these words. I don't think that really matters, because it works either way - and it is so powerful. Look it up, seriously, it is amazing. He also has several wonderful talking bits as the Dictator - mostly speaking in germanlike giberish. You catch certain words in there, and you know he's making fun of Hitler's oratory style, which is what was most captivating about him. This bit with the german gibberish was a brilliant idea with a former silent film star because he used his talents so perfectly - you didn't need to know exactly what he was saying because he could tell you with his gesture and body as he had done in all of his previous films.
His knowledge of silent films also lends this movie a great quality that talking pictures don't have that much: simplicity. Chaplin's one to two word answers are utterly simplistic - and riotously funny. He combines the abilities of sound with his previous silent charm. No one grins the way Chaplin does - in his utterly sweet way - and no one struts like he can. Chaplin doesn't need to have words pouring out of him to be effective - and he doesn't let a storm of words cloud the scene. He saves it for more important scenes. Also, because of his knowledge of silents, is his admiration and skill in the use of music. There are at least 2 classic scenes where there is not a single word needed - just music and a brilliant comedian.
Needless to say, the acting is amazing. Chaplin is inspiring. Paulette Goodard, who plays his love interest, is okay. Most of the acting pales in comparison to Chaplin. He outshines everything. The accuracy of some of his shots, like those of the parade and the design of some of the sets are brilliantly matched to the real thing.
What can I say? This film is something I think everyone should experience at least once in their life.
5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

review: Paths of Glory

I can't believe it.
A Stanley Kubrick film I actually like. I don't mean anything against him; I just don't really like the movies of his that I have seen.
But this one is different.
Based on the novel, this movie is a military justice story. During WWI, a french Gen. (George Macready) is asked to take a place called Ant Hill - a german stronghold. With persuasion of being promoted and being goaded about the abilities of his men, he agrees - even though he knows it is almost a suicide mission. The charge is a failure - partly because it is impossible, partly because some of the men refuse to leave the trenches. There is, of course, a court martial. The company commanders are ordered to pick 3 men to face charges. One was choosen because he has potential blackmail against his commander (Ralph Meeker). One was unlucky and drew the company lot (Joe Turkel). And one was chosen because he was an "undesirable" (Timothy Carey). The Col. of the unit (Kirk Douglas), who is a lawyer in civilian life, volunteers to represent them.
This movie is amazing. The acting is so powerful - especially of the accused men. Macready is wonderful in his role - a human villian, not the ultra-villian most of these roles tend to seem. Douglas is as amazing as ever. His power and passion never fail to impress me.
I really enjoyed the focus on the 3 men and how they were handling it. It was just so powerful. I cried. I couldn't help it, it was so moving.
Artistically, it is quite interesting. Some of the camera shots are just beautiful. It's a wonderful look at trench warfare, which you don't see in many war movies. And it is B&W - and there is just something about that.
I really liked this movie!
4 out of 5 stars!

Monday, February 8, 2010

review: Dark Victory

1939. What a year. The more I see of movies made in this year, the more I realize that it really was a golden year for Hollywood. I mean, Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind kind of swamped everything, but there are so many gems. This is one of them.
Story: a young, vivacious woman (Bette Davis) is having problems with her sight and her head. Call in a specialist (George Brent). I don't know all the medical lingo - but it is something with the brain, and they need to operate. They do, and the operation is a success, but you find out that it is also a failure because it only fixed the immediate problem. She is going to die. But she will be okay until just before, when she will become blind. The rest, I leave to you to see.
What makes this movie is the performances. Bette Davis is ... well, Bette Davis. She is so fascinating in this role - mostly because the character is just so good - despite herself. At first, she seems a little fake, but quickly you learn the difference between the facade and her personality. When you can tell the difference between an actress playing a happy woman, and an actress who is playing a woman who is playing at being happy, you know you've got something great on your hands.
George Brent is also quite wonderful in it. He goes from brilliant, no nonsense, to tortured lover to incredibly happy and ignorant. Geraldine Fitgerald is also quite subtle in her acting. It takes a while to see if she is good or not. The only thing I don't like is that so often she won't look at the camera or at someone. She is always diverting her eyes. Some of it is character, but the rest just seems odd. But I quite warmed up to her after a bit, and her character is so touching. Humphrey Bogart is quite out of his realm in this movie. He's not bad by any means at all, the character is just different. He plays the Irish stablehand. I think he got short changed in this film - but that is the studio system for you. He was a contract player, and he played the role they assigned him. The character isn't as developed as I would have liked. And if Bogart's character needed more, than Reagan really got the shaft part. He's just there. You hardly notice him at all except for the constant glass in his hand.
All in all, a very ... poignant film.
3 out of 5 stars

review: Libeld Lady

After watching 'Apocolypse Now' I needed a comedy - and something that didn't need you to think too much.
I got what I wanted.
This movie is not spectacular, but it is fun. All the aspects in it work well together, but they are not noticable. I mean, you just coast through the film. I imagine that this is not a very memorable movie.
It's screwball madcap comedy with 4 big named stars. William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow. You can't go wrong.
So, for silly entertainment that is actually good, it is highly recommended.
3 out of 5 stars

