September 20, 2017

The King of Comedy.


Review #992: The King of Comedy.

Cast: 
Robert De Niro (Rupert Pupkin), Jerry Lewis (Jerry Langford), Diahnne Abbott (Rita Keane), Sandra Bernhard (Masha), Tony Randall (Himself), Shelley Hack (Cathy Long), Ed Herlihy (Himself), Frederick de Cordova (Bert Thomas), Margo Winkler (The Receptionist), and Kim Chan (Jonno) Directed by Martin Scorsese (#990 - Taxi Driver)

Review: 
This is certainly an interesting black comedy film, in that it is a black comedy that doesn't invite itself for laughs, but it invites you to follow these strange but interesting characters while also feeling very relevant even after nearly 35 years since its release. When compared to Taxi Driver, one can see some similarities within the main character (both played by De Niro) in their loneliness, although their results definitely have a significant contrast (namely, one film has blood while the other doesn't); Scorsese stated this about the connection between the two characters: "Taxi Driver. Travis. Rupert. The isolated person. Is Rupert more violent than Travis? Maybe." De Niro undeniably pulls a great performance out of this aspiring (and deranged) character that reels you in with his passion and desire (as odd as that might seem). Lewis (in a role that was rejected by Johnny Carson) does a tremendous job as the beleaguered host who has an unquestionable subtle charm to him (even with all the things that happen around him). Bernhard pulls off a capably deranged performance, always managing to make you not take your eyes off and what offbeat thing she might be doing next. Abbott also does a fine job, having a naturally innocent charm to her that resonates well when paired with De Niro. For me, my favorite scene comes during the second half, with De Niro, Lewis and Bernhard acting together, involving some gum and cue cards which works because of how well each actor plays off each other and the way that the film plays with the circumstances and mood. The camera shots are also fairly fitting for the film's tone, where fantasy and reality not being particularly distinct from each other but also showing mayhem (such as the opening scene).

The rest of the cast are satisfactory in their roles, with my favorite being Herlihy (who had been the voice of Kraft Foods commercials for decades) and his richly distinctive voice. As stated before, there are some laughs, but the movie never really desires to let you absorb it because of how enclosed it seems with its dark aspects; one particular example is a scene where Lewis is accosted and told by an old lady that he "should only get cancer". It's a brief but useful scene in understanding this film, for better or for worse. It never strives to overstate itself nor focus on being just satire or thrilling. It blurs the line between fantasy and reality a few times throughout the movie (something that once again someone could compare to Taxi Driver), and it definitely has an interesting repel effect, with the ending also being an interesting point of discussion. It never goes for the jugular in laughter nor give you the satisfaction of seeing a character show their layers, but there is something about how it portrays the perspective of media culture and worship that certainly resonate even now. It shows an ugly side to the culture that without doubt leaves an indelible and unforgettable mark. It definitely is not a movie for everyone, but it definitely is a fine winner in my mind, laughter and all.

Happy to mark that this is the 100th film reviewed in 2017 on Movie Night, the fourth time that I've done at least 100 films since 2010.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

September 18, 2017

It (2017).


Review #991: It.

Cast: 
Jaeden Lieberher (Bill Denbrough), Bill Skarsgård (Pennywise), Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben Hanscom), Sophia Lillis (Beverly Marsh), Finn Wolfhard (Richie Tozier), Chosen Jacobs (Mike Hanlon), Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie Kaspbrak), Wyatt Oleff (Stan Uris), Nicholas Hamilton (Henry Bowers), Jake Sim (Belch Huggins), Logan Thompson (Victor Criss), Owen Teague (Patrick Hockstetter), Jackson Robert Scott (Georgie Denbrough), Stephen Bogaert (Mr. Marsh), Stuart Hughes (Officer Bowers) DIrected by Andy Muschietti.

Review: 
Admittedly, I hadn't read the novel of the same name by Stephen King before going in to see this movie; I also never watched the 1990 miniseries adaptation, partly because I wanted to go into this like I would with any kind of horror film, without any real sense of comparison or with too much hype. In the end, I would say that this definitely succeeds as a thrilling piece of entertainment, even if it may not be the chilling kind of horror movie that one might have desired, though there are some quality scares. The cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung stands out pretty well, with the film's 80s look certainly passing itself off pretty well (without being doused in too many references), which makes for a good atmosphere.

The core of the film is the seven child actors (Lieberher, Taylor, Lillis, Wolfhard, Jacobs, Grazer, Oleff) that do tremendous jobs that surely keep the movie on the rails while also standing out quite well; Lieberher proves to be a quite capable lead, with Taylor and Lillis also being fairly interesting, though the one who sticks out the most is Wolfhard, who helps inspire some laughs with some timely "mouthy" remarks. With regards to Skarsgård and his performance, he does a pretty good job, mostly because he toes the line between playful and terrifying, with accompanying facial expressions (and some digital effects that are mostly successful) that make for satisfactory creeps and chills. The rest of the cast (such as Hamilton) do pretty decent in their roles, definitely helping in the creepy factor. It doesn't go too much into the gore factor, but it definitely is a movie that uses its R rating decently enough. Admittedly, there are a few jump scares, and while they don't come off as too distracting to the film's credit, I can see where someone might find it more harmful to the film. At 135 minutes, this certainly has an acceptable length when it is all said and done, and seeing how there most definitely will be a "second half" to this film in the near future, I can say that I will be waiting for it with curious anticipation.

It seems fitting to have done a horror film as part of the countdown to #1000, and it is also fitting that it is done just five years since the first installment of the Theater Saga on Movie Night, Paranorman (#240), done on September 8, 2012. Interesting how times have changed. The movie theater certainly has gone through some changes, but the experience is still pretty fun even to this day. 

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

September 15, 2017

Taxi Driver.


Review #990: Taxi Driver.

Cast: 
Robert De Niro (Travis Bickle), Jodie Foster (Iris "Easy" Steensma), Harvey Keitel (Matthew "Sport" Higgins), Cybill Shepherd (Betsy), Albert Brooks (Tom), Leonard Harris (Senator Charles Palantine), Peter Boyle (Wizard), Harry Northup (Doughboy), and Norman Matlock (Charlie T) Directed by Martin Scorsese.

Review: 
It seems odd that it has taken so much time to cover a Martin Scorsese film, but it seems fitting to cover this one (his fifth overall movie), which has quite the reputation (it was awarded the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival while also being nominated for four Academy Awards), and it is easy for me to see why. The way that the film shows a look into the dark elements that make up New York (for the time it was made) along with the lonely world of an alienated (but always compelling to watch) main character played expertly by De Niro. There is just something about the way he speaks and his mannerisms that make him a character one could relate to, or at least be invested in his story, which always manages to be compelling, with numerous highlights (such as the famous "You talkin' to me?" scene, which serves to feed into how lonely this character is that still endures in pop culture to this day). Foster is quite effective in her role that only serves as part of the nightmare kind of world that this film sets itself in. Keitel is also fairly effective, having a brutal nature that makes the skin crawl without relying on over-the-top moments. Shepherd is probably the most normal character in the film, but she certainly has an important place while also being fairly charming, and her scenes with De Niro are fine. Brooks and Harris don't have much screen-time, but they certainly do make for an entertaining impression. The rest of the cast (including a short scene with Scorsese himself) do fairly effective jobs. The use of slow motion in some parts of the film certainly contributes to making this movie stand out amidst the grime and a good musical score by Bernard Herrmann (who had finished the music score the day before his death on December 24, 1975). The climax of the film (and the end scene that follows it) is the pinnacle of an already exceptional movie, with a look and feel that is as rapid as it is effective, with an ending that certainly lends itself to discussion. In any case, this is a capable thriller that certainly still endures even after forty years since its release.

