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.

July 11, 2017

Fletch.


Review #967: Fletch.

Cast:
Chevy Chase (Irwin M. "Fletch" Fletcher), Joe Don Baker (Chief Jerry Karlin), Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (Gail Stanwyk), Richard Libertini (Frank Walker), Geena Davis (Larry), Larry "Flash" Jenkins (Gummy), Tim Matheson (Alan Stanwyk), M. Emmet Walsh (Dr. Joseph Dolan), George Wendt (Fat Sam), Kenneth Mars (Stanton Boyd), George Wyner (Marvin Gillet), and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Himself) Directed by Michael Ritchie (#616 - The Bad News Bears)

Review:
Based off the novel of the same name by Gregory Mcdonald, Fletch is certainly one of those films that seems deserving of a cult following, owing in part to a variety of factors, the first starting with Chase himself. What is it about his performance that works so well? Perhaps it's because he actually seems perfectly as ease with the role that he's playing, where he doesn't look like he's just doing a job, with the ad-libbing being quite effective while not becoming ridiculously tedious. One of my favorite scenes is the scene where he is confronted by Baker's character and he gets pushed into a wall with framed pictures, noting one of them has a picture with Tommy Lasorda, who he notes he hates while punching the photo (I don't blame him, honestly). There are quite a few other good scenes involving wigs and disguises, and they are also pretty quirky along with amusing. Some could find Chase's schtick a bit tiresome, but I found it to go well with a movie that never aspires to be too conventional nor too ridiculous in its approach, with the quick wit feeling just right for the role. It's no wonder that he has said this is his all-time favorite personal role, because there's just something easy and natural about Fletch that works neatly, with that deadpan manner being quite entertaining for me. The rest of the cast is also quite enjoyable, always managing to hit the right chords of amusement and entertainment; Baker and Matheson are fairly decent adversaries, Chase has some decent chemistry with Wheeler-Nicholson, while Libertini and Davis are both fine standouts in the newsroom scenes. This is a fairly crafted thriller, managing to have the right kind of action and mystery that makes for some good quality entertainment that deserves the following it has.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

July 10, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming.


Review #966: Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Cast: 
Tom Holland (Peter Parker / Spider-Man), Michael Keaton (Adrian Toomes / Vulture), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), Robert Downey Jr (Tony Stark / Iron Man), Marisa Tomei (May Parker), Zendaya (Michelle), Donald Glover (Aaron Davis), Jacob Batalon (Ned), Laura Harrier (Liz), Tony Revolori (Flash Thompson), Bokeem Woodbine (Herman Schultz / Shocker #2), Kerry Condon (F.R.I.D.A.Y.), Garcelle Beauvais (Doris Toomes), and Jennifer Connelly (Karen), and Hemky Madera (Mr. Delmar) Directed by Jon Watts.

Review: 
It is astounding at the level that comic book movies have undergone in terms of scope and quality in the past decade, with this being the 16th film in Marvel's film universe (of which I've covered all but one), though Spider-Man has had numerous films within this century, with the first film (the only one I've watched - #611) being released in 2002, only 15 years ago. It also isn't Holland's first appearance in the role, seeing as he was in Captain America: Civil War (#796) just last year. Once again, it was time to go to the theater for a comic book film.

Baggage or not, I can say this movie is pretty good. There is a numerous amount of things that I liked from this movie, and it starts with Holland, who is instantly enjoyable to watch on screen; there is just something about him that clicks in each scene, whether as Parker or the titular hero, and I look forward to watch him in further films. Admittedly, I did wonder how the villain would be in this film, considering how they usually aren't as memorable in a good deal of these Marvel films. For me, Keaton does a fine job in trying to get around that problem, in part because his character is actually compelling to watch on screen, and I think it's because you actually get a sense of what he's doing and why he does it without it simply devolving into something one dimensional. Favreau and Downey are pretty good in their scenes, with the latter having a chemistry with Holland that works pretty well with the flow of the film. Tomei, despite not having too much screen-time, is fairly enjoyable and fits well with Holland. The rest of the cast is fairly watchable as well, contributing to the film for some laughs along with the story; as comic relief, Batalon admittedly could be hit or miss, but I found him to be relatively harmless (in terms of annoyance), and he felt useful enough to the film without seeming empty. There's just something relatable about the world that the movie builds that seems ripe for more adventures.

The film doesn't go too much into the origins of the character, but it doesn't feel necessary to have, mainly because the movie operates itself fairly coherently enough to get past that. The action scenes aren't particularly great (with the shaky cam definitely being hit or miss), but it doesn't look too muddy to hurt the experience; though the action isn't great for the climax, the build up and the acting for it is well enough to keep that from being a disappointment. There is a light but fitting atmosphere that goes for some laughs while not bogging itself down in being generic. What other film can have a scene where characters try to build the Lego Death Star? That's the fun thing about these Marvel films, they are diverse enough in their approaches and style that make these films irresistible to watch for me. It's easy for me to recommend it (if you already haven't seen it), but it's also easy to say that this is a fine installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that is a solid winner.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

July 8, 2017

Downhill (1927).