Sunday, February 7, 2010

review: Apocolypse Now

I just finished watching "Act One" of the movie. Normally I would wait until the movie is over to start the review - but this movie is so intense that I need to write a bit now.
Basic Plot: Francis Ford Coppola directs the story of Captain Williard (Martin Sheen), who is in Special Forces in Vietnam and has gotten another mission. Find and destroy Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who has apparently gone off the deep end.
The entire first half of the movie is about getting there. It's like a road tour of Vietnam fighting forces.
This movie is a prime example of why the Vietnam War is seen as the worst thing to happen to America. It is so powerful! You learn that Williard is just no good at being a civilian anymore after his first "tour" in Vietnam, and now he is back in Saigon just waiting for a mission. He gets one, and all the while we are learning as he is learning about Kurtz. Why he is a hunted man. But the journey is interesting. A small boat has been assigned to take him to Kurtz's general location. But they (the boat crew) don't know where they are going. It's an interesting group. The two most powerful moments thus far have to do with them. The first being a run-in with a tiger, and how it unnerves one of the crew - a saucier from New Orleans. He just freaks out a bit and you hear him scream: "I just wanna be a chef!" And it makes you think about how people innocent people get into wars like this. Dragged in - but they go, and they do their "duty" - and it destroys them.
The next most powerful moment is when they stop a fishing boat to check for enemy supplies. While searching the boat, a woman starts to run towards the saucier when he reaches for a yellow basket. Assuming the worst, and getting a little trigger happy, the gunner on the boat (a 17 year old kid from NY) starts shooting it up. Everyone on board is killed. What was the woman protecting? A puppy. So, that whole crew was innocent, and they were killed for nothing.
Another amazing part is the whole Calvary sequence. Robert Duvall is ... unexpected. "The small of Napalm in the morning" Didn't know that was from this movie. The use of Wagner is also pretty effective. You'll have to watch it to know what I mean.
Anyways, on to the next half.
okay. WTF? I can tell you the action, but I can't describe the story. You meet Kurtz, and those who follow him. The thing I don't get is what happened to him. I know what started it, but what actually happened. And what happened to all those people with him. The soldiers. They are in this near catatonic state - but what got them there? How did that happen? The thing I take most from it is that war destroyed their minds, their souls, and theirselves. Whether that is right or not, I can not tell you.
What I can tell you is this: This movie deserves to be a classic. I know this partly because it is so over my head, I also know this because it is wonderful. I mean, its not my cup of tea, but it is amazing.
The acting is outstanding. I'll leave it there. That is all I can say about it without repeating myself or using a hundred antonyms for it.
The artistic design of the movie is hard core. Not beautiful, but there is a beauty in it.
Cinematography is FANTASTIC. Some of the shots are so powerful.
Critically, it was nominated for more awards than I dare cover. It won Best Cinematography and Best Sound at teh Oscars. It is listed on AFI's Top 100 (both lists #27, then #30) as well as the napalm quote being honored as #12 in the Top 100 Quotes.
It's not my kind of thing, but I completely respect this movie.
4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