As dedicated readers can tell, we are in the final stages of the countdown to the big pinnacle for Movie Night. Get ready for the rest of the batch to come soon.

Overall, I give it 10 out of 10 stars.

September 11, 2017

The Nutty Professor (1963).


Review #989: The Nutty Professor.

Cast: 
Jerry Lewis (Professor Julius F. Kelp/Buddy Love/Baby Kelp), Stella Stevens (Ms. Stella Purdy), Del Moore (Dr. Mortimer S. Warfield), Kathleen Freeman (Ms. Millie Lemmon), Howard Morris (Mr. Elmer Kelp), Elvia Allman (Mrs. Edwina Kelp), Julie Parrish (College Student), Milton Frome (Dr. M. Sheppard Leevee), Buddy Lester (Bartender), and Med Flory (Warzewski)

Review: 
When I reviewed the remake back in 2013, I had given the film a 8/10 star rating while not comparing it to this film, due to not having seen it; in any case, the remake has aged finely for me, having a charm to it that worked just fine. I say all of this not to cast a shadow on this film, but because it wouldn't feel right to not do so. No matter which version you prefer, they both are good film, so let's move on to the original, which happens to be the first film on this show that features the late Jerry Lewis.

At any rate, this film (based on the novel Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) does tend to have more hits than misses while serving as good amusement, with Lewis being the key highlight. His high energy along with how he plays both characters make for good entertainment to watch, with both characters having their moments to shine. His performance as Kelp is certainly endearing and also fairly clever (with a particularly distinctive voice as well). Lewis had stated that Buddy Love was based on every obnoxious self-important hateful hipster that he had known, contrary to the perception from others of it serving as a lampoon of his former comedy duo partner, Dean Martin. In any case, there is something quite about his performance as Love that seems to captivate you and never let you take his eye off him, despite the nature of his character. Stevens does a fine job, being fairly capable in handling scenes with both of Lewis's characters consistently enough. Moore serves for some amusing banter scenes with Lewis while also being welcomely over-the-top. The rest of the cast serve their purpose fairly well. The nature of film is a bit of a double-edged sword: the film does take risks and has a variety of gags and characters while also being unpredictable at times, but the tone of the film occasionally feels uneven, with the climax being a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, the sequences at the dance are pretty effective, but the last scene and how it seals the film up with Lewis and Stevens's characters seems a bit murky. In any case, this is a successful film that certainly has enough laughs and charm to make for a good time.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

September 7, 2017

Westworld.


Review #988: Westworld.

Cast: 
Yul Brynner (The Gunslinger), Richard Benjamin (Peter Martin), James Brolin (John Blane), Norman Bartold (the Medieval Knight), Alan Oppenheimer (the Chief Supervisor), Victoria Shaw (the Medieval Queen), Dick Van Patten (the Banker), Linda Scott (Arlette), Steve Franken (Technician), Michael Mikler (Black Knight), Terry Wilson (Sheriff), and Majel Barrett (Miss Carrie) Directed by Michael Crichton.

Review: 
Westworld is certainly an interesting film, in part because of how clever it feels in terms of its construction of plot and style. It's interesting how it can be classified as a "science fiction Western thriller", but it is even more interesting that this was the directorial debut of Michael Crichton, a novelist who prior to this film had four of his novels adapted into films (most notably The Andromeda Strain), while also directing a television film (Pursuit) and writing for another film (Extreme Close-Up). In any case, this is a fun movie that establishes an interesting premise and atmosphere while not bogging itself down with its characters. It's easy to immerse in the fantasies that the character go through in part because of how familiar they seem (namely the shoot-out in the saloon or the sword fight in the hall), but they are being played out in a world all about reenacting things like the Old West or medieval Europe or even Rome. The film is not merely "robots gone amok", feeling like a fable about the danger of corporate greed, but in any case the film still feels pretty relevant today.

Benjamin and Brolin are certainly an interesting pair of protagonists, partly because of how much charisma they give off despite not much being revealed about their characters (aside from one brief conversation); one of my favorite scenes is them being involved in a brawl, in part because you can see the amount of fun they seem to have (even at something like fighting), prior to the climax. Oddly, one other favorite scene of mine doesn't involve the main cast; it is the opening scene, advertising the park (named Delos), complete with a showcase of satisfied customers. Perhaps it's their enthusiasm over what they experienced from the world they visited, but it certainly helps establish the film's credibility without needless exposition. Brynner does a fine job that serves as the highlight of the film, certainly making for a good foe for both the world he inhibits along with in the climax (especially with those piercing eyes), with the look of the Gunslinger being similar to the character that he played in The Magnificent Seven (#427). It was the first film to use digital image processing, done so in order to simulate the Gunslinger's point of view, which was done by pixellated photography by John Whitney, Jr, and Gary Demos at Information International, Inc). I think the view ages pretty well for what it is used for, and the effects with the robots are also certainly quite effective. It's interesting to note how the run-time is 88 minutes, because the film certainly never feels lacking in any kind of quality. A follow up called Futureworld would be released three years later, and there have been two television shows broadcast (Beyond Westworld and Westworld, with the latter premiering in 2016). This is an enjoyable film that certainly lends itself to enjoyment even after over four decades since its release.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

September 5, 2017

Show People.


Review #987: Show People.

Cast: 

Marion Davies (Peggy Pepper), William Haines (Billy Boone), Dell Henderson (General Marmaduke Oldfish Pepper), Paul Ralli (Andre Telfair), Tenen Holtz (Casting director), Harry Gribbon (Jim, comedy director), Sidney Bracey (Dramatic director), Polly Moran (Peggy's maid), and Albert Conti (Producer) Directed by King Vidor.

Review: 
This was a lighthearted look at Hollywood released near the end of the silent era, but it featured synchronized musical score and sound effects, with numerous cameo appearances from stars of the time throughout the film, such as Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, John Gilbert, with Davies and Vidor making cameos as themselves. Admittedly, it may feel a bit familiar to anyone who has watched a film about a person's rise (and their ensuing change in personality), but this is at least decent fare. This is an enjoyable film that utilizes some star power along with a ready amount of charm and well crafted direction to be good entertainment. Davies does a capable job, seemingly well suited for the comedic situations that happen (best signified by her reaction to being sprayed with a seltzer bottle). This is definitely a fine delight of a film, mainly because Davies proves quite capable at eliciting laughs while also being fairly interesting to watch to interact with the rest of the cast. Haines is a fairly decent counterpart for Davies, and he does help elicit some laughs as well. The rest of the cast also do fine jobs in their parts, but the real highlight is the amount of guest appearances, which are pretty charming; though I did not recognize all of the actors that make an appearance, they certainly feel useful enough without seeming obnoxious (my favorite of the cameos has to be Davies, as she and her character meet for one short scene). At 79 minutes, this is a clear pick for anyone looking for a nice enjoyable little clever comedy.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

September 1, 2017

An American in Paris.


Review #986: An American in Paris.

Cast: 
Gene Kelly (Jerry Mulligan), Leslie Caron (Lise Bouvier), Oscar Levant (Adam Cook), Georges Guétary (Henri "Hank" Baurel), Nina Foch (Milo Roberts), and Eugene Borden (Georges Mattieu) Directed by Vincente Minnelli (#405 - The Reluctant Debutante, #510 - Father of the Bride, #620 - Lust for Life, and #878 - The Long, Long Trailer)

Review: 
This was inspired by the 1928 orchestral composition of the same name by George Gershwin; I can't say I've done many movies based off a orchestral piece before, and I also can't say that they also have a 17-minute dance included as the climax either. In any case, this is a fine film, with a good amount of execution with its music and how it is shot. The music by Saul Chaplin and Johnny Green is fairly entertaining, but the biggest help to making all of the connections click is the things around it; the cinematography by John Alton and Alfred Gilks is top-notch, having a look that just syncs up with the mood; the costumes by Orry-Kelly, Walter Plunkett, and Irene Sharaff are also fine in giving the movie some fine flair. Admittedly, the plot is a bit thin in construction (with the kind of turns that you'd expect from a romance standpoint), but it manages to be enough of a showcase that it doesn't really drag the film too much. It isn't as great as something like Singin' in the Rain (released the following year), but both movie are good in their own right. Kelly is charismatic as ever, having the kind of charm and usefulness that one would expect from him, graceful in movement and stature. Caron, a dancer in her film debut, does alright, although she shines more in the dancing scenes than when sharing time onscreen with the plot, mainly because she doesn't really have chemistry with either Kelly or Guétary, although she at least has some screen presence. Guétary has some mild charm in the scenes that he is in. Levant is fine to watch, with his piano sequences being pretty entertaining. Foch is okay, although her scenes with Kelly don't really go anywhere too special in terms of appeal. The biggest highlight is probably the sequence at the end (lasting 17 minutes), being the ultimate showstopper spectacle for a film musical like this.

This movie won six Academy Awards, with wins for Best Production Design, Cinematography, Costume Design, Best Music Scoring of a Musical Picture, Original Screenplay, and Best Picture. In addition, Kelly received an Academy Honorary Award for "his versatility as an actor, singer, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film", and it certainly seems fitting. He pulls in a tremendous performance that (along with all of the other things that shine in the movie) make for a great piece of entertainment that works in most of the right places, charm and all.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

August 30, 2017

The Manchurian Candidate (1962).


Review #985: The Manchurian Candidate.

Cast:
Frank Sinatra (Maj. Bennett Marco), Laurence Harvey (Raymond Shaw), Angela Lansbury (Mrs. Iselin), Janet Leigh (Eugenie Rose Chaney), Henry Silva (Chunjin), James Gregory (Sen. John Yerkes Iselin), Leslie Parrish (Jocelyn Jordan), John McGiver (Sen. Thomas Jordan), Khigh Dheigh (Dr. Yen Lo), and James Edwards (Cpl. Allen Melvin) Directed by John Frankenheimer (#559 - Grand Prix)

Review:
This film is often billed as a neo-noir along with being called a suspense thriller, and while I'd argue the latter label applies more than the other, I can't deny the quality of the film, which is tremendous. It manages to be a cohesive thriller due to how it utilizes its cast. Each of the main cast members shine in the roles that they play, from Sinatra and his capable heroism to Lansbury and her cold calculative nature. Leigh isn't as big of a standout, but she does certainly contrast with the weirdness of the characters that form the story. Dheigh doesn't have much screen-time, but he does a fine job in an adversarial role. But it is Harvey and how he portrays this complex character that truly stands out. His scenes about how "unlovable" he is particularly a good standout in understanding the nature of his character, where he isn't merely an unlikable dupe. His moments in the film with Parrish and McGiver aren't too long, but they contrast perfectly in comparison with his scenes opposite Lansbury and Gregory, and those scenes certainly do lend to an emotional payoff, for better or for worse. Speaking of which, Lansbury and Gregory are also finely cast, with one of my favorite scenes being their exchange over the latter needing a more memorable number to use in his speeches. There are numerous parts of the film that serve as fine highlights (such as Harvey jumping into a lake with Sinatra watching), but I think the scene with Harvey and his men is a particular good one in how it executes itself with a fine sense of cleverness even with a premise as odd as brainwashing (or the motives) seems. This is a film that manages to lure you in with suspense without being too obvious about it along with taking its time, with a riveting climax to boot. On the whole, this is a fine feature that has enough from its cast and its style of telling its story with thrills.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

August 23, 2017

Logan Lucky.


Review #984: Logan Lucky.

Cast: 
Channing Tatum (Jimmy Logan), Adam Driver (Clyde Logan), Seth MacFarlane (Max Chilblain), Riley Keough (Mellie Logan), Katie Holmes (Bobbie Jo Logan Chapman), Farrah Mackenzie (Sadie Logan), Katherine Waterston (RN Sylvia Harrison), Dwight Yoakam (Warden Burns), Sebastian Stan (Dayton White), Brian Gleeson (Sam Bang), Jack Quaid (Fish Bang), Daniel Craig (Joe Bang), and Hilary Swank (Special Agent Sarah Grayson) Directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Review: 
Admittedly, this is a film that I did not see too much promotion for until roughly a week before its release, but I was still interested due to the fact that it seemed to have an interesting cast assembled; while it may not be the biggest success with audiences, I found this to be a neat little caper, having just enough turns and laughs to serve for good entertainment. The main cast (Tatum, Driver, Keough, Gleeson, Quaid, and Craig) have good chemistry with each other, inspiring some laughs because how offbeat (but fitting) these characters are in how they do a caper inventive as this; one of my favorite scenes is Craig explaining the principles of what makes the "bang" to the others. The film is inventive enough to let these characters operate without trying to give them some sort of "sympathy moment"; even the parts with Tatum and his onscreen daughter (Mackenzie) seem charming and relatively useful. The way the film is structured is also commendable, having a good amount of finely set characters and a pace that never drags its cast nor its story in the turns that the heist has. The other members of the cast are fine, with Yoakam, Gleeson and Quaid being pretty amusing in their roles. The film's climax is perfectly satisfactory, even if the parts with the two FBI agents is a bit sluggish (though at least Swank is fine); the (brief) parts involving MacFarlane and Stan aren't too great, though the latter's scene prior to the race is pretty amusing. The film's ending does seem to hint at a sequel, and whether there is a follow-up or not to this story and its characters, this is undeniably a good experience that has enough charm and brilliance to work at least for now.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

August 17, 2017

Viva Las Vegas.


Review #983: Viva Las Vegas.

Cast: 
Elvis Presley (Lucky Jackson), Ann-Margret (Rusty Martin), Cesare Danova (Count Elmo Mancini), William Demarest (Mr. Martin), Nicky Blair (Shorty Fansworth), Jack Carter (Himself), and Teri Garr (Showgirl) Directed by George Sidney.

Review: 
Ah, Elvis Presley. I've covered two films in which he had a starring role (#327 - Jailhouse Rock and #523 - It Happened at the World's Fair), with the former being a fine experience and the latter being pretty forgettable. In any case, Viva Las Vegas is a spectacle released in the middle of Presley's career (with this being his 15th film out of the 31 he did from 1956-1969). It has an exotic location, a young woman for Elvis to encounter (and inevitably romance) and a bunch of musical numbers. For the most part, the film excels as entertainment, and it is due to the chemistry between Presley and Ann-Margret. They simply match well on screen together, having a charm and energy that is present in most of the scenes they share on screen, with one of the highlights being their singing of "The Lady Loves Me" in the first half of the film; one of my other favorite highlights is his medley of "The Yellow Rose of Texas" and "The Eyes of Texas", complete with Elvis wearing a big hat. The other parts of the film don't have as much charisma, but the rest of the cast do decent jobs in their roles. The music numbers are fairly good, showcasing its star in the way you'd expect. The story is a simple one (with a short but fine length of 85 minutes), but it doesn't come off as harmful to the goal of the film, which is to have some fun in Vegas with Elvis, which it achieves handily enough.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

August 14, 2017

Fast Times at Ridgemont High.


Review #982: Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Cast: 
Sean Penn (Jeff Spicoli), Judge Reinhold (Brad Hamilton), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Stacy Hamilton), Robert Romanus (Mike Damone), Phoebe Cates (Linda Barrett), Brian Backer (Mark "Rat" Ratner), Amanda Wyss (Lisa), Ray Walston (Mr. Hand), Forest Whitaker (Charles Jefferson), Scott Thomson (Arnold), Vincent Schiavelli (Mr. Vargas), and Lana Clarkson (Mrs. Vargas) Directed by Amy Heckerling.

Review: 
By sheer coincidence, the 35th anniversary of the release of this film was yesterday, and it only makes sense for me to get around to doing this movie, seeing how I am so clearly the type for coming of age high school comedy films. But in any case, this is a fine movie, encased in a time capsule of its own doing that will serve as decent entertainment, mostly because of how the cast pulls itself together. This was adapted from the book Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A True Story by Cameron Crowe (a future film director), who posed as a high school student at Clairemont High School in San Diego, with the book having been published one year earlier. The movie does have raunchy elements to it (hence why it was rated R), but it isn't merely just a romp through a high school year, although the plot admittedly does not have much depth to it. It tells a story much like how one would look back at a high school yearbook, with varying success depending on the investment one has in the story told. For me, it does have enough charm and moments to push it to the finish line capably. Obviously the highlight of the film is Penn and his relatively charming stoner character that serves for some decent laugh inducing moments, complete with Vans shoes. Reinhold clearly seems like he is having fun with his role; Leigh does a fine job as well, having a charm that makes her character worth watching. Romanus and Backer have a fine chemistry with each other, being a fairly capable duo. Cates is also pretty decent, mature along with fun. Walston is enjoyable to watch in how he contrasts with all of the other characters, with him being the only adult among all of the teenagers (except for Schiavelli, though Walston has more screen-time), with his scenes opposite Penn being especially amusing. It is interesting to note that the film also features Forest Whitaker (in his second film role) along with small appearances by Eric Stoltz and even Nicholas Cage (credited under his real name of Nicholas Coppola). The soundtrack is pretty good, with "We Got the Beat" from The Go-Go's being a fine opening song (along with being catchy). It isn't a great comedy nor even an exceptional coming of age high school flick, but it is certainly an entertaining experience that stands along with other films of its ilk that soon followed in the decade, all with their own kind of flair.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

August 11, 2017

Bonnie and Clyde (1967).


Review #981: Bonnie and Clyde.

Cast:
Warren Beatty (Clyde Barrow), Faye Dunaway (Bonnie Parker), Michael J. Pollard (C.W. Moss), Gene Hackman (Buck Barrow), Estelle Parsons (Blanche Barrow), Denver Pyle (Frank Hamer), Dub Taylor (Ivan Moss), Gene Wilder (Eugene Grizzard), and Evans Evans (Velma Davis) Directed by Arthur Penn.

Review:
August holds significance for this film, as it was released 50 years ago on this month, with three different premieres: August 4 (for the Montréal Film Festival), August 13 (New York), and August 23 (Los Angeles) before going into general release the following month. In any case, I decided it made sense to finally cover this movie today to see how it has aged after (roughly) 50 years. There is something about how the movie works on nearly every level, from its cinematography by Burnett Guffey to its dynamic cast to how it becomes more than just a movie with violence (and lots of it) that opened the floodgates to a new level of bloodshed in cinema that is still readily apparent today. There have been countless other films revolving around criminals and/or a good deal of violence (such as say, The Wild Bunch (#591), though that was a Western), but this does not manage to fall into the background because of how it operates itself, with the ending scene being shocking in its execution. Of note is the use of squibs (a miniature explosive device) in order to imitate bullet hits, which surely stands out from prior movies that didn't have as much (or any) blood for the violence. The editing by Dede Allen is also quite good, having a rapid pace that rolls with the action neatly, with influence coming from the styles used for films directed during the French New Wave. Beatty and Dunaway both do great jobs, along with having a great chemistry together that seems instantaneous. The rest of the cast is also quite excellent in roles that led to further fame (along with an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Parsons), with Hackman and Parsons being enjoyable to watch in their interactions within the Barrow Gang. In a film as rough as this is, there is still a level of humor and excitement one can get from all that happens in the movie, from the first scene with Beatty and Dunaway to the Gang escaping from the cops with Parsons holding onto a spatula. It's a forthright kind of film that never seems inauthentic with its goals and pace. The film does take liberties with what happened in real life with the Barrow gang, but it does not alter the fact that this is still a fine piece of entertainment that never ceases to be anything other than captivating.

This was a controversial film upon release, with criticism being about the level of violence apparent in the movie, but it was still a major success (no doubt due its appeal for the generation the movie was released to). No matter what you might think about how the film portrays violence, the legacy that Bonnie and Clyde has in changing the way violence is depicted on screen is undeniably still felt today, for better or for worse. It may not be everybody's cup of tea, but it definitely pulls no punches in how it operates itself and achieves all of its goals.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

August 8, 2017

Dunkirk (2017).


Review #980: Dunkirk.

Cast: 
Fionn Whitehead (Tommy), Tom Glynn-Carney (Peter), Jack Lowden (Collins), Harry Styles (Alex), Aneurin Barnard (Gibson), James D'Arcy (Colonel Winnant), Barry Keoghan (George), Kenneth Branagh (Commander Bolton), Cillian Murphy (Shivering Soldier), Mark Rylance (Mr. Dawson), and Tom Hardy (Farrier) Directed by Christopher Nolan (#054 - The Dark Knight, #055 - Inception, and #062 - Batman Begins)

Review: 
I must admit, I did not know how long this film was going to be, in part because I had figured that a war film like this would be roughly two hours (or more), but as it turns out the film manages to run for 106 minutes; in any case, the movie (as stated by Nolan himself) is more of a suspense film than a war movie, but this is still a finely tuned film that achieves most (if not all of its goals). It shines especially on a technical level, from its structure to its editing to its cinematography, with the film having a great look and feel to it. The battles (along with the sequences in the water) are executed well as one would expect. It isn't a film that tries to show the horrors of war, but it does manage to have a lot of tension through the facial expressions of the characters along with sounds (such a ticking noise). The cast do a fine job, with the narratives each having something interesting to watch (aside from the tension that never lets up); Whitehead and the others within his narrative don't give any sort of great performance, but they are watchable enough to where one cares about their survival without having the film being about them (after all, we don't know any of the character's full name), and it works in delivering thrills in that regard; Rylance, Branagh and Murphy are fine standouts, delivering their roles with fine authority in the amount of time they have on screen. There is never a moment where you are taken out of the experience, it is an unrelenting film that approaches its subject matter with class and dignity (with the effects looking good as well). The best thing I can say about the film is that it is well executed in its vision by Nolan that surely will be up for some awards on a technical basis later in the year. It isn't a perfect film, but it is definitely a fine experience that is worth watching at least once.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

August 7, 2017

Me, Myself & Irene.


Review #979: Me, Myself & Irene.

Cast: 
Jim Carrey (Charlie Baileygates/Hank Evans), Renée Zellweger (Irene P. Waters), Chris Cooper (Lt. Gerke), Robert Forster (Colonel Partington), Richard Jenkins (Agent Boshane), Zen Gesner (Agent Peterson), Michael Bowman (Casper), Rob Moran (Trooper Finneran), Daniel Greene (Dickie Thurman), Anthony Anderson (Jamal Baileygates), Mongo Brownlee (Lee Harvey Baileygates), Jerod Mixon (Shonté Jr. Baileygates), Tony Cox (Shonté), Steve Tyler (Delivery Room Doctor), Traylor Howard (Layla Baileygates) Directed by Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly.

Review: 
Admittedly, I didn't have high hopes for this film, in part because I had remembered seeing the first five or ten minutes on television roughly a few years ago and not really being interested enough to watch it all the way through. Years later, it only makes sense that I watch it in a month as middling as this film turned out to be. Carrey does exactly what you would expect in terms of his facial expressions and mannerisms, which can be amusing or at worst tedious, depending on your view of Carrey as a comedian. He works best when playing the Jekyll aspect of his character, having more amusement (and charm, which applies when subject to different kinds of abuse) than when playing the Hyde aspect (diagnosed as advanced delusionary schizophrenia with involuntary narcissistic rage...yes I'm serious), which doesn't really feel funny to watch nor particularly welcome to watch dominate over the other persona (with ensuing times of revenge over people) for a good majority of the film. Seeing him change personas also isn't particularly funny, though that may be because of how many times he shifts throughout the film, such as when he argues with himself in the climax.

Much like the plot, Zellweger's character doesn't really have much depth (though she is fairly charming enough), with the film also not doing fairly well either as a black comedy or a road movie, mostly because the jokes themselves aren't really that special. Obviously there is a market for gross out comedies, but for me it just didn't work most of the time. Sure, there's a decent sequence with a cow, but other jokes feel longer than they should (such as the case with Bowman and his character). The narration by Rex Allen Jr (whose father did the narration for The Incredible Journey - #917) is fine. Did I mention there was a plot? Yes, something involving the EPA and crooked cops, but it all feels secondhand along with not particularly interesting (with Cooper not being given much to do as the de facto bad guy along with Greene). His three children (Anderson, Brownlee & Mixon) are somewhat amusing, though they can't really lift the movie towards anything too clever. The film runs at 116 minutes and even longer on television, but in any case it feels too long. This isn't a terrible experience, but it is also is not a fun experience, at least for me anyway.

Overall, I give it 5 out of 10 stars.

August 1, 2017

Atomic Blonde.


Review #978: Atomic Blonde.

Cast: 
Charlize Theron (Lorraine Broughton), James McAvoy (David Percival), John Goodman (Emmett Kurzfeld), Til Schweiger (The Watchmaker), Eddie Marsan (Spyglass), Sofia Boutella (Delphine Lasalle), Toby Jones (Eric Gray), Bill Skarsgård (Merkel), Sam Hargrave (James Gasciogne), James Faulkner (Chief C), and Roland Møller (Aleksander Bremovych) Directed by David Leitch (#905 - John Wick)

Review: 
This is adapted from the graphic novel The Coldest City by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart, It is good to ring in the new month of August with another film from 2017, which has had quite a diverse amount of films, such as John Wick: Chapter 2 (#906), released earlier in the year. I say this because of how this film reminded me of that film and the previous Wick film, which Leitch help direct (though this is his first credited feature as director). Like those films, this movie has a great sense of execution with its action sequences, managing to not blur the line between action hero and killing machine. The plot of the film takes time to really gel, in part because of it doesn't try to be simple with its espionage, but it is never boring in part because of the actors and their performances. Theron pulls off an entertaining performance that is as engaging and capable as one would expect from something like the James Bond films, and her scenes with Boutella are also fairly compelling (and not gratuitous in any shape or form, thankfully). McAvoy is pretty clever, managing to have a sort of mania and enjoyment that balances off of Theron rightly enough. Goodman and Jones are also fine highlights, and the rest of the cast all seem necessary and useful to the plot. There are numerous highlights within the action scenes, with the staircase scene featuring good editing and fine pacing to it, and the cinematography by Jonathan Sela (who happened to do the cinematography for the first Wick film) is also a fine highlight. The music is also neatly handled well (in part because of it being set in 1989), with my personal highlights being "The Politics of Dancing" by Re-Flex, "London Calling" by The Clash, and "Under Pressure" by David Bowie and Queen. The run-time of 115 minutes is likely a bit too long, although it isn't anything too harmful. It's not a perfect movie by any means, but there definitely is enough competent action and presence by Theron to justify checking this one out.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

July 29, 2017

Frenzy.


Review #977: Frenzy.

Cast: 
Jon Finch (Richard Ian "Dick" Blaney), Alec McCowen (Chief Inspector Oxford), Barry Foster (Robert "Bob" Rusk), Billie Whitelaw (Hetty Porter), Anna Massey (Barbara Jane "Babs" Milligan), Barbara Leigh-Hunt (Brenda Margaret Blaney), Bernard Cribbins (Felix Forsythe), Vivien Merchant (Mrs. Oxford), Michael Bates (Sergeant Spearman), and Jean Marsh (Monica Barling) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock (#219 - Rope#223 - North by Northwest, #446 - Spellbound, #447 - Psycho, #450 - Vertigo, #455 - Rear Window, #553 - Strangers on a Train, #800 - Shadow of a Doubt, #910 - Notorious#963 - The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog#964 - The Ring (1927)#965 - Downhill, #970 - Mr. and Mrs. Smith)

Review: 
Frenzy was Alfred Hitchcock's 52nd feature film, along with being his penultimate film, with Family Plot (1976) being released four years later. This was adapted from the novel Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square by Arthur La Bern. He later wrote a letter in a newspaper that described it as a "painful experience", citing the screenplay by Anthony Shaffer. If you've seen enough Hitchcock films/thrillers (or have heard about him already), there are quite a few familiar aspects present, such as the wrong man motif, and a macabre attitude at times, with more thrills than mystery present (seeing as you know who the killer is by the first hour), but it doesn't make the film any less interesting in its plunge into the dark (depending on how much you can stomach, anyway). The tracking sequence involving the killer taking his next victim is executed finely enough, and the potato truck sequence invokes a bit of nausea along with interest in where it will end up. This was Hitchcock's third British film since he had moved to Hollywood in 1939 (with the other two being Under Capricorn (1949) and Stage Fright (1950), although he shot some exterior shots in England for The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)), and this also happened to be his first (and only) ever film rated R upon theatrical release, with the violence and imagery shown on screen showing more of the ugly nature of death than previous Hitchcock films had done - for better or for worse. If you can stomach the film's macabre aspects, you likely can stomach the film as a whole just fine.

Finch is a fair main lead, being brutally blunt and fitting as the man in the wrong circumstances while not merely just an innocent lamb, which is somewhat refreshing although it may be a turnoff for others. McCowen does fine, being fairly crucial towards the climax. The humor is quite sharp and welcome, with the scenes between McCowen and Merchant feeling like the right sort of contrast in a film with a man who kills people with neckties (I happen to have no biases toward this fact, seeing as I wear zip ties); the scene with the men discussing the details of the murder in a pub is also a strange highlight. Foster has a sort of ease to his performance that is fairly off-putting and quite effective; his scene with Leigh-Hunt is haunting along with lurid. The rest of the cast are quite interesting in their supporting roles, such as Massey and Cribbins, each having a certain pull factor that works in their own way; the locations used (such as Covent Garden) is also pretty helpful in making for a unique atmosphere for the film to take place, with some of the location having changed since the film's release. The climax of the film is fairly engaging and typical for a Hitchcock movie (which isn't a criticism), having a satisfactory end - for a movie like this, anyway. It is easy to say this is not one of Hitchcock's best films, but it is at least a fair piece of entertainment that happens to fall in the middle behind genuine classics that he had made prior. Love it or hate it, it is clear that Hitchcock still seemed to know what he was doing even at the age of 73, and this is a fairly decent representation of that.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

July 27, 2017

The Four Musketeers (1974).


Review #976: The Four Musketeers.

Cast:
Michael York (d'Artagnan), Oliver Reed (Athos), Frank Finlay (Porthos / O'Reilly), Richard Chamberlain (Aramis), Jean-Pierre Cassel (Louis XIII), Geraldine Chaplin (Anne of Austria), Charlton Heston (Cardinal Richelieu), Faye Dunaway (Milady de Winter), Christopher Lee (The Count De Rochefort), Raquel Welch (Constance Bonacieux), Roy Kinnear (Planchet), Michael Gothard (Felton), and Nicole Calfan (Kitty) Directed by Richard Lester (#541 - A Hard Day's Night, #594 - A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, #785 - Superman II, #786 - Superman III, and #972 - The Three Musketeers)

Review:
As I mentioned in my review of The Three Musketeers last week, the original plan to make an epic that would last around three hours (including an intermission), but these plans were scuttled, instead splitting it into two features. I had forgotten to mention that the two films also had a subtitle applied to them, with the first film's being The Queen's Diamonds and the second one being Milady's Revenge. Due to the first film having been released in February of 1974 in the United States and the United Kingdom, this film was released first in West Germany on October 31, 1974 before being released in the US and UK in February of the following year.

It feels unusual to cover this due to how similar it seems to the first film, although this one is a bit darker along with the charm and laughs that were fine enough once and give out fair returns the second time around. It's not easy to express a lot of thoughts on the film other than saying that it is a decent movie. If the first film was a decent piece of art (or a song), the second film could be considered a print (or a cover) of that same piece, albeit with some differences. The costumes and style of the film shines once again; York and Reed stand out among the four musketeers, and it is nice to see Dunaway having a bigger role this time around (taking advantage of it quite well). The plot is a bit muddled in the sense that it doesn't seem as compelling as the action scenes; there are stakes, but it never really takes off into tension level. The film isn't empty, but there doesn't seem to be as much substance this time around. Its climax is fair and efficient in the right places as you would expect. This is a slick feature that obviously works well with the first film, but it's easy to say that it isn't as good as the original; the spirit from the first film is present, even if it is slightly diminished. It's not hard to recommend it for people who enjoyed the previous film or are looking for another Musketeer film to hang their hat around.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

July 26, 2017

Deliverance.


Review #975: Deliverance.

Cast: 
Jon Voight (Ed Gentry), Burt Reynolds (Lewis Medlock), Ned Beatty (Bobby Trippe), Ronny Cox (Drew Ballinger), Ed Ramey (the Old Man), Billy Redden (Lonnie, AKA the Banjo Boy), Bill McKinney (Mountain Man), Herbert 'Cowboy' Coward (Toothless Man), James Dickey (Sheriff Bullard), and Macon McCalman (Deputy Sheriff Arthur Queen) Directed by John Boorman (#565 - Zardoz)

Review: 
It's interesting that the film (released 45 years ago this month) was adapted onto the screen by the writer of the novel himself, James Dickey, who also has a minor role in the film as well. Notably, the stunts were done by the actors themselves, with insurance not being given in order to cut costs. It is evident early on how rough the film looks and feels, and there is a haunting sort of tone to the environment and atmosphere of the movie, right down to the river. The use of Dueling Banjos (arranged and recorded by Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandel though without the permission of the original writer, Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith) in the beginning of the film is incredibly fitting. This is a brutal film that manages to be consistent in its pace once it gets the ball rolling by the first hour, with its run-time of 110 minutes being an acceptable length.

The core four cast (Voight, Reynolds, Beatty, and Cox) do a fine job in how well they play off each other, particularly during the beginning parts and the scenes in the rapids; there is never a moment where their actions feel fake or unnatural, with their fear seeming quite real, with the most famous scene involving the group and the people they find in the mountains. Coward and McKinney are fine villains; stereotype or not, they definitely evoke a good sense of realistic fear. The rest of the cast doesn't have much time on screen, but they certainly do leave an impression, such as Redden and his banjo performance along with Dickey and his appearance near the end. The ending of the film is poignant in how it goes in line with the rest of the film in terms of its shock and awe, with the final shot of the film reflecting that. For some, the film likely detracts from its theme with the amount of violence it has, but I found that the movie was fairly focused enough with its characters and sense of timing that it falls as a classic.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

July 24, 2017

A Star Is Born (1954).


Review #974: A Star Is Born.

Cast: 
Judy Garland (Esther Blodgett / Vicki Lester), James Mason (Norman Maine), Jack Carson (Matt Libby), Charles Bickford (Oliver Niles), Tommy Noonan (Danny McGuire), Amanda Blake (Susan Etting), Lucy Marlow (Lola Lavery), Irving Bacon (Graves), and Hazel Shermet (Libby's Secretary) Directed by George Cukor (#479 - Travels with My Aunt)

Review: 
It's interesting that George Cukor (who had made What Price Hollywood?) decided to direct the remake of A Star Is Born, which had been made seventeen years earlier and was featured just one review ago on this show. There are quite a few differences between the two versions, namely the decision to make it a musical along with the omission of the grandmother character, turning Esther from a farm-girl wanting to be an actor into an aspiring singer in a band, changing Danny from assistant director to a bandleader along with a few other things. If this had been handled in the wrong hands, it might've felt unnecessary, but the film has the right tools to succeed. This is a finely constructed piece of entertainment, with the biggest highlight being Garland and her performance on screen. There is just something magnetic about her presence that is easily watchable along with easy to care for throughout the movie. She handles both singing and acting as well as one would expect, where neither overshadow each other. Notably, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance; though she was pregnant and could not attend the ceremony, a camera crew was set up at the hospital room in case she won, but she lost to Grace Kelly for her performance in The Country Girl (1954). Mason captures the downward spiral of the character he's playing about as well as you'd expect, doing so with a fine amount of spirit. Carson does a fine job with his character as well, capturing the smarmy nature that Lionel Stander had done in the original film and improving on it. The rest of the cast is fine as well. It's not every day that I watch a film with an intermission, nor one that has a song as memorable as "Born in a Trunk" to get to that point, and it is a fine song in a film with a bunch of entertaining and show-stopping songs, and the music score by Ray Heindorf is also a useful standout.

The film's length was shortened from its premiere version of 182 minutes to 154 for general release in order to erase fears of having less number of daily showings. It was the efforts of Ronald Haver and his research into the Warner Bros archives that led to the finding of most of the missing footage. For the parts that were not found, production stills and accompanying dialogue was used, with that particular version lasting 176 minutes. In any case, this is a fine classic that manages to be a grand showcase for Garland while being a great piece of entertainment. This is a remake that manages to make the material seem fresh and useful without trampling over the original, being a fine-tuned improvement.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

July 21, 2017

A Star Is Born (1937).


Review #973: A Star Is Born.

Cast: 
Janet Gaynor (Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester), Fredric March (Norman Maine), Adolphe Menjou (Oliver Niles), May Robson (Grandmother Lettie), Andy Devine (Daniel "Danny" McGuire), Lionel Stander (Matt Libby), Owen Moore (Casey Burke), Peggy Wood (Miss Phillips), Elizabeth Jenns (Anita Regis), Edgar Kennedy (Pop Randall), and J. C. Nugent (Mr. Blodgett) Directed by William A. Wellman (#349 - Wings#494 - The Public Enemy, and #866 - Nothing Sacred)

Review: 
A Star Is Born is certainly a interesting film about the insides of Hollywood (made by people in the system), with a fair amount of melodrama and good performances all around. A Star Is Born is a neat flick that has had the fortune of being remade three times (1954 and 1976, with one coming out in 2018), but this one and its legacy cannot be understated; the fact that the film is in the public domain and is readily available doesn't hurt either. Gaynor has a fine capable charm to her that makes it easy to follow along with her on her path, and she even makes some neat impersonations of actors of the time. March does a fine job as well, portraying his self -destructive arc quite capably that fits in line with the tone of the film. They have a fine amount of chemistry together, seeming quite at ease with each other, with their last scene being quite fitting. Menjou is fairly interesting, making a decent and convincing impression. Robson and her character are quite quirky along with being useful to the film for the most part. Devine and his distinct raspy voice make for a fine side role that makes for some amusement. Stander does a fine job, showing the smarmy nature of his character that comes off as convincing along with helping to giving the film an edge of cynicism. It's not a film mired in optimism (nor pessimism), as it's a film that wants to show the glow along with the drama that goes on with Hollywood, albeit with some inspiration from real life, such as the marriage of Barbara Stanwyck and Frank Fay, though the film has some similarity to What Price Hollywood? (1932), and the studio that had made that film (RKO) had thought about suing Selznick International Pictures (the production company for this film) for plagiarism but had decided against it.

The cinematography by W. Howard Greene is quite nice, showcasing a fair amount of color that certainly stood out for the time. He was given an honorary Academy Award for his color photography on the film (fun fact: from 1936 to 1938, Special Achievement Academy Awards were given for color films, and from 1939-1967 (except for 1957), there were separate awards for black-and-white and color cinematography). This won the Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Story, which is now known as Best Original Screenplay), and it's not hard to see why. It has its heart and mind in the right place while running at a smooth pace of 110 minutes that doesn't have a minute of false nature to it.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

July 20, 2017

The Three Musketeers (1973).


Review #972: The Three Musketeers.

Cast: 
Michael York (d'Artagnan), Oliver Reed (Athos), Frank Finlay (Porthos / O'Reilly), Richard Chamberlain (Aramis), Jean-Pierre Cassel (King Louis XIII of France), Geraldine Chaplin (Anne of Austria), Charlton Heston (Cardinal Richelieu), Faye Dunaway (Milady de Winter), Christopher Lee (The Count De Rochefort), Simon Ward (the Duke of Buckingham), Raquel Welch (Constance Bonacieux), Spike Milligan (M. Bonacieux), Roy Kinnear (Planchet), and Nicole Calfan (Kitty) Directed by Richard Lester (#541 - A Hard Day's Night, #594 - A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, #785 - Superman II, and #786 - Superman III)

Review: 
Based off the novel of the same name by Alexandre Dumas, the story has been adapted to film numerous times over the past century, but this one is often hailed as one of the better versions of the tale, and it's easy to see why. Everything from the cast to the action scenes is studded with great spectacle and entertainment. The fighting sequences (arranged by William Hobbs) are quite riveting, having an energy and execution to them that is incredible to see throughout the movie, made in a time without the possibility of using computer effects nor shortcuts; the cinematography by David Watkin is also fairly decent. York is engaging to watch on screen, being quite personable and fitting for the film. As you would probably expect from Lester's prior filmography, there is an injection of some comic humor within the film that doesn't manage to distract from the other parts of the film. There is a fine look to the film (filmed in Spain and France) that certainly helps give the film some atmosphere. The trio of Reed, Finlay and Chamberlain are fairly fine together, certainly going well together when dealing with the action scenes. Cassel and Chaplin are fine, but Heston (along with Lee) are interesting adversaries that certainly lend themselves to some fine moments, such as when York and Kinnear encounter Lee's character near the climax, having a fight scene without much light. Dunaway and Welch are fairly memorable, and they serve the climax pretty well with a scene for their own fight, and Milligan and Kinnear are fine comic relief. The best part of the film is seeing the action scenes play out with all of these characters, without giving too much thought to the story (which in itself is fine), instead its the way the film operates that makes for an exciting time. Of interest is that the original plan was to make a long epic that would run around three hours, but it was decided to separate it into two films (without telling the cast), with a trailer for the next film (The Four Muskateers) playing at the end of this film. This inspired the Screen Actor's Guild to make a stipulation that future contracts say how many films are being made. In any case, this is a fine adventure that sets out for enjoyment and succeeds with ease.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

July 18, 2017

Baby Driver.


Review #971: Baby Driver.

Cast: 
Ansel Elgort (Baby), Kevin Spacey (Doc), Lily James (Debora), Jon Hamm (Buddy), Eiza González (Darling), Jamie Foxx (Bats), Jon Bernthal (Griff), Flea (Eddie "No-Nose"), Lanny Joon (JD), and CJ Jones (Joseph) Directed by Edgar Wright.

Review: 
Admittedly, I took some time before getting to see this film (roughly three weeks after its release), but I figured that it would be worth the wait. This is a fairly cohesive action flick that is fast and efficient in its style and pacing, with the characters and music corresponding to that. It has a level of mayhem and excitement that is undeniably interesting to watch, taking elements from other heist flicks and making them feel fresh and reliable to see carried out on screen. It has its shares of thrills, but it also is a movie that doesn't sacrifice the plot to get to the highs that it rises to, with fine editing from Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos and cinematography from Bill Pope as well. It's a movie that can have some nice blend of music (like "Brighton Rock" by Queen, for example) but also have some nice scenes with Elgort and Jones in sign language. Elgort certainly fits in line with the movie, having a cool but careful demeanor that certainly makes him easy to watch, and his chemistry with James reflects that, with their scenes together working fairly well. The other core four (Spacey, Hamm, González and Foxx) are also pretty good together, with Spacey and Hamm having their own kind of arcs that have payoffs that the movie earns. Foxx does a fine job with this unhinged but always watchable character, and Gonzalez does a fine job with her role as well. The climax of the film is like a roller coaster, having a few twists and turns (much like other good flicks of its genre) that manage to keep one on their toes at what happens next. There is a good amount of flash to the film, but it has a substance of reality and reliability that makes it shine as an acceptable and unique action flick with enough wit and class to spare.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

July 17, 2017

Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941).


Review #970: Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

Cast: 
Carole Lombard (Ann Krausheimer Smith), Robert Montgomery (David Smith), Gene Raymond (Jefferson Custer), Jack Carson (Chuck Benson), Philip Merivale (Ashley Custer), Lucile Watson (Mrs. Custer), William Tracy (Sammy), Charles Halton (Harry Deever), Esther Dale (Mrs. Krausheimer), Emma Dunn (Martha), Betty Compson (Gertie), and Patricia Farr (Gloria) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock (#219 - Rope#223 - North by Northwest, #446 - Spellbound, #447 - Psycho, #450 - Vertigo, #455 - Rear Window, #553 - Strangers on a Train, #800 - Shadow of a Doubt, #910 - Notorious, #963 - The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog, #964 - The Ring (1927), and #965 - Downhill)

Review: 
This is the only screwball comedy that Alfred Hitchcock ever directed in his career, and while it may not be up to par with some of the films previously covered on here, this is at least serviceable entertainment, even if built on flimsy ground. It has a dry and sometimes offbeat feel that definitely could rankle a viewer if they don't have enough patience - or not in the right mood, anyway. Lombard and Montgomery are fairly decent together, though admittedly they work better in the first half of the movie, with the climax being the weakest part of the film due to feeling clunky; the Florida Club sequence is a fine highlight to showcase with the two (along with Carson). They have fine timing together, though Lombard is the more interesting one to follow. This was the last film released during Carole Lombard's lifetime, as she died the following year in a plane crash prior to her last film appearance in To Be or Not to Be (1942). Raymond is decent (such as the sequence at the World's Fair), and Carson is fairly charming as well. The circumstances that set up the plot are a bit offbeat, but fairly fitting for the time and kind of comedy the film is going for. The movie lasts 94 minutes, which is fairly acceptable and the movie has a fine enough pace that doesn't seem to drag too much. Without trying to give too much away, the climax is where the movie nearly pulls itself out of the seams, in part because of how the main characters get back together; it just feels a bit clumsy and not very justified. Regardless of how the movie ends, this is an adequate (if not okay) movie that benefits best from trying to make laughs that just happens to have been shot by Alfred Hitchcock.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

July 14, 2017

Planet of the Apes (2001).


Review #969: Planet of the Apes.

Cast: 
Mark Wahlberg (Captain Leo Davidson), Tim Roth (General Thade), Helena Bonham Carter (Ari), Michael Clarke Duncan (Attar), Paul Giamatti (Limbo), Estella Warren (Daena), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (General Krull), David Warner (Senator Sandar), Kris Kristofferson (Karubi), and Erick Avari (Tival) Directed by Tim Burton (#040 - Batman, #107 - Beetlejuice, #132 - Alice in Wonderland, #196 - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, #262 - Corpse Bride, and #316 - Batman Returns)

Review: 
On the cusp of a new film from the Planet of the Apes franchise (of which I've covered three of them: #347 - Planet of the Apes (1968), #615 - Rise of the Planet of the Apes#662 - Beneath the Planet of the Apes) , I figured that it made sense to cover the 2001 film of the same name that was a remake and an attempt to start the franchise up again; I remember my dad watching this on DVD one quite a bit when I was growing up, and the only part I remember vividly was the ending, so perhaps that colors my thoughts on the movie (although it is the probably the only part of the film anyone remembers). Not only does it try to be based of the 1968 film, it also is based off the novel La Planète des Singes (known in English as Planet of the Apes) by Pierre Boulle. So how does this "reimaging" do?

How is it a movie with a good deal of production value like this manage to feel so shallow? What is it about this movie that springs an energy of mild but not quite there sense of entertainment? How is this not as good as the original? Unlike the ending, these are questions that the movie can provide answers for. The easiest way to say why the movie isn't particularly exciting is the fact that the story and some of the acting seem hollowed out and not as appealing as in the original 1968 film. Wahlberg doesn't do a terrible performance, but he also never really springs much enthusiasm as a lead hero; even a scene where he laments the loss of a crew looking for him doesn't have much emotion to it. It's not that he is inherently unlikable, it's just that he also isn't inherently one to really root for. Not to compare it with the original too much, but Heston's character was someone the audience could go for and want to see succeed, and he actually viewed the environment he landed in with a better sense of shock, as opposed to Wahlberg's space jockey attitude. Technically he has two love interests in the film, though neither have particularly good chemistry with him and it predictably goes nowhere. Roth steals the show with his militaristic, scenery chewing performance that gives the film a bit of life, even if his fate is somewhat of a letdown. Bonham Carter is fairly decent, but she doesn't really give too much depth or life to the character that one probably would've wanted from the role. Clarke Duncan and Hiroyuki Tagawa are fairly decent standouts as well; Warren doesn't really have too much expression nor impact, and Giamatti does fine in a smarmy role that probably had more screen-time than it probably should've had. Charlton Heston has an uncredited cameo appearance, having a somewhat pivotal role that is interesting in the one scene he appears in. The prosthetic makeup by Rick Baker is commendable and quite an upgrade from the original, with this likely being the only shining achievement in the movie. The plot is a bit muddled, and with no real character to go for and care about, there isn't much to want to watch happen. It's watchable as an action flick, but not so much as a science fiction movie. Burton does direct the movie fine enough, with the movie looking pretty decent, but the way that the movie operates with its characters sinks its hopes.

And of course there's the ending. To some, the ending could be viewed as a reasonable way to end the movie and leave the possibility of doing a sequel (as Burton has stated), or it could be viewed as one that doesn't make much sense. It's interesting, considering the ending falls in line with the novel that it is based off of. For me, it was weird watching the movie in full and then getting to the ending and finding myself giggling at it. Who knows how Thade beat Leo to Earth? Who can care to speculate about what the ending is supposed to mean? After all, this is a movie that never really kicks into full gear, with the ending that is like the movie: mild, without much substance. It's not awful, but it also doesn't feel entirely necessary either.

Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

July 13, 2017

Throne of Blood.


Review #968: Throne of Blood.

Cast: 
Toshiro Mifune (Washizu Taketoki), Isuzu Yamada (Washizu Asaji), Takashi Shimura (Odakura Noriyasu), Akira Kubo (Miki Yoshiteru), Hiroshi Tachikawa (Tsuzaki Kunimaru), Minoru Chiaki (Miki Yoshiaki), Takamaru Sasaki (Lord Tsuzuki Kuniharu), Kokuten Kōdō (First General), Ueda Kichijiro (Washizu's workman), Eiko Miyoshi (Old Woman at castle), and Chieko Naniwa (The Spirit of Spider's Web) Directed by Akira Kurosawa.

Review: 
It is good to do another world cinema film, particularly one from Japan, with this being the sixth covered (#167 - Gojira#711 - Mothra#735 - A Page of Madness#737 - House (1977), and #922 - Himiko). Throne of Blood (also known as Kumonosu-jō, which translates to Spider Web Castle) is based off the play MacBeth by William Shakespeare, with a few liberties taken (alongside a change of setting to feudal Japan), though one can forgive that in a movie as evocative as this movie is. It's amazing how long it has taken for me to cover a film directed by Akira Kurosawa, considered one of the most seminal filmmakers in cinema, with this being his 17th feature film.

There is just something so majestic about the movie, where the design along with the acting come together to make something so entertaining along with thrilling. Mifune (who starred in sixteen of Kurosawa's films) manages to convey his emotions and character without having to resort to having too much expression on his face; the final scene involving the arrows is the best example, in that you can clearly see the terror of having to dodge actual arrows (for the sake of realism), with his expressions being fairly clear. He does everything quite clearly and effectively, without any sense of dodgy intention. The scene where he is trying to rally his men during the climax is also a key manic highlight. Yamada is also excellent, doing a fine job at showing her ambition and her grip on Mifune's character, and the resulting aftermath. Her last scene with him is the most striking along with the most emotionally powerful to watch, especially with her not blinking throughout the film. The rest of the cast is also pretty good, with Shimura and Kubo being useful highlights, particularly when conversing with Mifune. The showcasing of emotions and themes is quite clear to see, from the consequence of human ambition to the power of fate. The cinematography by Asakazu Nakai is quite commendable, being great to look at and see executed on screen. The atmosphere of the movie is great, where the sets and design look quite realistic and the action has a sharp but incredible feel to watch. The music by Masaru Sato is also fairly striking, and the chants at the end are fitting for the tone of the film. It is easy for me to recommend this one, in part because of the core elements that make for a great film, from the way the film is constructed to the actors to the action and look of the movie.

Overall, I give it 10 out of 10 stars.