Review #965: Downhill.

Cast:
Ivor Novello (Roddy Berwick), Robin Irvine (Tim Wakely), Isabel Jeans (Julia Fotheringale), Ian Hunter (Archie), Norman McKinnel (Sir Thomas Berwick), Annette Benson (Mabel), Sybil Rhoda (Sybil Wakely), and Lilian Braithwaite (Lady Berwick) 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, and #964 - The Ring (1927))

Review:
Downhill (with the alternative title in the United States being When Boys Leave Home) was Hitchcock's fifth feature film along with his third and last released in 1927 (released the same month as The Ring - all three being United Kingdom productions), and while it may be the weakest of the three in that year, this is at least a fairly watchable experience. This was adapted by Eliot Stannard from the play Down Hill by Novello and Constance Collier, and it is clearly evident to see how stagey the movie looks at times, though Hitchcock doesn't resort to too many title cards throughout this silent film, using imagery and color tint (as mentioned before in the previous reviews) in order to help convey the story, along with some memorable shots. It is through and through a melodrama, showcasing themes of guilt and "the real world", with one particular highlight being a title card that says "The world of make-believe", while revealing the main character's tuxedo to actually be attire for a waiter. The scene where he sees the ravenous nature of the people he works for near the ending is also pretty interesting to watch. I found the movie to be pretty decent, but I just didn't find it to hold up entirely well, maybe because of Novello and his character; he doesn't do a bad job, but sometimes it gets tiresome watching him and his descent. The rest of the cast is alright, but there isn't anybody too memorable in it to make mention of (obviously there isn't a villain, unless you count Benson); the ending feels a bit tacked on, ending the movie pretty quickly though at least it somewhat seems to come full circle. It feels clunky at times (and Novello doesn't exactly resemble a schoolboy), but its cynical portrayal of the seedy nature of the main character's downhill does have some standing power. It isn't one of his best films, but this is still a fairly coherent Hitchcock film.

It's weird that I reviewed three consecutive Alfred Hitchcock films from 1927, but I guess it never hurts to have an unofficial "trilogy" of reviews, especially for a master of film like Hitchcock.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

July 7, 2017

The Ring (1927).


Review #964: The Ring.

Cast: 
Carl Brisson ('One-Round' Jack Sander), Lillian Hall-Davis (Mabel), Ian Hunter (Bob Corby), Forrester Harvey (James Ware), Harry Terry (Showman), and Gordon Harker (Jack's Trainer) 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, and #963 - The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog)

Review: 
This was not only Alfred Hitchcock's fourth feature film (along with the second released in 1927), this was also his only film in which he wrote the script all on his own. Naturally, it happens to be about two boxers competing for the love of a woman. It may not exactly be nothing too new in terms of the romance, but the film makes up for it by being nicely executed with its shots and actors. Like with some of the better silent films, it doesn't rely on too many title cards, using imagery within the actors and their expressions to help convey itself at times. Brisson and Hall-Davis have some decent little chemistry together, nothing too cute nor too unbelievable. Hunter is also fairly decent in a somewhat adversarial (though not explicitly villainous) role that works well with either of the two main romantic leads. The rest of the cast are also fairly decent in their roles, not doing too much to standout from the main actors, but also having a fair amount of screen presence. The match at the end of the movie is a key highlight, looking fairly believable (aside from a bit of fast forwarding at times) and being a good place for the movie to end without dragging too long. On the whole, this is a fairly watchable and well conceived movie that certainly holds up, as per the standard for Hitchcock films (or other fine quality movies). Is it one of his best? Not really, but it definitely holds up pretty well on a standard of being fine entertainment.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

July 6, 2017

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog.


Review #963: The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog.

Cast: 
Marie Ault (The Landlady - Mrs. Bunting), Arthur Chesney (Her Husband - Mr. Bunting), June Tripp (Daisy Bunting, a Model), Malcolm Keen (Joe Chandler), and Ivor Novello (Jonathan Drew - The Lodger) 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, and #910 - Notorious)

Review: 
This was the third Hitchcock film (with the other two being The Pleasure Garden and The Mountain Eagle), and it is also considered one of the first thriller films, with this one based on a novel of the same name by Marie Adelaide Belloc Lowndes and the play Who Is He? by Horace Annesley; this is also the first time I've covered one of his silent films, of which he made nine, all in the 1920s. In any case, this is a first rate thriller, managing to have a good deal of style and suspense that works at making this a neat classic. The color tinting along with the shots the editing (done by Ivor Montagu, who also suggested the reduction of title cards) also help in giving the movie an interesting look (one particularly memorable shot being To-Night Golden Curls, which is shown a few times during the film); the shot of Novello's introduction is also a nice shot, with his appearance and the way the shadows and figures are shot making for an interesting introduction of the title character. Novello certainly has an interesting performance, balancing quirky (and somewhat suspicious nature) and his chemistry with Tripp into a fairly entertaining performance for a movie verging on the suspense of who the killer could be. Ault and Chesney do fine jobs as well. Keen also does a decent job, particularly in his scenes with Novello and Tripp near the end (although one highlight is him cutting out cookie dough in the shape of a heart). One scene in particular stands out, with an edit of his feet pacing on the room above the others being a great image to watch. The film definitely has its moments of using imagery or its actors to carry the film, with the climax (and the nature of the town mob) being quite fitting. The movie reaches on levels that Hitchcock would cover in many of his other films throughout his career, from the nature of the kill to the innocent man; on the whole, this is a fairly crafted film that proved to be the spark of his career.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

July 5, 2017

A Little Romance.


Review #962: A Little Romance.

Cast: 
Laurence Olivier (Julius Edmund Santorin), Diane Lane (Lauren King), Thelonious Bernard (Daniel Michon), Arthur Hill (Richard King), Sally Kellerman (Kay King), Broderick Crawford (Himself), David Dukes (George de Marco), Andrew Duncan (Bob Duryea), Claudette Sutherland (Janet Duryea), Graham Fletcher-Cook (Londet), Ashby Semple (Natalie Woodstein), Claude Brosset (Michel Michon), Jacques Maury (Inspector Leclerc), and Anna Massey (Ms Siegel) Directed by George Roy Hill.

Review: 
I suppose there is a side of me that likes films that have a bit of sweetness to them, or movies that are engaging with their locations and situations. This film (based off the novel E=mc2 Mon Amour by Patrick Cauvin) just happens to be one of those, in part because the main trio of actors throughout a good part of the film: Olivier, Lane, and Bernard, with the latter two having a sweetly tender romance that manages to be fairly entertaining. Is it perfect? No, but there is a pleasurable kind of enjoyment that I got from watching these characters interact, with the scenery (France, Venice, and Italy) also helping in making this a nice time. This was the film debuts of both Lane and Bernard, and they seem comfortable with the roles they play, having a fine naturalism that comes off warmly enough. They play smart characters, but they don't feel too unrealistic to watch. Olivier is charming in a role that resembles a circus clown but with the right sense of style and enough balancing of skill and trickery that comes off as endearing. Kellerman's character is probably the most generic of film but she is at least doing her best in being watchable as the de facto adversary to the romance. I found Hill to be pretty neat and fairly serviceable as the stepfather, with my favorite scene being him confronting Dukes' character (dressed up in Boy Scout garb) near the film's ending. Crawford (making a guest appearance in one scene) is entertaining in his brief amount of dialogue, sharing an exchange with Bernard about who he punched in a film (named Sin Town) once that is a bit witty. The rest of the cast do a fine job in their roles, helping the movie keep a good edge of charm that works fine for me. It may verge on being a bit too cute (or superficial) for some, but I found it to be relatively engaging. The best kind of movie makes you keep watching, and this one does a fine job at keeping interest, with this film being entertaining enough and useful enough to be a solid winner.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

July 4, 2017

Rambo III.


Review #961: Rambo III.

Cast: 
Sylvester Stallone (John J. Rambo), Richard Crenna (Colonel Sam Trautman), Kurtwood Smith (Robert Griggs), Marc de Jonge (Colonel Alexei Zaysen), Sasson Gabai (Mousa Ghani), Doudi Shoua (Hamid), Spiros Focas (Masoud), Randy Raney (Sergeant Kourov), and Marcus Gilbert (Tomask) Directed by Peter MacDonald.

Background: 
It has been one full year since I watched Rambo: First Blood Part II as part of my Independence Day Feature, and since the time has come once again to do something for my home country, it only makes sense to cover this film. This is the 11th film done since I began the Independence Day Feature in 2012, with the other films being: #193 - Independence Day, #413 - The Patriot, #414 - Air Force One, #415 - America, #416 - Yankee Doodle Dandy, #611 - Spider-Man, #612 - The Devil's Disciple, #724 - Sagebrush Trail, #817 - Suddenly, and #818 - Rambo: First Blood Part II. Enjoy the sixth straight year with a review on July 4th.

Review: 
When I watched the second film, I described it as "moderately entertaining, but not as good as the first film", crediting its satisfying action in a movie that was okay with being average but fair entertainment. But this one felt like middling returns, where the action scenes outweigh the heart of the film and make for something that isn't as satisfying in entertainment. There isn't anything that is inherently awful, but there is also isn't anything that is great. Nothing is really improved on from the last two films, essentially. Stallone is what you've seen before previously (which is fine), though one the best highlights involving him is one where he removes a spike from his side and seals the wound with flaming gunpowder. Crenna does a fine job once again, while having a bit more screen-time this time around, and he gets to be part of the action, which is nice. It's always nice to see Smith, but he doesn't really have much to do in his small time on screen (never trust the billing, I suppose). de Jonge seems more in line with a cartoon-ish villain than anything really menacing, not even a silly over-the-top moment or a memorable henchman. The rest of the cast is decent, but they can't help elevate the movie toward anything worth competency. There definitely is a good deal of action (listed by the Guinness World Records book to have 221 acts of violence, at least 70 explosions and over 108 on-screen deaths), but it seems a bit hollow and not as electrifying as the previous films for me. The movie (filmed in Israel, Thailand, and Arizona) does have a neat look to it, at least. It's easy to say this isn't a good movie, but it's hard to recommend against watching it, particularly if you are an action buff. It has quite a good amount of imperfections, but perhaps there is some sort of gem within all of this film's mess.

Happy Independence Day, folks. I hope you've enjoyed this review.

Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

July 3, 2017

The Year of Living Dangerously.


Review #960: The Year of Living Dangerously.

Cast: 
Mel Gibson (Guy Hamilton), Sigourney Weaver (Jill Bryant), Bill Kerr (Colonel Henderson), Michael Murphy (Pete Curtis), Linda Hunt (Billy Kwan), Noel Ferrier (Wally O'Sullivan), Bembol Roco (Kumar), and Paul Sonkkila (Kevin Condon) Directed by Peter Weir.

Review: 
It's interesting that a movie involving a love story caught in the middle of a revolution manages to make itself seem more more upon a closer look. This is a movie that is rich in atmosphere and mood that is is fairly engaging while having a good deal of tension and passion. Hunt pulls off a tremendous performance that is essentially the heart of the movie, giving the movie a degree of humanity and care; she pulls off such a great unforgettable performance that always seems sincere with a sense of mystery and charm, particularly by the film's climax; she was the first person to win an Oscar for playing a character of the opposite sex, winning for Best Supporting Actress that year. The film is not without its romance, and Gibson and Weaver do a fine job in expressing that passion that goes along fairly with the film and its pace, with the two doing relatively fine jobs on their own scenes. If you like seeing the two, then this is your only chance to watch both of them (along with Hunt) in the same film. The rest of the cast also do fine jobs, doing well to contribute to the movie's tense nature, with Murphy standing out with his greed. The film is set in Indonesia, though it was shot in both Australia and the Philippines, with four languages spoken through the film: English, Tagalog, Filipino, and Indonesian. It is often labeled as the first co-production of Australia and a Hollywood studio (MGM), with the latter providing the money needed to fund the movie's production. By the time the movie gets to its end, it already has felt like an experience worth having, having rounds of emotion that work out well. In any case, this is an excellent film that manages to enthrall you with a fine touch of atmosphere, mood, and excellent performances to drive this movie to success.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

July 1, 2017

Nobody Waved Good-bye.


Review #959: Nobody Waved Good-bye.

Cast:
Peter Kastner (Peter), Julie Biggs (Julie), Claude Rae (Father), Toby Tarnow (Sister), Charmion King (Mother), Ron Taylor (Boy friend), Bob Hill (Patrolman), Jack Beer (Sergeant), Sean Sullivan (Probation Officer), Lynne Gorman (Julie's mother), Ivor Barry (Interviewer), Sharon Bonin (Waitress), Norman Ettlinger (Landlord), and John Vernon (Lot Supervisor) Directed by Don Owen.

Background:
Today, July 1, 2017, is the Sesquicentennial (150th) of Canada. Over the past few years, I have covered Canadian films over the years (#406: Whispering City, #407: Why Shoot the Teacher?, #408: Goin' Down the Road, #409: The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, #588: All Is Lost, #607: Back to God's Country, #608: Tomorrow Never Comes, #679: Black Christmas, #722: The Changeling, #815: Starship Invasions, #816: Crimes of the Future), with nine of them being on Canada Day itself since 2013, with this being the fifth year for me doing this. As such, I figured it made perfect sense to continue the Canada Day Feature tradition once again, in honor of the neighbors from the north. 

Review:
I picked this movie because of interesting it sounded, a movie that morphed from being about probation officers to a coming-of-age-story. A small crew of five people was used, with only a short outline by Owen (and no screenplay) used, with improvised dialogue based on discussions with the actors and cameraman John Spotton. It was filmed in three weeks on a budget of $75,000 while filmed in Toronto. In any case, this is a neatly made movie that manages to be quite efficient with its intent and style. The stark realism and the camera shots that seem documentary-like are quite effective, not letting the movie seep into mere film entertainment; it doesn't really have a moral to tell by the end, but you can definitely see what the film is trying to show with Kastner, who plays off this brash immature lead character quite well; even with those characteristics, he is still watchable through his pursuit of adulthood in the film. Biggs also does a fine job in the film as well, being young and weird but also capturing a bit more sense within her that seems quite believable. Rae and King play the parents of our lead quite neatly, being the right kind of "adversaries" for Peter while also seeming quite fair. The scenes with the two main leads (or the one involving a discussion with a French Canadian about individuality and identity) are relatively watchable, with the scenes involving the parents being tense. Even characters with small roles (like Vernon) have an impact, with his smarmy nature sticking out any time he's on screen. The film has a look that seems quite down-to-earth, even if it may seem a bit dated (one scene is shot with hidden cameras) to some. I found it to be quite nice in its realism and acting, while being unabashedly Canadian. This film was thought of as the ninth best Canadian film in 1984 by the Toronto International Film Festival, though it fell off the list in the 1993 edition. However, this film is readily available to watch from the National Film Board of Canada, and I'd recommend it for the sake of having something that is neatly done in 80 minutes.

Happy Canada Day, folks. I hope you've enjoyed this review and my attempt at celebrating Canadian cinema over the past few years. Oh...and go Montreal Expos! I know they don't exist right now, but still. After all, the Expo 67 (done fifty years ago) was the basis for the team's name when they came into existence two years later.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

June 30, 2017

Always (1989).


Review #958: Always.

Cast: 
Richard Dreyfuss (Pete Sandich), Holly Hunter (Dorinda Durston), John Goodman (Al Yackey), Brad Johnson (Ted Baker), Audrey Hepburn (Hap), Roberts Blossom (Dave), Keith David (Powerhouse), Ed Van Nuys (Nails), and Marg Helgenberger (Rachel) Directed by Steven Spielberg (#126 - Close Encounters of the Third Kind, #168 - Raiders of the Lost Ark, #169 - Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, #170 - Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, #302 - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, #351 - Schindler's List, #480 - Jaws, #563 - The Sugarland Express, #573 - E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and #642 - Jurassic Park)

Review: 
It has been said that this is one of Steven Spielberg's weakest films, but it is easy to admit that with regards to his resume prior to (and after) this film's release; it is also easy to see his love for the 1943 film A Guy Named Joe and the passion that he must've had to make a remake of it. Is this a flawed movie? Yes, but it is the kind of movie that can qualify as a guilty pleasure, for better or worse. The main cast is fairly enjoyable together, having good chemistry with each other (particularly in the first half); I liked Hunter the best in part because her hard but consistently believable tone works best against Dreyfuss and his flippish nature, though Goodman is a welcome comic relief. Johnson is fairly decent in his first co-starring role in a major film, though his chemistry with Hunter isn't as entertaining as the case with Dreyfuss. Hepburn (appearing in two scenes) is graceful as ever in her final film appearance. When it comes to showing the action with the planes (through aerial photography, rear projection and models) or when the movie wants to have some laughs, that is when the film is at its best; when it comes down to saying some of the dialogue about love and death, that is when the film nearly drowns itself in sappiness and sentimentality. At 123 minutes, it does feel a bit long with all of those awkward (but not manipulative) kind of lines, but I found the film made up for some of it with its fiery climax, with Dreyfuss and Hunter handling themselves quite convincingly. It's not a bad movie, but it is obviously not on the top of any totem pole of quality for Spielberg. The best things about the movie is what it isn't, needless to say. It's a nice harmless movie that works best for some, but likely not for others.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

June 29, 2017

Zabriskie Point.


Review #957: Zabriskie Point.

Cast:
Mark Frechette (Mark), Daria Halprin (Daria), Rod Taylor (Lee Allen), Paul Fix (Roadhouse owner), G. D. Spradlin (Lee's associate), Bill Garaway (Morty), and Kathleen Cleaver (Kathleen) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.

Review:
Zabriskie Point is a movie that goes on a search for the culture and feel of its time, and the result is that it still appears to wander aimlessly for its goal by the time the film gets to a conclusion. This was the second of three films that Antonioni (a famed Italian director who had previously won pretentious international film festival awards such as the Palme d'Or from Cannes and the Golden Lion from Venice prior to this film) made that was part of a deal with producer Carlo Ponti that was distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) with full artistic freedom, with the other two being Blowup (1966) and The Passenger (1975); the title of the movie comes from a part of the Amargosa Range, located east of Death Valley in Death Valley National Park. The locations used throughout the film do lend themselves to some interesting shots and some standout cinematography by Alfio Contini.

It's hard to say why this is a movie I didn't find enjoyable. I think the answer lies within its execution of telling its story/message, which muddled any sort of enjoyment in watching it. What is it trying to say that you couldn't already find from watching footage from the actual era it wants to so badly invite itself into? You might as well watch a documentary on the culture of the times (or go up to someone who lived in that era and ask) over this. Frechettte and Halprin (both in their first ever starring roles) never seem to really come off as believable in their scenes together; I never got the feeling that I should care about their so-called love story nor what happens to them. Their first scene together involves him flying a plane over her car, with her going from upset to curious and smiling...and I guess there's a point in all of this. The supporting cast is fairly decent, but they aren't particularly memorable. Through its 112 minute run time, there isn't really a point where the movie is consistent entertainment. There is some action near the end, but it comes off just a bit too late to make much of an impact. It has nice looking scenes and a fairly interesting soundtrack (with music coming from Pink Floyd, Roy Orbison, the Rolling Stones and several others), but the film never clicks itself into something worth caring about. It has the pretensions of being a movie for the culture but without any of the zip needed to get across the finish line. It may work better for others more willing to let the film have some slack (or for people who understand the film better than I do), but I can't really give too much of a recommendation for the film as is. I can't be too harsh on it, but I also can't be to generous to it, either. You might find something from the film that I didn't, and that is understandable, even if I really couldn't find too much from it.

Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

June 28, 2017

Withnail and I.


Review #956: Withnail and I.

Cast:
Richard E. Grant (Withnail), Paul McGann ("...& I" - Peter Marwood), Richard Griffiths (Uncle Monty), Ralph Brown (Danny), Michael Elphick (Jake), Eddie Tagoe (Presuming Ed), and Daragh O'Malley (Irishman) Directed by Bruce Robinson.

Review:
How can a film feel (and look) so rough and yet manage to be such a gripping dark comedy cult classic? Made in England,  Based on Robinson's life in London during the late 1960s, there is something magnetic about watching Grant and McGann (both in their first film roles) throughout its 107 minute run-time that never ceases to be anything other than darkly amusing. They don't chew the scenery as much drown it with alcohol and manic energy that is amazing to watch play out, with numerous highlights (one of which being them trying to cook a chicken) throughout. It's interesting watch Grant play an eccentric alcoholic, who in real life has a health condition that makes him incapable of processing alcohol properly, and he certainly pulls off a great performance that is endlessly watchable. McGann (who also narrates the film at times) also does a commendable job, conveying the neurotic level-headedness (as one can be when paired with a character like Withnail) that makes him easy to watch. Griffiths does a fine job in being exuberantly larger-than-life, and his last scene with McGann is quite riveting in its exchange. The rest of the cast is also pretty good in their roles as well, contributing to some excellent lines (one particular line involving bald people). The look of the movie is also easy to highlight, in part because of how it achieves a time capsule look (with one quote saying they were "91 days from the end of this decade" near the end of the film), with the scenery also looking quite fitting for the movie. On the whole, this is a roller coaster ride of a movie, with Grant and McGann pulling off great performances in a film that stands out among the countless British films featured throughout Movie Night.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

June 27, 2017

Eating Raoul.


Review #955: Eating Raoul.

Cast:
Paul Bartel (Paul Bland), Mary Woronov (Mary Bland), Robert Beltran (Raoul Mendoza), Susan Saiger (Doris the Dominatrix/Nurse Sally Cummings), Lynn Hobart (Lady Customer), Richard Paul (Mr. Cray - Liquor Store Owner), Mark Woods (Hold-up Man), and John Shearin (Mr. Baker) Directed by Paul Bartel.

Review:
I admit that there is something undeniably appealing about black comedies, where if the material is handled and executed with the right kind of care or style, it can make for a good time. With a film as offbeat and as clever as this, this is a fairly satisfactory movie because of how it is with its tone and pace. Its manner of fact manner (with regards to the subject matter) and the chemistry of Bartel and Woronov stands out the most; they just have an easy connection with each other that doesn't come off as mismatched or out of place. Beltran is a welcome contrast between these two, being a good wedge, even if he probably should have had more screen-time. The supporting cast is fairly decent in being decadent for when the movie requires it, such as Saiger. The nonchalance about the dark things that are shown through the movie does not overstay its welcome nor become too grotesque. I wish the film was a bit longer, though, as it only lasts 83 minutes; if the film had spent more time with the mayhem, I think it would've probably been just a bit better. It at least has some decent satirical moments. The film is at the very least enjoyably wild enough to deserve a viewing or two, owing to how it shines as an independent film, being subtle and broad in the places that matter most, with a title that certainly lives up exactly to what it sounds like.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

June 26, 2017

Harold and Maude.


Review #954: Harold and Maude.

Cast:
Ruth Gordon (Dame Marjorie "Maude" Chardin), Bud Cort (Harold Chasen), Vivian Pickles (Mrs. Chasen), Cyril Cusack (Glaucus), Charles Tyner (General Victor Ball), Eric Christmas (Priest), George Wood (Harold's Psychiatrist), and Ellen Geer (Sunshine Doré) Directed by Hal Ashby (#636 - Being There)

Review:
It's not every day I encounter a movie that has a cult following, especially one that is as interesting as this one. How does this movie manage to be have an irresistible edge and connection? How can something with subject matter that qualify quite well for a dark comedy have a sort of charm to it? The answer is because of how it executes itself, from a wonderful cast to how it does not skip any beats. Its chase for happiness in a world that seems to repress (represented by Pickles and Tyner) still seems relevant today; sure the movie has scenes where Cort's character stages his death and attends funerals, but there is a spirited heart at its core, where you feel for this odd but ultimately competent kind of main character. The music by Cat Stevens is quite effective, being quite nice for the mood of the film ("If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out" is undeniably memorable). Gordon and Cort have a certain zest to their scenes together, being quite entertaining in their scenes; one of my favorites is when they play-fight each other when the latter is being recruited to the Army, and they have an clever "exchange" of words with each other. Pickles does a fine job as well, reacting to her on-screen son's actions with a type of un-affectionate "sensible" manner that works as a good contrast for the movie; the other actors are fine as well, with Tyner being a good standout. This isn't a cynical kind of movie, nor is it a movie struck by being overly sentimental; it's a movie that is warming in its own way beyond a warped sense of reality - whether it be Harold's reality or not.

The way that the movie came to fruition is interesting. The film was sprung from a thesis that Colin Higgins (a UCLA film student and pool cleaner) developed, and he showed the script to his landlady, who happened to be the wife of a producer in Hollywood. After forming a production company and shopping it around at studios, it eventually landed at Paramount Studios. The movie was not a success when first released but overtime the movie developed a cult following due to its offbeat appeal, with one theater (Westgate Theater) showing the movie for over two years - 1,957 showings in total. Is this a movie for everyone? No, but it certainly has a undeniable sense of humor that manages to hit more than it misses while deserving its label of being a cult classic.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

June 23, 2017

The Lavender Hill Mob.


Review #953: The Lavender Hill Mob.

Cast:
Alec Guinness (Henry "Dutch" Holland), Stanley Holloway (Alfred "Al" Pendlebury), Sid James (Lackery Wood), Alfie Bass (Shorty Fisher), Marjorie Fielding (Mrs. Chalk), Edie Martin (Miss Evesham), John Salew (Parkin), Ronald Adam (Turner), and Arthur Hambling (Wallis) Directed by Charles Crichton.

Review:
At 81 minutes, this is a capable heist comedy that manages to be clever along with amusing. This movie (made in the United Kingdom) won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay (now known as Best Original Screenplay), and it's not hard to see why; the heist elements are crafted at a good pace, with the scheme to do the heist (converting the bullion into paperweights) is handy, with the idea having been thought up by the filmmakers when conversing with the Bank of London. Guinness and Holloway make for a good capable duo, particularly when they are just forming their plan, with credit to their expressions and the way they handle their lines. James and Bass and fairly capable contributors, being pretty crafty and amusing as well. The rest of the cast is pretty decent, but the real fun is seeing the movie execute itself with its situations. This is a light fun film that moves at a ready pace and works magic out of being engaging and not having a dull moment at any time. The film uses its locations well, with the Eiffel Tower sequence being pretty clever and entertaining, especially with Guinness and Holloway laughing down the tower steps. The climax is handled quite well, having its share of thrills but also moments of hilarious moments; the framing device the film uses in the beginning to tell the story does not hinder the suspense too much of wondering if Guinness will get away with the loot because of how engaging the movie is. This is a film that is easy to recommend watching due to its cleverness and charm.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

June 22, 2017

Chungking Express.


Review #952: Chungking Express.

Cast:
Brigitte Lin (Woman in blonde wig), Tony Leung Chiu-Wai (Cop 663), Faye Wong (Faye), Takeshi Kaneshiro (He Qiwu, nicknamed Ah Wu, Cop 223), Valerie Chow (Air Hostess), Chan Kam-Chuen (Manager of 'Midnight Express'), Kwan Lee-na (Richard), and Wong Chi-Ming (Man) Directed by Wong Kar-wai.

Review:
This is the 26th world cinema movie on Movie Night, but it happens to be the first from Hong Kong (Enter the Dragon (#587) was a Hong Kong-American production), with five languages being spoken during the film: Cantonese, Mandarin, English, Japanese, and Hindi. The original title is Chung hing sam lam (Chungking Jungle), which refers to the "concrete jungle" of a city, with one of the locations of filming being at Chungking Mansions. In any case, this isn't a movie meant for casual watching that challenges a viewer, but it does not bore them to death with puzzlement (or pretentiousness), with this being aided by the performances. There are two stories told in the film (with their similarities and differences), and they are both quite entertaining in how they operate on their own currents, save for one brief interconnecting moment.

The movie has a commendable style of filming and editing (with cinematography by Christopher Doyle and Andrew Lau) that is strikingly captivating to watch - the chase scenes in particular sand out for how they contrast with the other parts of the film. The first part (with Lin and Kaneshiro) is entertaining and interesting (especially with the scenes involving trying to find a specific pineapple can) as a quirky thriller, with Lin and Kaneshiro's scenes being lightly tender but neat nonetheless; I found the second part (with Chiu-Wai and Wong) pretty captivating, utilizing the chemistry of the two actors and music quite handily as a type of screwball comedy. Kam-Chuen has an amusing but useful presence through both parts (such as when opening a letter meant for someone else). I found the second part had a bit more weight and meat to it, while the conclusion is ambiguously interesting, just like you'd expect. It's not a perfect movie, but it is definitely an intriguing and entertaining kind of movie that shows flair along with elements of a story for the audience to watch play out, succeeding handily. It may last just 98 minutes, but it definitely feels like it earns each minute it lasts on screen.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

June 21, 2017

The Big Sleep (1946).


Review #951: The Big Sleep.

Cast:
Humphrey Bogart (Philip Marlowe), Lauren Bacall (Vivian Sternwood Rutledge), John Ridgely (Eddie Mars), Martha Vickers (Carmen Sternwood), Dorothy Malone (Acme Bookstore proprietress), Peggy Knudsen (Mona Mars), Regis Toomey (Chief Inspector Bernie Ohls), Charles Waldron (General Sternwood), Charles D. Brown (Norris), Bob Steele (Lash Canino), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Harry Jones), Louis Jean Heydt (Joe Brody), and Sonia Darrin (Agnes Lowzier) Directed by Howard Hawks.