review: The Libertine

This is one of the ugliest films I have ever seen.
I mean that as a compliment.
The opening line of the monolougue stands for the entire film. By the way, the opening and closing of the film is ... perfect. For a movie that centers a lot of its plot around the theatre, it is a perfect thought to have a prolougue and an epilougue. Not to mention, that they are delievered flawlessly by Johnny Depp.
The story is about the last great leg of the short life of John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (Depp). He was ... unconventional. This tells the tale of his meeting Elizabeth Barry (Samantha Morton), the play he wrote for King Charles II (John Malkovich), and his subsequent downfall.
This movie is steeped in mud, piss, rain, fog, candles, sex, and theater. That about sums it up, except to say that it is brilliantly seeped in those things. I think this movie is to be a guilty pleasure. It is full of the debauchery that I usualy really dislike in films - but this movie needs it.
Like I said, it is not a beautiful film. I encourage the young to see it as part of a sex-ed class. Kinda of a warning. Compliment to the make-up crew of this film - Rochester with syphillis is a disgusting sight.
But for all of it's vices, there are just as many virtues. You don't feel as though you are watching a costume drama. This movie is so real, it's disturbing. The acting is fantastic, the direction and cinematography is key, and the artistic design is so perfectly done. Oh, and the writing. Oh yes, the writing. This movie has some of the most intricate and witty writing. A perfect reflection of the wit of the Restoration period. People don't think that the past is as steeped in sex as we are now, but the Restoration was marinaded in sex. Overt, yes, and certainly grotesque.
Of course, my very favorite parts were in the theatre. What I wouldn't give to step on to a stage like that. What was most drawing to me was Rochester's admirtation for the theatre, which is interesting because he likes nothing else - not even the whores and wine he is so fond of. He carries a distaste for almost everything he does with him. Both the character and the actor. Depp is once again, fascinating in his role. A perfect measure of sex, disgust, wit, honesty, and treachery. As he says in the opening, you do not like him, but you, like everyone else, can not help but be fascinated by him - you can't look away.
Malkovich is as interesting as he is in all of his roles. Again, like Depp, here is an actor of great variety. I haven't seen a lot of his works, but what I have seen I admire, if I do not like. He doesn't always play the likeable character, in fact, usually the opposite. His characters usually seem hard, but somehow endearing... no, endearing is the wrong word, but I can't think of what I mean, so you get the just of the idea. Morton is perfectly apt for the role. I don't know what to think of her as an actress. Something tells me that I have seen her in something before, but I can't place it. She is fitting to the role without being extraordinary. It could also be that I am blinded to her by her character, because I REALLY did not like her character. As much as she loves the theatre, and is good; she is also a selfish artist who wants nothing but her fame, and she is also a traitor, although not a very successful one. The one person that really caught my eye was the person who played Rochester's wife (Rosamund Pike). Later I realized that she was in the new Pride and Prejudice movie. She was quite powerful - but again, I might have been mostly taken by her character. Small though the role is, the character is one of the few "good" things in the story. And her devotion (despite her hatred of her husband's vices) for her husband is so touching (and a little raunchy, considering their beginning).
All in all, I praise the film, but it really isn't my type of thing. Again, brilliant, but ugly.
3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

review: Ed Wood

A movie about the worst director of all time. Directed by the most eccentric director of our time, starring one of the most eclectic movie stars of our time, as well as a really interesting ensemble.
You can't go too far wrong actually.
I really like this movie. The acting is pretty darn good (except for the acting that is supposed to be bad). Depp is again, a completely unique character. He is totally commited and perfectly wonderful. Corky, odd, and endearing all at the same time. I guess I like him the most because I can see so much of in the character. He genuinely loves what he does. It doesn't matter that things don't always go as planned or that there's no money. He does what he likes and he makes films that he likes. No matter how bad everyone might say they are. He is content. And I love that about the character. It's kinda how I think many people feel. I mean, I think in terms of theatre, so this is a little different. But there are a million little companies putting perfectly hideous plays, but they're working hard and they are having fun, and that really is all their purpose. Sometimes it is hard to remember that in a time when we get so judgemental and critical about everything. OKay, that was a complete aside, but I think it is a thing worth mentioning.
Landau (as Bela Lugosi) is FANTASTIC! I'm not kidding, I was enthralled by his portrayal of the aging star. He is not a copy of Lugosi, but it is a great imitation. Especially the accent. Oh my gosh, he's just amazing! He also brings the power of Lugosi to life. If you have seen any of his work, you know - he is a classic trained actor, and he has such power in his speech. It has become iconicly corny, but seeing the original do it, it looses corny and becomes genius. Landau captures that. He also shows the side no one ever saw on film, including his addiction and his struggle.
Bill Murray (as Bunny) is something I wish I would have seen more of. I love Murray in this bit parts because he is fantastic in them. A little bit off the movie topic, but I have to include this: In Bunny's obituary in the paper he was quoted as saying "I was a little bit wild when I was young, darling, but I lived my life grandly" Isn't that gorgeous?
Everyone else is just fine. Sarah Jessica Parker and Patricia Arquette are wonderful as Wood's love interests. Parker is delightfully bad in her "bad acting" moments, but there is an interesting tug between her real life portrayals. At times, she seems like a stereotypical 50s housewifey, with just as much fake enthusiasm, but then you turn around as she becomes more and more irritated with Wood and his escapades, and she has this amazing break scene in the meat packing plant. So, I don't know if that was direction, or if she really wanted to be that way, or if it was the character putting on the act as well as she could, and then losing it with her patience.
Art wise, the B&W of the film is just perfect. It helps lend a classic horror and nostalgia to the film. I don't know how accurate the portrayal of the movies in the film are, but I'm okay with not knowing that. I love it. The costumes are wonderful, the sets are amazing, and there is a wonderful quality to a film that is all about bad quality films.
3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars