January 18, 2018

Cloverfield.


Review #1038: Cloverfield.

Cast: 
Michael Stahl-David (Robert "Rob" Hawkins), T.J. Miller (Hudson "Hud" Platt), Jessica Lucas (Lily Ford), Odette Yustman (Elizabeth "Beth" McIntyre), Lizzy Caplan (Marlena Diamond), Mike Vogel (Jason Hawkins), Ben Feldman (Travis), Billy Brown (Staff Sergeant Pryce), and Chris Mulkey (Lieutenant General Graff) Directed by Matt Reeves.

Review: 
I suppose it makes sense to review this film today on January 18, since it is the 10th anniversary of the film's release in theaters, so it is a perfect time to get to it along with giving you fellow readers a new review after a week since the last one. 

When asked about the film prior to its release, J. J. Abrams (who served as producer for the film) stated that he was inspired to make an American monster after seeing Godzilla toys in stores in Japan with his son, one that would be "insane and intense", which is certainly interesting. I was eleven years old when the film came out, but I don't particularly remember the marketing for the film, although I imagine that it must've been interesting for people on the Internet to focus a bit of time on (take that statement as you may). In any case, how is the movie itself? I find the movie to be fairly decent, although I can't say I really thought it was that scary or all too special. It is an interesting idea to make a monster movie that doesn't intend to go for only big entertainment spectacle destruction and instead goes for something that plays on fears and anxiety that people would have if a situation like this actually did arise; one scene in particular stands out, involving people taking out their phones after seeing the head of the Statue of Liberty fall right near them. I wish I could say the plot or the characters are as intriguing as the concept for the film, but that it is not the case here. The performances aren't terrible, but they aren't too particularly interesting. I will state that Miller does a pretty decent job, however. I found him to be more interesting to follow than the plot around the other characters, even if most of the time he is just the guy filming the things happening. Caplan also comes off a bit interesting when she is on screen.

The film has a look intended to resemble hand-held camera filming, including jump cuts that make it feel a bit like a home movie, although I will admit that the effect can feel a bit disorientating at times. Apparently, some viewers of the film during its release experienced motion sickness due to the film's cinematography, to the point that some theaters posted warnings about the film that stated it may "experience side effects associated with motion sickness similar to riding a rollercoaster". Sometimes the shots (and the shakes) worked in my view, but other times it felt a bit tedious. I imagine seeing this in a theater would be a significantly different experience than seeing it on a normal TV set. The visual effects were incorporated after filming, so the cast had to react to an unseen creature during their scenes, which I suppose is an achievement on their part in imagination. The monster (of what we see, anyway) is not too terrible, and it generally is one that feels pretty creepy and menacing. It doesn't have much of an origin, but that doesn't really feel too surprising. The film runs at 84 minutes, which feels alright considering the plot matter and the shaky-cam stuff. Ultimately, Cloverfield has an interesting premise that it plays around with a bit to fine effect, but on the whole it is a fairly decent monster/horror flick that stands alone as a curiosity if one has the patience for it.

Oh yeah, I probably should refer 10 Cloverfield Lane (#784), released eight years after this film. That film, while not a direct sequel, was a fairly interesting thriller that certainly played itself as a thriller neatly enough. Cloverfield doesn't exactly pale too badly in comparison with 10 Cloverfield Lane, but I felt that this needed to be mentioned in any case.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

January 11, 2018

Go West (1925).


Review #1037: Go West.

Cast: 
Buster Keaton (Friendless), Howard Truesdale (Owner of the Diamond Bar Ranch), Kathleen Myers (His Daughter), Ray Thompson (The Foreman), and Brown Eyes (Herself) Directed by Buster Keaton (#757 - Seven Chances, #762 - College, #805 - The Navigator, #877 - Three Ages, #908 - The General, #926 - Our Hospitality, and #941 - Sherlock Jr)

Review: 
Go West was the seventh feature film starring Buster Keaton, who also served as director (doing so for all except the first feature film that he starred in). This one features Keaton working at a cattle ranch, where he does things such as bronco-busting, cattle wrangling, and dairy farming, which go about as well as you'd expect, with Keaton forming a friendship with a cow. Admittedly, it is easy to say I enjoyed the movie, in part because it is a warm experience that has enough orchestrations and humor to make a relatively useful movie. It isn't a classic like some of Keaton's other works (such as The General or Sherlock Jr), but I will say that it is a fine little gem that serves its purpose of entertainment. Oddly, it is the dynamic between Keaton and the cow that drives the film forward, with numerous sequences between them are fairly useful and sweet in some way. The highlight of the film is the cattle stampede at the end, mostly because of how well it is orchestrated, from the reactions of the other actors to the way that the cattle move about, particularly with some of the sight gags that occur. The rest of the cast isn't too developed, but they serve their purposes well for the movie's standards. Keaton makes for a bumbling but always endearing lead, with a face made for silent era comedies like these, even if it may not fit the usual formula for his films. There isn't any sort of stunt-work that stands out too much, but I will say that there is some fun to be had with the movie and its goofiness with the premise that works out alright, with nothing too ridiculous or overdone. It takes its time to get rolling, but it sure feels worth it in the end. It has a runtime of 69 minutes, which I'm sure is nice enough for people to get a quick enjoyment.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

January 9, 2018

Gymkata.


Review #1036: Gymkata.

Cast: 
Kurt Thomas (Jonathan Cabot), Tetchie Agbayani (Princess Rubali), Richard Norton (Zamir), Edward Bell (Paley), John Berrett (Gomez), Conan Lee (Hao), Bob Schott (Thorg), Buck Kartalian (The Kahn), and Eric Lawson (Colonel Cabot) Directed by Robert Clouse (#587 - Enter the Dragon)

Review: 
You may be wondering to yourself the following question: "What is Gymkata?" Well, it is a mix of the skill of gymnastics with the kill of karate, as stated in the poster for the film, which apparently was based off the novel The Terrible Game by Dan Tyler Moore. Knowing either of those facts doesn't make the movie any much better, considering that this is a by the numbers terrible flick. The plot of the film is as follows: A gymnast is approached by special forces to participate in some sort of ancient game (called "The Game", naturally) in a fictional country in order to see if he can win this athletic competition that no outsider has won in over 900 years. The winner is granted a wish, and they want him to wish...for a US satellite monitoring station to be installed in the country in order to monitor all satellites in space so the "other side" can't. Yes, that is the premise. If you were shaking in your boots in anticipation for the movie, then all power to you. Honestly, this is a movie made to show off action sequences, and it does so with the scenery of Yugoslavia and no sense of energy aside from a few laughs at the film and its plot. The film is essentially something you'd see from someone who wanted to showcase action and take a bunch of cliches together, such as the jealous rival, the monarchy that the hero familiarizes with, the long-lost father, and so on. Nothing dates this film better than mentioning the "Star Wars" program, but then again who's surprised by this?

It may interest you to note that Kurt Thomas (with a size of about 5-4.5, which is a bit shorter than my size) was a world champion in numerous categories in gymnastics in 1978-79, with two gymnastic moves (the Flair and the salto) being named for him. In the sense of his sequences on the mat and in action, he does a fine job in his first (and only) film appearance. He doesn't do too great performance-wise, but that can apply to pretty much everyone else in the film, who don't exactly seem to have too much enthusiasm for the story, although I will admit that Norton certainly fits the bill as a silly villain for the hero to defeat. If you don't really care too much for characters, story, or general competency, then this is probably the movie for you. I can't really say I was surprised that this turned out to be a stinker, so how can I be mad? How can I be mad that this is an absurd and goofy piece of film when I knew that it was coming? As dated as the film is, I will date this review further by stating that I watched this on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), who showed this film (and the film reviewed earlier yesterday) on Saturday night as part of their "Underground" series. I will say that they certainly fit the bill as an example of a terrible pairing that also works well for their series, along with Movie Night, obviously. Sometimes you just need some bad flicks to truly remember what makes for good and bad films, and Gymkata is one of those films.

Let's not forget the ending where (spoilers) the first satellite monitoring station was installed after our hero wins the game. Truly it was important enough to note on the epilogue. I tried to check if there were many quotes for the film on IMDb and it turns out that there was one that was more than a whole sentence: "There are many sounds around us, each is slightly different. So small as to go un-noticed by the person who is unaware. Do not hear the wood split. Hear the only sound of axe, cutting air. Read the air itself. It has much say to you." Basically, the movie stinks. But it is the kind of stinker that you may get a kick out of, particularly if you dig movies that aim for cheap pulp action without any sort of illusion about what it wants to be. For all that I said about the movie, it is up to you the viewer to see what your interests are for this odd little flick...if you dare.

Overall, I give it 3 out of 10 stars.

January 8, 2018

Never Too Young to Die.


Review #1035: Never Too Young to Die.

Cast: 
John Stamos (Lance Stargrove), Vanity (Danja Deering), Gene Simmons (Carruthers / Velvet Von Ragner), George Lazenby (Drew Stargrove), Peter Kwong (Cliff), Ed Brock (Pyramid), John Anderson (Arliss), and Robert Englund (Riley) Directed by Gil Bettman.

Review: 
The best way to describe this movie is to call it a tacky 80s cliché, complete with ridiculous villains and even more ridiculous situations. It's a b-movie through and through, so at least I can say it is consistent in being odd, although that isn't saying much. Is it worth it for me to write many words on why this movie isn't good? No, but I will try to make a meaningful review that expresses some of why this movie is pretty terrible. Stamos (in his film debut) isn't particularly impressive in this lead role, likely because he just doesn't look like the kind of person right for the action adventure comedy that the movie wants to go for, although the acting isn't too wacky. His scenes with Vanity don't go as badly, although I can't say that they are anything too special. Vanity (real name Denise Matthews) does a bit better, although she is best suited for the action sequences (doing a bit better with that than Stamos). Easily, the one who stands out is Simmons, most likely because of how odd this villainous role is. I suppose if you ever wanted to see Dr Frank N. Furter as the villain in a mish-mash of James Bond and action-adventure, this is the one for you (I haven't seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but then again that statement isn't exactly a truthful compliment either). The action sequences aren't too bad, although it isn't anything too noteworthy. The climax is ridiculous, but it is entirely unsurprising if you give in to the movie's game that it plays, for better or worse. It is nice to see Englund and Lazenby, even if neither has much to do in the movie. Kwong is in the film briefly as a sort of "Q" figure, although that isn't saying much. There is nothing particularly impressive about anything in this movie, but there also isn't anything too awful about it either. This is ultimately a film that is best watched as something to laugh at, with nothing that is good to highlight but also nothing that is horrifying to note either. It's junk, but it's junk that is digestible for most people. Take this film for what it's worth...pennies or not.

Overall, I give it 4 out of 10 stars.

January 6, 2018

Bright Lights, Big City.


Review #1034: Bright Lights, Big City.

Cast: 
Michael J. Fox (Jamie Conway), Kiefer Sutherland (Tad Allagash), Phoebe Cates (Amanda Conway), Swoosie Kurtz (Megan), Frances Sternhagen (Clara Tillinghast), Tracy Pollan (Vicky Allagash), John Houseman (Mr. Vogel), Charlie Schlatter (Michael), David Warrilow (Rittenhouse), Dianne Wiest (Mrs. Conway), and Jason Robards (Mr. Hardy) Directed by James Bridges.

Review: 
Based on the novel of the same name by Jay McInerney, Bright Lights, Big City is a movie that seems to want to bask in going for the bottom with desperation and ambition mixed in with a film that can't exactly get itself all the way to the finish line. It's not a big disappointment, but it isn't anything too special, and part of that is likely due to the film's structure. It feel a bit aimless at times, and the fact that there isn't much energy in the cast doesn't help the movie grow. Fox is the main grab for the film, and its quality may very well depend on how you view his performance. For me, it's hard to not like Fox, but I don't think I can really say that he sells this performance as someone disillusioned enough with events in his life to turn to certain substances. At the very least, the movie isn't a Saturday school special kind of film with some sort of overbearing message, but it also isn't the kind of film that seems to show much passion for what it aims for.

The film seems to never really get itself down to some sort of rock bottom with its main character, nor does it ever become a movie with anything to tie itself together. It goes all over the place, from scenes with his job to scenes with his wife to scenes with his "party friends" to scenes with a potential love interest, and none of it ever really seems to click with enough energy. Sutherland does a decent job as the friend to all of this mania with substances with his own kind of responses, but I wonder if the film might've worked better if Fox and Sutherland had switched roles. Cates' role doesn't really seem to have much substance, minus the parts that exposits about her from dialogue, so it really isn't fair to say that she doesn't do a good job due to what it given to her. The rest of the cast isn't terrible, but they certainly don't give the movie much meat to work with. Robards stands out in his brief time on screen due to the way he towers over Fox in both mannerisms and demeanor. It isn't a boring movie, but I can't say it is a meaningful film, and that likely goes down to the dialogue, which seems to feel flaky at times, edging the lines between seriousness and cheese. There is some fine music in the movie (such as "Pump Up the Volume" by M|A|R|R|S), and I will say that the film does have a decent look to it, but that can't carry the movie to success. I can't imagine how the novel dealt with its subject matter, although it is interesting to note that the novel was written from the second person point of view (with the first line of the film being the first line of the book). On the whole, this is a movie with a fuzzy look on the dark side of nightlife in the fast lane of New York that is mildly entertaining to watch, but it just can't work itself to be a drama with much substance to be a clear winner.


Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

January 3, 2018

$ (Dollars).


Review #1033: $ (Dollars).

Cast: 
Warren Beatty (Joe Collins), Goldie Hawn (Dawn Divine), Gert Fröbe (Mr. Kessel), Robert Webber (Mr. North, Attorney), Scott Brady (Sarge), Arthur Brauss (Candy Man), Robert Stiles (Major), and Wolfgang Kieling (Granich) Directed by Richard Brooks (#871 - Cat on a Hot Tin Roof)

Review: 
Admittedly, the title sticks out pretty easily, because how many movies have a symbol as their title? In any case, $ (also known as Dollars and The Heist in the United Kingdom) is an interesting heist movie that certainly has its moments, along with having a fairly dynamic cast that makes for good entertainment, starting with Beatty and Hawn. Both of them do a fine job in the roles they have within the heist, rolling off each other with a kind of energy that is compelling in how they work off each other. Beatty does a fine job in selling this role with angles and cons throughout, being quite clever and quite charming to follow for the film. The same can be said for Hawn, who has a magnetic appeal that resonates with any scene that she is, whether when acting against any of the crooks or with Beatty. The film doesn't dwell much on how these two came together nor much on the specifics of the plan, but the way that it focuses on their approaches for getting this money and how much fun it is to see them do it is more than enough. Fröbe does a fine job as the bank president, showing some authority and class to the role that fits just neatly with the film. The adversary crooks also do a fine job, particularly Brauss, with a fine pair of shades and a voice to go along with his ruthlessness. Brady also does a fine job, showcasing some greed in his portrayal that has a fine payoff. The heist sequences and the climax are fairly satisfactory, having their respective high points, such as the chase sequence (filmed in Hamberg, Germany), quiet but effective. It is interesting to note that the Kunsthalle, the city's principal museum of art was utilized as the exterior for the bank. The film certainly has a good look to it, never coming off as anything too fake nor too unrealistic for the time. The soundtrack was composed by Quincy Jones, with performances by Little Richard, Roberta Flack and Doug Kershaw, featuring the Don Elliot Voices as well. It gives the movie a bit of a groovy kick that is certainly welcome for the movie. On the whole, this is a colorful kind of film that takes its time to get rolling, but it has a fine payoff that makes the two hour run-time worth it in the final result.

Welcome to 2018, the ninth year with at least one review by me, with this being the first review of what I term "Season 8". Hopefully there will be a fun amount of reviews throughout the year for all of you folks to enjoy. 

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

December 29, 2017

Superbad.


Review #1032: Superbad.

Cast: 
Jonah Hill (Seth), Michael Cera (Evan), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Fogell/"McLovin"), Bill Hader (Officer Slater), Seth Rogen (Officer Michaels), Emma Stone (Jules), Martha MacIsaac (Becca), Aviva Baumann (Nicola), Joe Lo Truglio (Francis), Kevin Corrigan (Mark), Dave Franco (Greg), and Laura Seay (Shirley) Directed by Greg Mottola.

Review: 
I will admit that this film had slipped under my radar for probably longer than it should have, probably because this didn't seem like something that had much priority to do. In retrospect, Superbad is a movie that is worth seeing, in part because of how amusing it proves itself to be. Loosely based on the high school experiences of writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, this is a film that is pretty raunchy through and through, but it is also a film that is cleverly built to be an entertaining piece that utilizes its actors and situations to make an excellent experience. It's the performances by the cast (or more specifically the main duo) that carry the movie consistently. Hill and Cera do a good job together, having numerous exchanges and moments that are pretty amusing along with compelling. They feel like real people because they don't feel like a cliche blank slate for raunchy things to happen to them just for raunchy's sake, having a degree of practicality that seems welcome. Mintz-Plasse does a pretty good job as well, having some good scene-stealing moments along with being fairly interesting to watch. Hader and Rogen prove to be an entertaingly fine supporting duo that make for some good laughs, particularly with Mintz-Plasse in the second half. The rest of the cast isn't as prominent, but it is interesting to see Stone in her film debut, and she definitely has a fine screen presence. The movie goes fairly consistently, not feeling like a drag even at 113 minutes for a comedy. It never becomes a movie with too much posturing for improvisation nor just a movie that is disgusting just for the sake of disgusting. The heart of the movie is Hill and Cera and their friendship, and it's an interesting one to watch because of the two; a weaker film would've just focused on merely getting alcohol (or getting rid of teenage angst, one might say) for the party without any focus on character, and it wouldn't have as much entertainment value. From beginning to end, this is a film that goes for laughs and succeeds wholeheartedly. It's a movie that is confident in what it wants to be and what it wants to say with its words (many of them being the kind one can't use in print) without sacrificing a good solid core of depth and care.

On this note, I would like to say that this is the last review for 2017 for Movie Night. Obviously I'll be back in 2018 to do more reviews, but it is nice to say that there was some fine consistency with the reviewing slate. This is the 140th review for 2017, or "Season 7", which by my count is a significant improvement from the 116 reviews from the year before and the 90 from 2015. It has been a fun ride doing these reviews and having some fun highlights, such as reaching landmark numbers such as 900 and the big 1000th review. It has also been fun to have watch numerous films at the movie theater (18) for this year, because that usually proves to be an interesting experience. In any case, thank you for reading these reviews, and I hope to see you in the next year.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

December 28, 2017

Meet Me in St. Louis.


Review #1031: Meet Me in St. Louis.

Cast: 
Judy Garland (Esther Smith), Margaret O'Brien ('Tootie' Smith), Mary Astor (Mrs. Anna Smith), Leon Ames (Mr. Alonzo Smith), Lucille Bremer (Rose Smith), Tom Drake (John Truett), Marjorie Main (Katie the maid), Harry Davenport (Grandpa), Henry H. Daniels Jr. (Alonzo "Lon" Smith Jr.), Joan Carroll (Agnes Smith), and June Lockhart (Lucille Ballard) Directed by Vincente Minnelli (#405 - The Reluctant Debutante, #510 - Father of the Bride, #620 - Lust for Life, #878 - The Long, Long Trailer, and #986 - An American in Paris)

Review: 
Admittedly, musical films can tend to feel a bit familiar, particularly if the setting or the characters aren't too interesting to go with the songs. Meet Me in St. Louis manages to be an interesting musical in part due to its charm along with its performances that make for a relatively engaging movie. The movie basks itself in nostalgia with its setting, but it definitely doesn't feel too off-putting, coming off as fairly welcome. Each member in the family of Smiths have their own moment to shine or make an impact, and no one does it better than Garland, who radiates charm and a wholesomeness that also extends to her songs, with "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" being a particular standout, having a tone that is moving along with effective due to her way of singing it. She manages to have fine chemistry with the others, such as O'Brien and Drake as well. O'Brien also does a fine job as well, being a fine child actress; in fact, she won an Academy Juvenile Award for her work for her films of 1944 (this award was given eleven other times from 1935 to 1961, with Garland herself winning one for her work in 1939). Astor and Ames prove to be fairly useful parents for the household, with Main and Davenport also proving themselves well. It should be mentioned that the songs in the film are charming, from the opening song of "Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis" to "The Trolley Song", with the movie keeping itself with enough steam and energy to make for a riveting experience. The film runs finely enough at 113 minutes, with numerous story-lines that surround the movie revolving around the family that work alright, with the end featuring the St. Louis World's Fair (also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition) that is a brief but fitting treat, with nothing in the film that comes off as condescending nor too ridiculous for the movie. Musicals may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I'm sure that this one will work wonders for people looking for a fun time.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

December 27, 2017

Bad Santa.


Review #1030: Bad Santa.

Cast: 
Billy Bob Thornton (Willie T. Soke), Tony Cox (Marcus Skidmore), Lauren Graham (Sue), Brett Kelly (Thurman Merman), Lauren Tom (Lois Skidmore), John Ritter (Bob Chipeska), Bernie Mac (Gin Slagel), Cloris Leachman (Granny), and Octavia Spencer (Opal) Directed by Terry Zwigoff.

Review: 
Admittedly, this is a movie that is not for everyone, but then again how many Christmas films need to be cheerful? This is a movie that basks itself in being cheerful in its rudeness and cynicism, and it sure does a fine job at keeping itself together with laughs. Thornton does a pretty good job in the main role, having a crude kind of soul with this character that keeps itself consistent with the film while never springing towards any kind of force sentimentality. He reflects the movie pretty well in that if you like his performance (or get some sort of kick out of it), you'll probably find the movie pretty enjoyable as a black comedy. The film's tone may seem like a novelty for some, but it definitely has a good share of amusing moments along with some fairly amusing performances. Cox proves to be a fairly entertaining partner as well, being fairly sharp. Kelly proves to be a fairly amusing kid, with a degree of intensity that you don't really see in other movies with kids in films like these. There is just something about how he acts around Thornton that makes for some particularly good scenes. Graham and Tom each don't have too much time on screen, but they do decent jobs. Ritter (in his last live-action role) does a fine job with what it given, staid but useful. Mac is also pretty amusing in an adversarial role that serves for a few odd moments that work well. This is a film with a bunch of oddballs for characters, and it is a movie that takes the risks head on and has a ball with all of its rude but amusing moments. Naturally, there exist numerous versions of the film, with one called "Badder Santa", which has a few more scenes added to it (for a movie that was already only 91 minutes long), and a director's cut that is three minutes shorter than the original release. No matter which version one picks, I'm sure that the film will work for anybody in the mood for some dark but fairly entertaining fare, whether around the holidays or not.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

December 20, 2017

Charade (1963).


Review #1029: Charade.

Cast: 
Cary Grant (Peter Joshua), Audrey Hepburn (Regina Lampert), Walter Matthau (Hamilton Bartholomew), James Coburn (Tex Panthollow), George Kennedy (Herman Scobie), Dominique Minot (Sylvie Gaudet), Ned Glass (Leopold W. Gideon), Jacques Marin (Insp. Edouard Grandpierre), Paul Bonifas (Mr. Felix), and Thomas Chelimsky (Jean-Louis Gaudet) Directed by Stanley Donen (#137 - Bedazzled, #227 - Singin' in the Rain, and #346 - On the Town)

Review: 
Writers Peter Stone and Marc Behm had made a script called The Unsuspecting Wife across Hollywood, however nobody wanted the script. It was turned into a novel (with the title of Charade), along with being serialized in Redbook magazine, with attention soon focused on it, with the rights sold to director Stanley Donen. The final script was written by Stone to fit the main cast, while Behm got a co-credit for story. In any case, this is a movie that fits into three genres: suspense thriller, romance, and comedy, and the final result is a film that does well in all three genres, particularly due to the cast. The movie has been cited as one resembling an Alfred Hitchcock movie (Grant had starred in Hitchcock's North by Northwest (#223) four years prior), with a few plot twists, scenes to build tension, and innocent people thrust into strange/dangerous situations. It helps that the title sequence is done by Maurice Binder, who would become famous for doing the title sequence for the James Bond films for over 20 years, with Henry Mancini providing the music score.

The movie also happens to have an interesting relationship between Grant and Hepburn, resembling something out of a romantic comedy, although this is one that is quite interesting. Grant was nearly 60 by the time of the film's release in December of 1963, with the age difference between him and Hepburn being one of roughly 25 years. There are lines in the film where he comments on his age, and it is Hepburn who pursues him, which is certainly refreshing. In any case, they have good chemistry with each other, responding with a sense of wit and fanciful cleverness that always seems right. In terms of the suspense elements, they also do a good job handling the thrills and suspense just right. Hepburn is refreshing and compelling as usual, which one could apply to Grant as well. Matthau does a fine job, sticking out easily but being quite useful for the film. The trio of Coburn, Kennedy, and Glass are all fine adversaries for the movie, not merely just cardboard cut-outs for the film to throw away without giving them some sort of scene for them to stick out, such as when they first appear during a funeral. The rest of the cast is also fairly decent in their roles. In any case, this is a movie that keeps you on your toes, having a few turns that don't cheat the audience but keeps them guessing and keeps them excited as well. The violence that occurs in the film may feel a bit off in tone with the other parts of the movie, but it never comes off as too distracting with the entertainment that comes with the movie. The run-time of 113 minutes is pretty fair for the film, never really dragging at any one point.

One thing to note is that the movie is in the public domain, due to an error made by Universal Pictures (the studio that released the film) on the copyright notice. At the time, copyright notices needed to include "Copyright", "Copr." or its symbol on the notice, but since there was no such thing on there, the film (but not the music by Henry Mancini) was immediately in the public domain upon release. The film has been remade four times: Kokhono Megh (1968), Somebody Killed Her Husband (1978), The Truth About Charlie (2002), and Chura Liyaa Hai Tumne (2003). In any case, Charade is a fine gem that succeeds in what it wants to be, whether a thriller or a romantic comedy, whether due to Donen's execution of the script, or from the dynamic cast. This is an easy one to recommend, for all the charm and fun that it inspires.

Let me say a few words about the significance of today's day, December 20th. Seven years ago on this day, Movie Night was created. Over the years, I have done reviews on this certain day for previous anniversaries, from The Iron Giant (#083) for 2011, The Avengers (#312) for 2012, The Man Who Came to Dinner (#501) for 2013, Shock (#676) / Elf (#677) for 2014, Galaxina (#770) for 2015, and Billy Madison (#887) for 2016. Obviously the show has evolved quite a bit since then, and I like to think that Movie Night will continue to evolve and hopefully stay useful, no matter what happens. Thank you. 

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

December 19, 2017

Real Life (1979).


Review #1028: Real Life.

Cast: 
Albert Brooks (Albert Brooks), Charles Grodin (Warren Yeager), Frances Lee McCain (Jeannette Yeager), J.A. Preston (Dr. Ted Cleary), Matthew Tobin (Dr. Howard Hill), Jennings Lang (Martin Brand), David Spielberg (Dr. Jeremy Nolan), Norman Bartold (Dr. Isaac Steven Hayward), Julie Payne (Dr. Anne Kramer), Johnny Haymer (Dr. Maxwell Rennert), Leo McElroy (Jim Sanders), Lisa Urette (Lisa Yeager), and Robert Stirrat (Eric Yeager) Directed by Albert Brooks.

Review: 
The movie acts as a spoof of the 1973 reality television program An American Family (aired by PBS), being about the filming of a family in their day-to-day lives, with intrusion from the person filming their lives, naturally. Admittedly, this is an interesting idea that seems pretty relevant for the modern age, particularly with how reality television has changed in the past few decades, for better or worse. In any case, the movie can be considered ahead of its time, although its enjoyability will likely depend on how far you think the film goes with its ideas. For me, this is a decent movie, having a few interesting scenes that make for some amusement, although I can see why it may not be for everyone.

Brooks is interesting to watch in his display of narcissism and egocentric nature, but this can wear a bit thin at times, and it sometimes will make you wish you were viewing the family more than you do. At best, Brooks comes off as right for the part that he plays in the story, but at worst it can come off as a bit self-indulgent (it should be noted that he co-wrote the film along with Monica Johnson and Harry Shearer). Grodin is a bit low-key, but in a movie in which he is acting as a person that is trying not to look like an actor in this "documentary", I think he does a decent job. McCain also does okay, being adept at handling the things that occur in the film to her and her family pretty adequately. The rest of the cast do fine in their roles as well, with Lang (a producer in real-life) being amusing playing a producer through a speakerphone. The parts involving the filming is pretty interesting, and the parts with the executives is a bit amusing. The climax of the movie is pretty amusing for what its worth, being the odd cherry on top of a film that aspires for satire and accomplishes its goals in the most basic sense. It isn't anything too great, but Real Life is an odd standout that is worth at least one look, if one is curious enough.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

December 18, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi.


Review #1027: Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Cast: 
Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (General Leia Organa), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Andy Serkis (Supreme Leader Snoke), Lupita Nyong'o (Maz Kanata), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), Laura Dern (Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo), Frank Oz (Yoda), and Benicio del Toro (DJ) Directed by Rian Johnson.

Review: 
Yes, I know it's been a few days since The Last Jedi premiered in theaters. But in any case, this is the 49th film in the Theater Saga, in which I watched a movie while it was in theaters, so let me just say that it was nice to see this movie in theaters with a big crowd. Because I can't find a way to put a sentence about the Porgs in the review, I'll just say that they were okay. Obviously they were created to make for merchandise, but they are at least somewhat amusing without being too distracting. I apologize if this review feels a bit long, but I hope that it is worth it for you viewers, even if it is over the usual 300-500 word count that I try to hold to myself to.

It's hard to believe that it has been two years since The Force Awakens (#769), which I described as one "not bogged down by weight or its own characters...a movie that utilizes elements from the original trilogy with elements of its own to make a new mesh that works pretty well for itself." Obviously I still stand by those statements, although I can certainly find why some wouldn't find it as good as I thought it was. I have no doubt that I will be recapping what I thought of this film when it comes times for Episode IX two years down the line, but I don't know how I'll feel about this film after a matter of time passes by. In any case, The Last Jedi is a decent movie for my tastes, although I will say that it is a movie that inspires praise along with detractors, for better or for worse.

Whether it lives up to the hype of following up the previous film or not, I did enjoy myself enough, but I can't say that it was better than the last one, or even as good as any of the original trilogy. It definitely is a movie that doesn't try to play itself safe, but it is also a movie that can't always hold all of its plot threads together, despite a 152 minute run-time. I don't mean to be too shallow, but let me talk about the visuals for one moment. The movie does have a tremendous look when it comes to the action sequences and the landscapes and sets that it shows throughout the film, such as Ahch-To, the planet that Luke and Rey are on for most of the film, or the planet where the final climax takes place, with accompanying red hues. On a most basic level, this is good entertainment that will satisfying someone looking for some well-done space action. But in a franchise that now has eight primary movies (and a spin-off film, with another coming next year), the bar for satisfaction is not entirely too high. That doesn't mean that Star Wars movies need to just be big spectacles or heavy with plot-lines, it just means that the best ones are the movies that find a middle ground. I'm not so sure that this one finds that ground perfectly, but I do think that it makes itself work with what it has just enough.

The performances are fairly entertaining, with the biggest stand out being Hamill, Ridley, and Driver. They are the main group that drives the movie forward, and they certainly have their own respective qualities that make them easily watchable. Even after over 30 years, Hamill manages to leap right into his role without any sort of staleness or taking the role into anything too radical, for what the writing requires anyway. Driver does a fine job in making his role seem more full-fledged, showing vulnerability and conflict that resonates well with the film, especially when with others. Ridley does a good job in showing this character with a bit more depth and tension, and it is easy to go along with her character in her actions, for the most part. Fisher (in her final film role) does a fine graceful job in the time that she has on screen, although I wished that there would've been a bit more with her, but I digress. The drama that engages the main trio is pretty good, and it certainly feels more gripping than the other plot-lines, for better or for worse.

The rest of the cast do a fine job, but I think the script doesn't help them all too much. One subplot involves Boyega, Issac, Tran, and del Toro, and they all do decent in their performances, but as a whole that plot-line does feel a bit strange. Serkis proves to be somewhat decent as Snoke (this time in physical form), but it leaves you wishing for a bit more. Nyong'o has one scene appearance, and I guess it is satisfactory, although I suppose there could've been more from her role. Gleeson does fine in his role, with a bit of ruthlessness along with a bit of ambition. Christie is fine in the sequence that she is in, although I can't say she was any better than she was in the last film. Tran does okay with what she is given, but I didn't really find myself really caring about her part in the plotline. It is nice to see Dern and del Toro, and they do decently in the roles they are given, even if they don't have too much screen-time. It's hard to explain the story quibbles without spoiling it, but I will just say that the motivations of certain characters do seem to rely a bit on of an idiot plot. Sure, the movie does have a decent payoff, but the way that certain characters seem to do things out of nowhere does detract (and distract) a bit from the enjoyment.

Ultimately, this is a movie that can be a bit of a mess. It has a story that tries to cover numerous bases, whether about the Force, the plot-line with the First Order and the Resistance, or something deeper, and while I can't say that it works all the time, there is enough enjoyment and entertainment to make a movie that is worth watching at least once. For a Star Wars fan like me, I found it to be satisfying enough for my tastes. Is it perfect? Obviously not, but it doesn't need to be. Am I anticipating the next one? Sure, but I'll try not to keep my excitement to a reasonable level.

Lastly, may the force be with you.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

December 16, 2017

The Shop Around the Corner.


Review #1026: The Shop Around the Corner.

Cast: 
Margaret Sullavan (Klara Novak), James Stewart (Alfred Kralik), Frank Morgan (Hugo Matuschek), Joseph Schildkraut (Ferencz Vadas), Sara Haden (Flora Kaczek), Felix Bressart (Pirovitch), William Tracy (Pepi Katona), Inez Courtney (Ilona Novotny), and Charles Halton (Detective) Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

Review: 
Honestly, I did not expect to watch this film before I saw it, although I will admit that it has lingered on my mind for quite a while. I especially did not expect to do it after doing a film that took elements (along with the play I will mention later on in this review), which was You've Got Mail (#1020), reviewed by me just eleven days ago. That movie was okay, not being anything too special but also not too cynical. Viewers of both films will notice the scenes that share some (but not too much) similarity with each other, although the structure and characters both differ. As mentioned before, The Shop Around the Corner is based off the play Parfumerie by Miklós László, a Hungarian play that premiered at the Pest Theatre in Budapest in 1937. I had forgotten to mention that the film was later turned into a musical named In the Good Old Summertime (released in 1949), which featured Judy Garland and Van Johnson. In fact the play was adapted into a musical itself in 1963 with She Loves Me, so clearly there has been quite a bit of ground covered with this material.

In any case, this is a fine fun time, and it is the work of Sullavan and Stewart that make all of that possible, as they just have an interesting amount of scenes with each other that gives the movie charm. Stewart always seems to leave a fine impression of sincerity and no-nonsense that certainly resonates well even today, and that reflects especially well in a movie in which he bickers with Sullavan's character. She also does a fine job at making her character credible along with one that we can also root for without any doubt. The heart of the film is in the characters that are showcased to us, and the fact that they become people we care about in some way, such as Schildkraut and his kindly nature that zings well with Stewart and Morgan at times. Speaking of which, Morgan also does a tremendous job in the film as well, balancing the line between insecure and bossy in the best way possible, never becoming one that we can't find interesting to watch. The rest of the cast also do fine, with Schildkraut and Tracy standing out due to how they play their roles neatly. The film goes along the lines you might expect, but it's the way that it uses charm along with some enjoyable atmosphere that makes it a clear winner. It doesn't smother you with sentimentality, but it also doesn't skimp on being romantic along with amusing, being smart with what it wants in its 99 minute run-time. It's a movie that is inclusive in its fun, not sealing itself for only a select few. It's an easy pick to recommend, particularly if one is in the spirit for things such as this.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

December 15, 2017

The Circus.


Review #1025: The Circus.

Cast: 
Charlie Chaplin (A Tramp), Al Ernest Garcia (The Circus Proprietor and Ringmaster), Merna Kennedy (His Step-daughter, A Circus Rider), Harry Crocker (Rex, A Tight Rope Walker), George Davis (A Magician), Henry Bergman (An Old Clown), Tiny Sandford (The Head Property Man), and John Rand (An Assistant Property Man) Directed by Charlie Chaplin (#353 - Monsieur Verdoux, #599 - The Kid, #600 - City Lights, #759 - The Gold Rush, #775 - Shoulder Arms, #820 - Modern Times, and #923 - The Pilgrim)

Review: 
Silent films are interesting to watch, particularly comedies. What does it mean to be funny? With the Tramp, there is something inherently entertaining about this silent clown, whether due to his physical appearance or the way he moves around, and this is especially prevalent in this film, in which he joins the circus. There are numerous entertaining sequences that inspire numerous laughs, from a chase sequence in the beginning to a tightrope sequence near the end with monkeys that is dare-defying along with amusing in its execution. The scene with the lion in the cage is also one that stands out for its thrills (with the sequence reportedly taking over 200 takes to get correctly), and it is one that certainly looks chilling even for the modern age. There is just a great semblance of imagination and entertainment that the movie inspires due to the circus setting, with a story that is simple but also fairly dynamic as well. The rest of the cast do a fine job, with Garcia doing good in playing opposite Chaplin as the ringmaster. The ending is a bit murky along with bittersweet, although at least the ending shot of him walking off in the distance is a memorable one. It likely isn't as great as The Gold Rush (1925), but it is at the very least one of Chaplin's best films.

There were numerous production delays and problems, such as a studio fire, the death of Chaplin's mother, Chaplin's divorce from his wife and claims of owed back taxes by the IRS that made filming stall for eight months. In any case, the film was released three months after The Jazz Singer. Both that film and Chaplin were recognized by the Academy during the 1st Academy Awards with Honorary Awards, with Chaplin receiving one for "for writing, acting, directing and producing The Circus". In the late 1960s, he did a new musical score for the movie, with a recording of him singing "Swing Little Girl" playing over the opening credits of the film, and it is certainly an interesting way to begin things. At 70 minutes, this is an entertaining film that proves to be highly satisfying with its slapstick comedy, all due to the talent of Chaplin that comes out greatly on screen. It's an agile kind of movie that has enough sight gags and snappy title cards to make this an easy one to recommend for anyone.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

December 13, 2017

My Favorite Year.


Review #1024: My Favorite Year.

Cast: 
Peter O'Toole (Alan Swann), Mark Linn-Baker (Benjy Stone), Jessica Harper (K.C. Downing), Joseph Bologna (Stan "King" Kaiser), Bill Macy (Sy Benson), Ramon Sison (Rookie Carroca), Lainie Kazan (Belle Carroca), Lou Jacobi (Uncle Morty), Adolph Green (Leo Silver), and Anne De Salvo (Alice Miller) Directed by Richard Benjamin.

Review: 
Who doesn't like a movie with a larger-than-life character? Whether based in fact or in fiction, there is an appeal to seeing them interact with others, especially if the actor playing the part is one that can certainly do the job adequately enough. In any case, this is a movie that lives on how entertaining and dynamic O'Toole plays the role, which is reminiscent of Errol Flynn. He brings a certain amount of gravitas and charm that carry the movie at points where a lesser actor would've made it feel not as endurable. Ultimately, the movie is pretty good, having enough laughs and competence to make for a satisfying experience. Undeniably, the movie is at its best when it features O'Toole and his energy on screen, and he has fine chemistry with Linn-Baker (who doesn't have as much energy) when they share time together in the film. The other parts of the film are fairly amusing, with Bologna making his character (a representation of Sid Caesar) interesting to watch. Macy is also pretty good, keeping things together at a fine pace. The romance parts with Linn-Baker and Harper (who both are fine) aren't entirely as strong as the other parts of the film, but they are at the very least watchable, if not too particularly interesting. The film is also fairly good when it talks about the life of a movie star and what it particularly means, which goes a bit better than the parts revolving around making the show, although there aren't too many dull moments. The final sequence with the show is actually pretty amusing, inspiring a good amount of laughs that ultimately make the movie worth it. It isn't anything too great, but O'Toole makes the film his own and makes it something worth watching at least once. Is it great? No, but it sure is fun to watch.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

December 12, 2017

8 Mile.


Review #1023: 8 Mile.

Cast: 
Eminem (Jimmy "B-Rabbit" Smith, Jr), Kim Basinger (Stephanie), Brittany Murphy (Alex Latourno), Mekhi Phifer (Future), Anthony Mackie ("Papa Doc"), Michael Shannon (Greg Buehl), Eugene Byrd ("Wink"), Evan Jones ("Cheddar Bob"), Omar Benson Miller ("Sol George"), De'Angelo Wilson ("DJ Iz"), Taryn Manning (Janeane), and Proof ("Lil' Tic") Directed by Curtis Hanson.

Review: 
Admittedly, I don't listen to much hip hop or rap music, so I wondered if that would play a role in what I thought of this movie, which was released 15 years ago last month. The idea of a singer playing a version of themselves in their own film isn't a new thing, but 8 Mile manages to be an entertaining and engaging movie. It pulls from familiar elements, but it utilizes those things along with some fine performances in order to make something worthwhile. This happens to be the first and only performance for rapper Eminem as a leading actor, and he does a pretty good job for the climate of the film, which was based on his upbringing (while set in 1995), although the film isn't merely a biopic. He just reels you into caring about his progression throughout the movie and how gritty that road can prove itself to be. Naturally, his singing performance is pretty good as well, with some engaging (and crude but effective) rhymes. One of my favorite scenes is a sequence at his workplace near a lunch truck, where we see rapping from some of the workers, with the last one coming from Eminem, which is pretty amusing, actually. The climax with the rap battles is also pretty good as well, particularly the final one with a good sense of honesty to it.

This is a movie with a raw honesty to it that lends itself to not being a rags-to-riches story nor fall to pandering tactics. The fact that it was filmed mostly on location in Detroit helps give the movie a look that seems authentic and fitting. Sure, the film may be somewhat depressing and bleak at times, but at its heart the film has honesty to drive itself forward. Phifer pulls off a fairly engaging performance as well; the rest of the group of friends that are shown through the film at times (Jones, Benson Miller, Wilson) are pretty interesting standouts as well, giving a bit of levity to the drama that the movie pushes fairly well. Murphy pulls off her role with a sense of vulnerability along with passion that clicks pretty well with Eminem in the time she has on screen. Basinger pulls off a capable performance as well, with the right sense of watchability and care that you'd expect for a movie that is down-to-earth as this one is. The rest of the cast is fairly acceptable as well. The music in the film is pretty decent, and "Lose Yourself" is a key standout that is engaging to listen to. In fact, Eminem won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the song, becoming the first hip hop artist to receive the award. In any case, this is a movie that does not allow itself to become too familiar or too easy to pigeon-hole with other musical dramas while being a good piece of entertainment.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

December 11, 2017

Jezebel (1938).


Review #1022: Jezebel.

Cast: 
Bette Davis (Julie Marsden), Henry Fonda (Preston Dillard), George Brent (Buck Cantrell), Donald Crisp (Dr. Livingstone), Fay Bainter (Aunt Belle Massey), Margaret Lindsay (Amy Bradford Dillard), Richard Cromwell (Ted Dillard), Henry O'Neill (General Theopholus Bogardus), Spring Byington (Mrs. Kendrick), John Litel (Jean La Cour), Gordon Oliver (Dick Allen), and Janet Shaw (Molly Allen) Directed by William Wyler (#509 - Roman Holiday)

Review: 
Admittedly, it is hard to talk about the film without comparing it to Gone with the Wind (#569), which was released one year after this movie, which was based off the 1933 play of the same name by Owen Davis. It has been stated that Davis got the role as a sort of a consolation prize for not being awarded the role of Scarlett O'Hara, which went to Vivien Leigh. However, it should also be mentioned that the original actress intended for the role for Jezebel was Tallulah Bankhead, but she fell ill during rehearsals.

In any case, Davis won an Academy Award for Best Actress (her second and final career win) and Banter would win one for Best Supporting Actress for this movie. For the time, Davis' character must have come off as shocking (manipulating people for love and wearing red to a party), but she just comes off as spiteful and not all too compelling, even with her story arc. It should be noted that Davis does pull of a fine performance, though. I will say that her character is mildly compelling to see progress through the movie, but the ending is a bit odd with her motivations, which seems a bit tacked on. The other performances are pretty consistent, and they (along with the production values) help in making for a film that is at the very least dazzling, with Fonda being a fine standout along with Brent and Bainter. The sequence with Davis and Fonda at the ball is a particular highlight in striking tone. The black-and-white photography is fine, but this is a film that probably should've been filmed in color in order to to make the red dress that she notably wears stand out (this is coming from someone who has nothing against black-and-white, of course). The run-time of 103 minutes is fine for the romantic drama that it wants to be, with a few interesting scenes that make it worth it just enough. It doesn't hold too much of a candle to the other more famous film that followed a year later, but if you look past that and try to see the movie for its own worth, you will find it something that is probably worth a look.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

December 7, 2017

The Spider Woman.


Review #1021: The Spider Woman.

Cast: 
Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes), Nigel Bruce (Dr. John Watson), Gale Sondergaard (Adrea Spedding), Vernon Downing (Norman Locke), Dennis Hoey (Inspector Lestrade), Alec Craig (Radlik), Arthur Hohl (Adam Gilflower), Mary Gordon (Mrs. Hudson), and Teddy Infuhr (Larry) Directed by Roy William Neill (#846 - Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, #873 - Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon#925 - Sherlock Holmes in Washington, and #936 - Sherlock Holmes Faces Death)

Review: 
This was the seventh film in the Sherlock Holmes series with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson, respectively, and it happens to be the first one since The Hound of the Baskervilles (#583) to not include Holmes' name on the title, and that would occur for the rest of the film series. This time around, Holmes is investigating a series of suicides that are termed as "pjyama suicides" (as spelled in the film), with the villain being dubbed a "female Moriarty"; this isn't so surprising, seeing how Moriarty was already featured as a villain twice in a three year span. Admittedly, the biggest surprise in the film happens in the first ten minutes: Holmes fakes his death in order to investigate the murders...of course this doesn't really fool the villain all too much by the time they meet (with Holmes in disguise), which makes this seem a bit ridiculous.

Fans of the stories will note the film's incorporation of elements from The Sign of the Four (1890), along with the short stories "The Final Problem", "The Adventure of the Empty House", "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot" and "The Adventure of the Speckled Band", so that is certainly interesting. This is an okay movie, but I find it to be not as good as the previous film in the series, mostly because the film feels likes its going through the motions, although it has a standard level of satisfaction. It has a mildly compelling performance from Sondergaard, although her character isn't exactly too menacing. Rathbone and Bruce are both fairly consistent as one would expect; the sequence with Bruce where he tries to out what he believes in Holmes in a disguise (portrayed by Hohl) is a bit ridiculous, especially because it seems obvious that it wasn't him, and it feels less surprising when compared to when he exchanged words with a person that turned out to be Holmes in disguise. The climax of the film, which takes place in a carnival atmosphere with a shooting gallery is pretty unusual, but I do find it to work with the odd nature of the movie, which is at the very least somewhat entertaining. At 62 minutes, it is worth at least some of your time, depending on whether you are in the mood for another story with Sherlock Holmes.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

December 5, 2017

You've Got Mail.


Review #1020: You've Got Mail.

Cast: 
Tom Hanks (Joe "NY152" Fox), Meg Ryan (Kathleen "Shopgirl" Kelly), Parker Posey (Patricia Eden), Jean Stapleton (Birdie Conrad), Greg Kinnear (Frank Navasky), Steve Zahn (George Pappas), Heather Burns (Christina Plutzker), Dave Chappelle (Kevin Jackson), Dabney Coleman (Nelson Fox), and John Randolph (Schuyler Fox) Directed by Nora Ephron (#554 - Sleepless in Seattle)

Review: 
Remember Sleepless in Seattle (1993)? I watched and reviewed the film three years ago, and while I will admit that Hanks and Ryan had a fine enough chemistry with each other, I found it to be fairly okay but not something I'd probably watch again, with a love story that certainly seemed to take inspiration from older films, such as An Affair to Remember (1957). As for this film, the inspiration this time around is the 1937 play Parfumerie by Miklós László, which had already served as the basis for The Shop Around the Corner (1940). Fittingly, the bookstore featured in this film is named after the older film. In any case, this is a movie basked in its time, or more specifically romance on AOL, a thing that I vaguely remember my dad sometime in my childhood (and yes, that noise during the connection and disconnection sequence is still stuck in my head). Ultimately, this is a mediocre movie, although the performances in it are pretty tolerable. Hanks and Ryan are fairly likable, and it is interesting to see their dynamic evolve over the film's run-time, managing to never really drag the film to any sort of ridiculous level (in a movie about online romance, anyway). They help the movie feel charming without soaking itself in sentimentality. The film starts with the two characters involved with other people, and while you know that they are eventually going to not end up happy with those people, the movie doesn't make anyone out to be selfish or needlessly annoying. Posey and Kinnear provide some amusement, and while I'd say they don't have much to their characters, they aren't entirely caricatures. The film goes through the cliches you might expect, but at least there isn't some sort of adversary or big message that the film wants to push other than one of romance, so there's something for you. The rest of the cast is pretty acceptable, contributing to some light fun, with my favorites being Stapleton and Chappelle. For a movie that is light on substance, it is a movie that is inviting for anyone in the mood for a rom-com. Like with Sleepless in Seattle, I can't really see myself watching this film ever again, but I can at least appreciate this film and its romance aspect a bit better than the other film, for what it's worth. It may feel a bit gimmicky, but the basic plot structure still works enough to carve out some sort of winner. This is a predictable film, but it's also comforting for people in the right mood or mindset, and I suppose at the end of the day that means something.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

December 4, 2017

Dudes (1987).


Review #1019: Dudes.

Cast: 
Jon Cryer (Grant), Daniel Roebuck (Biscuit), Catherine Mary Stewart (Jessie), Flea (Milo), Lee Ving (Missoula), Billy Ray Sharkey (Blix), Glenn Withrow (Wes), Michael Melvin (Logan), Marc Rude (Sonny), Pamela Gidley (Elyse), Calvin Bartlett (Witherspoon), and Pete Willcox (Daredelvis) Directed by Penelope Spheeris (#238 - The Little Rascals and #806 - Wayne's World)

Review: 
Admittedly, I didn't really have any expectations for this film. How can one have expectations for a movie involving punk rockers becoming vigilantes that hunt bikers in the Southwest after one of them is killed by the group? Especially one that has not only a metal soundtrack, but also a Daredevil Elvis impersonator and ghostly cowboys? Actually, that sounds pretty interesting in writing, and this is a film that somehow works more often than not. Obviously this is an offbeat kind of movie, complete with aspects of a Western along with adventure and comedy, even with subject matter such as this. Cryer and Roebuck prove to be a decent enough duo together, neither becoming too clownish nor anything too unreal. Stewart is fairly charming, especially when teaching Cryer how to fire a weapon, and Ving proves to be fairly rough but fairly satisfying villain. As mentioned, there is a Daredevil Elvis impersonator (played by Willcox), and I will say that he provides amusement in the brief amount of time he is on screen. At 90 minutes, the movie is never boring, and I can at least say that the movie keeps you watching no matter what happens on screen, for better or for worse. The movie itself really isn't that special, but there is just something about the movie rolls itself together, becoming something that is satisfying in its entertainment while having a useful plot that doesn't veer into hard vigilantism nor hard absurdity. Would I recommend it? If you have a chance to find the film, I suppose that it is worth one watch, preferably late at night, where the odd bits really make an impression in darkness. There is no one real genre to classify this as, but that is likely why this deserves the label of a "cult classic", for better or for worse.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

December 1, 2017

It (1927).


Review #1018: It.

Cast: 
Clara Bow (Betty Lou Spence), Antonio Moreno (Cyrus T. Waltham), William Austin ('Monty' Montgomery), Priscilla Bonner (Molly), Jacqueline Gadsdon (Adela Van Norman), Julia Swayne Gordon (Mrs. Van Norman), and Elinor Glyn (Herself) Directed by Clarence G. Badger.

Review: 
To borrow from what is likely a cliche line, but what is "it"? Well, there can be two explanations. The first one, by Rudyard Kipling in 1904, stated that it was not beauty or good talk, but "just 'It'. Some women will stay in a man's memory if they once walk down the street." If that answer doesn't satisfy you, how about the one by Elinor Glyn, who wrote a two-part serial story in Cosmopolitan magazine, who defines it as "That quality possessed by some which draws all others with its magnetic force. With 'It' you win all men if you are a woman and all women if you are a man. 'It' can be a quality of the mind as well as a physical attraction." It should be noted that she was given a "story and adaptation" credit along with a small role in the film. The original story had a male magnetic character, whereas the film changed it to be a woman. In any case, the story itself is featured in a scene where one of the characters reads from the magazine while trying to find out about "it", with a bit of product placement, which was not exactly a common thing at the time.

Honestly, the real reason that I wanted to review this silent film was because of the fact that it has lingered on my to-do list for quite some time, along with 2017 happening to be 90 years since the movie was released. In any case, It is a fairly charming little film, having enough zip and warmth to make for something that is highly entertaining. This was the film that rocketed Bow to stardom, with the label "It girl" soon becoming her nickname while giving her global fame. She just has a certain spark and feel to her that just makes her a fun person to watch on-screen. She just has a zip to her that is magnetic, especially when sharing scenes with Moreno that make the first half of the film pretty entertaining. That's not to say the second half isn't as good, I'm just stating that the movie pulls you in pretty well by its first 30 minutes that make the other 42 minutes go by finely. Moreno does a pretty decent job, and the rest of the cast is fairly nifty and dependable. The titles were written by George Marion, Jr, with the screenplay done by Hope Loring and Louis D. Lighton, and they both serve their purpose well. The film has its moments of sweetness and amusement, doing so with a fair amount of class and determination that certainly makes a clear winner.

Well, look at that. December 1st. Today happens to be my 21st birthday, and I figured it made sense to publish a review for it since I've done a review for that day on four previous years (#292 - Snoopy, Come Home, #493 - The Witches of Eastwick, #759 - The Gold Rush, and #880 - Tillie's Punctured Romance). In any case, welcome to December, folks.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

November 30, 2017

Space Master X-7.


Review #1017: Space Master X-7.

Cast: 
Bill Williams (John Hand), Lyn Thomas (Laura Greeling), Robert Ellis (Pvt. Joe Rattigan), Paul Frees (Dr. Charles T. Pommer), Rhoda Williams (Stewardess Archer), Joan Barry (Jean Meyers), Carol Varga (Elaine Frohman), Thomas Browne Henry (Prof. West), and Thomas Wilde (Collins) Directed by Edward Bernds.

Review: 
How many science fiction films can one watch before they seem to run all-together? I guess that depends on the level of patience one has for the premise or the time that it was made in. After all, the film (originally known as Missile into Space) was released in June of 1958, four months after Explorer 1 launched. If you're wondering what the monster of the movie is, it turns out to be a fungus that when tinged with human blood, it turns into a pile of "space rust" that grows exponentially while also being spread through human contact. I will admit that this is an interesting premise, although the film is more about the woman that unknowingly is exposed to the fungus while trying to go from Los Angeles to Honolulu, with narration that accompanies her movements while trying to evade the authorities. In that case, it feels more like a detective drama than a sci-fi film, and it doesn't help that there is only one victim during the film. In fact, there is no real villain (like a mad scientist or anything) for the film, aside from the "space rust" of course, so it's a chase movie without too much thrill to it. That's not to say that this is a lifeless movie, but this is likely a movie you could watch right before going to bed late one night, which is a double-edged sword in it of itself. 

The film was made by Regal Films, though it was distributed by 20th Century Fox. The performances of the movie are pretty standard stuff, nothing too riveting or flamboyant, although I will say that Frees (known for his numerous roles involving voices) is one of the more noteworthy parts, serving to deliver the exposition of the fungus. The other noteworthy aspect is an appearance from Moe Howard (best known as one of the Three Stooges) in a rare non-comedic role, appearing as a cab driver (with accompanying hat). His son-in-law, Norman Maurer, ended up designing the special effects of the space fungus due to Howard's help in getting Maurer a position to work on the film, with the ensuing effects costing just $1,000. The effect isn't anything too spectacular, but it gets the job done for what the film wants (and it's admirable to have effects done for a price that wouldn't really be done for films nowadays). On the whole, this is a movie that comes and goes like something you watch to fill the time, not really worthy of any harsh criticism or much attention span. Of note is that the film was released as part of a double bill with The Fly (#710), so I guess if you ever encountered both of the films, you would get at least one good time.  Obviously I wouldn't recommend it, but I guess if you really want a fix of sci-fi and detective drama...then go ahead, I guess.

In any case, tomorrow is a new month. The final one of the year, so hopefully I find some fun things to watch and review for you folks.

Overall, I give it 5 out of 10 stars.

November 29, 2017

Coco (2017).


Review #1016: Coco.

Cast: 
Anthony Gonzalez (Miguel Rivera), Gael García Bernal (Héctor), Benjamin Bratt (Ernesto de la Cruz), Alanna Ubach (Mamá Imelda Rivera), Renée Victor (Abuelita Elena Rivera), Ana Ofelia Murguía (Mamá Coco Rivera), Edward James Olmos (Chicharrón), Alfonso Arau (Papá Julio Rivera), Selene Luna (Tía Rosita Rivera), Dyana Ortellí (Tía Victoria Rivera), Herbert Siguenza (Tío Felipe Rivera and Tío Oscar Rivera), Jaime Camil (Papá Enrique Rivera), Sofía Espinosa (Mamá Luisa Rivera), and Luis Valdez (Tío Berto Rivera) Directed by Lee Unkrich (#074 - Monsters, Inc, #155 - Finding Nemo, #382 - Toy Story 3, and #441 - Toy Story 2) and Adrian Molina.

Review: 
You are likely wondering if there was anything before or after the film. In this case, Olaf's Frozen Adventure, a 21-minute "short" played before the main feature. Long story short, it is a finely animated piece, but I don't see the point of playing this before Coco. Sure, it is a Disney production for a film released by Walt Disney Pictures, but this is something you would see as a television special, not on a big screen. Long story short, it doesn't detract from Coco, but it isn't really anything you absolutely need to see, unless of course you're a huge fan of Frozen. Hopefully you enjoy the following review.

I will admit that I had a fair amount of expectations from this film, likely because Pixar does have a fair (but not perfect) record with their movies, but also because it seemed particularly interesting. Admittedly, there are likely some comparisons that could be made to The Book of Life (2014), but there isn't much point in doing so in my view seeing as I hadn't seen the other film before this (one can likely search the web all they want for the comparisons they desire). In any case, Coco is a wonderful movie, achieving a great look with tremendous animation and a riveting story and cast of characters that surely makes for great entertainment for all audiences. Gonzalez does a fine job as the lead, never approaching the lines of annoyance or unlikeability, while also making his character fairly interesting to follow for the film, and he also does a fairly decent jobs for times when he sings as well. Bernal does a pretty commendable job, having some fine moments of amusements, but he also proves to be an interesting character to follow as well, with him and Gonzalez having pretty good chemistry together. Bratt is enjoyable to watch as well, having a fine amount of charisma that certainly seems believable. The rest of the cast is also fairly pretty good at their roles, each having at least one good moment throughout the film, most of the time having a pretty good effect. The animation is wonderful to watch, having a dazzling colorful effect at times that shows a good deal of creativity and imagination while not distracting one from the story itself. The movie has a fairly cohesive narrative that sticks well enough while also making sure to cover its bases splendidly. Although it has its amusing moments, the movie does manage to create some emotion without feeling fabricated nor overly sentimental. At 110 minutes, it feels like the right kind of run-time for a film like this, although some could find it to be a bit dragged in the beginning, but I'd say that the film is never boring on any level, whether on the eyes or for what the film wants to be about, saying some fairly interesting things about culture and family along with other things that should be watched and not spoiled in a review. This is an easy film for me to recommend because of the elements that make this a clear winner, from its animation to its heart.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

November 28, 2017

Bardelys the Magnificent.


Review #1015: Bardelys the Magnificent.

Cast: 
John Gilbert (Bardelys), Eleanor Boardman (Roxalanne de Lavedan), Roy D'Arcy (Châtellerault), Lionel Belmore (Vicomte de Lavedan), Emily Fitzroy (Vicomtesse de Lavedan), George K. Arthur (Sainte-Eustache), Arthur Lubin (King Louis XIII), Theodore von Eltz (Lesperon), and Karl Dane (Rodenard) Directed by King Vidor (#987 - Show People)

Review: 
Based on the same novel of the same name by Rafael Sabatini, this is a light-hearted romantic movie that manages to be fairly riveting entertainment. It isn't a great grand classic kind of silent film, but it is at the very least fairly memorable, with some of that credit going to main actor John Gilbert. He comes off as fairly charming along with appealing to watch on screen, having an appeal that keeps the movie on its heels because of how he is, particularly with the climax. Boardman is fairly decent and appealing to watch, with the sequence between the two on a boat ride being particularly noteworthy. D'Arcy is an effective villain, having the smarmy and tricky expressions needed for the role, being a capable villain in his own right. The rest of the cast is also fairly acceptable. For those wanting to know more about the sequence, Vidor stated in his autobiography that the camera was mounted in the bow of the rowboat, with gliding along a corridor of willow branches that passed over the camera lens across the two actors. The inter-titles by Dorothy Farnum are also pretty effective, having some wit along with fitting the movie pretty well.

If you like silent films, this one is a fairly acceptable one to watch, with this one only recently becoming more known. After the movie had been made, the rights to the novel belonged to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) for ten years. After the rights had expired, they destroyed the negative along with any known prints of the film, and it was believed to have been lost, with only the trailer and a brief part that had been shown in Show People (1928) surviving. In 2006, a print of the movie was found in France, with all but one reel surviving. A restoration was done using stills from the production and footage from the trailer as stand-ins for the missing parts, with a release onto the markets following two years later. Ultimately, this is a movie with a fine amount of production value along with a fine pace (with a run-time of 90 minutes) that surely makes it a useful watch for audiences looking for something usefully interesting.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

November 27, 2017

The Dirty Dozen.


Review #1014: The Dirty Dozen.

Cast: 
Lee Marvin (Maj. John Reisman), Ernest Borgnine (Maj. Gen. Sam Worden), Charles Bronson (Joseph Wladislaw), Jim Brown (Robert T. Jefferson), John Cassavetes (Victor R. Franko), Richard Jaeckel (Sgt. Clyde Bowren), George Kennedy (Maj. Max Armbruster), Trini Lopez (Pedro Jiminez), Ralph Meeker (Capt. Stuart Kinder), Robert Ryan (Col. Everett Dasher Breed), Telly Savalas (Archer J. Maggott), Donald Sutherland (Vernon L. Pinkley), Clint Walker (Samson Posey), Robert Webber (Brig. Gen. James Denton), Tom Busby (Milo Vladek), Ben Carruthers (S. Glenn Gilpin), Stuart Cooper (Roscoe Lever), Robert Phillips (Cpl. Morgan), Colin Maitland (Seth K. Sawyer), and Al Mancini (Tassos R. Bravos) Directed by Robert Aldrich (#105 - What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and #778 - The Longest Yard)

Review: 
Admittedly, war films are not exactly my preference when it comes to what I try to watch for films, but from time to time there can be ones that pique my interest, and this is certainly one that garnered a look. The movie is based on the novel of the same name by E. M. Nathanson, which was inspired by a real-life group called the "Filthy Thirteen". The film has a big cast (as the title suggests) along with a considerable length of 150 minutes, not so much due to the action but the training of the group, although the last parts of the film contains plenty of action. It is evident to say that of the twelve members, six stand out the clearest: Bronson, Brown, Cassavetes, Savalas, Sutherland, and Walker. They have distinct characteristics that they apply well to their roles that just clicks. Marvin is fairly entertaining, having a great sense of gravitas, which could also apply to Borgnine. My favorites of the group are Brown and Sutherland, the former due to him being easily watchable and the latter due to his charm. The film has its share of amusing moments along with its scenes of fellowship with these hard-edged (but watchable) people. I especially like the sequence with Marvin and Sutherland in which the latter has to help fool a general. The war game part is also fairly commendable in its execution as well. Admittedly, the cast is perhaps a bit old to be playing soldiers (the youngest of the group is Cooper and Maitland, both born in 1942 for a film released in 1967), but it isn't too much of a detraction. It's not a movie that relies heavily on a big spectacle action scene, in part because the film isn't meant to be like that. The last sequence (with the château) is a fairly thrilling sequence, but it is one that you can also dwell on due to the characters that we have watched prior to that point. It's a gritty movie that has its shares of bleakness, but it is a well-paced and well thought-out film. Whether the film achieves its goals or not, it is at the very least a fine piece of entertainment.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.