Review:
This is the first film I've watched that was directed by Howard Hawks (he had done uncredited rewrites to The Thing from Another World (#519), and it is debatable on whether he had directed the film), and he does a good job at making a classic film noir. This was based off the Raymond Chandler crime novel of the same name, with the screenplay written by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett & Jules Furthman; as such, the lines are snappy and effective at making for an incredibly capable thriller. The appeal of the movie is seeing the investigation is executed and not merely just seeing it be solved (Chandler himself was asked by the filmmakers who killed the chauffeur - he responded that he didn't know), with Bogart being quite adept at being the hard-boiled wisecracking detective without any real missteps. Bacall does a fine job in this dazzling role filled with spunk and charisma, and her chemistry with Bogart is undeniably entertaining to watch, in part because of how easy they flow together while on screen together, with the racehorse dialogue being quite suggestive along with energetic. Ridgely does a fine adversarial job; Vickers manages to make her loopy character stand out quite nicely. The rest of the cast are pretty convincing in their roles (such as Malone and Steele), serving finely when compared to the dynamic of Bogart-Bacall, which stands out almost as much as the mystery itself. The movie operates at its own pace, and while it may be a bit hard to follow at times the movie has an undeniable amount of fun entertainment to it all.

This movie was filmed prior to the end of World War II, but it was not released until after Warner Bros. released their backlog of war-related films. There are two versions of the movie. One cut (released only to troops in the South Pacific) lasts 114 minutes, while the released cut lasted 116 minutes. There are differences between the two versions, with scenes added in order to play up the Bogart-Bacall dynamic and portions were re-shot (one key scene cut involves Marlowe and a D.A in conversation); a consequence of this is that Pat Clark was unavailable for the re-shots, so Peggy Knudsen replaced her in the film. In any case, the earlier version apparently is more linear in plot but has less of Bogart-Bacall, so take that for what it's worth. It isn't a perfect movie, but it is at the very least a classic that should watched at least once for anyone who likes film noir, like I do.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

June 20, 2017

Master of the House.

Review #950: Master of the House.

Cast:
Johannes Meyer (Viktor Frandsen), Astrid Holm (Ida Frandsen), Karin Nellemose (Karen Frandsen), Mathilde Nielsen ("Mads"), Clara Schønfeld (Alvilda Kryger), Johannes Nielsen (Doctor), and Petrine Sonne (Laundress) Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer.

Review:
This is the 25th film under the world cinema label (excluding Canada and the UK), with this being the second film from Denmark (the first being #740 - Himmelskibet), released as Du skal ære din hustru during original release, with the title translating to Thou Shalt Honour Thy Wife. Among all the silent films (roughly over 50), this one sticks out as a fine family drama that has a share of wit to it. The movie shines best when showing these characters and their emotions through their expressions and through subtlety. Dreyer uses his household environment to make an enclosing but fitting atmosphere. Despite not having many scenes outside the house, it never feels like a stage production, due to the actors. The movie take its time to show the life of the family and their daily ritual; it gets interesting after the film shifts its focus to the nanny. Meyer does a fine job as this rough patriarch lead while never becoming two dimensional in his manner of tone. Holm also shines in her matriarch lead role due to being easily relatable and fairly likable. Nellemose is pretty decent. Nielsen and Schønfeld are entertaining in their scenes of trying to confront Meyer. For me, when the core concept of a film that was released before my time (pretty much most films of the 20th century) can still apply and work in the current day, it acts a benefit to the movie's advantage. The movie manages to work as a commentary on the family household most of the time, never becoming too heavy handed while having a few times of levity. It's easy to recommend this one, whether for its worldly flavor or its wonderful execution - take your pick.

Well, if you didn't already know, Movie Night has now reached 950 reviews. I didn't want to make a big deal about it (besides the sticker), but in any case it is important because there are now only 50 reviews to go to the big number, 1,000. Hopefully the next batch of 50 will be as good as the other 19 batches of 50 have been.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

June 19, 2017

The First Auto.


Review #949: The First Auto.

Cast:
Charles Emmett Mack (Bob Armstrong), Patsy Ruth Miller (Rose Robbins), Russell Simpson (Hank Armstrong), Frank Campeau (Mayor Jim Robbins), William Demarest (Dave Doolittle), Paul Kruger (Steve Bentley), Gibson Gowland (The Blacksmith), E. H. Calvert (Elmer Hays, the inventor), and Barney Oldfield (Himself - The Master Driver) Directed by Roy Del Ruth (#395 - The Maltese Falcon (1931)#432 - The Babe Ruth Story, and #807 - The Alligator People)

Review:
The transition of technologies is always a strange one for certain types of generations to handle, whether from transitioning from landline phones to cellphones, or horse carriages to automobiles; the latter is featured here, and while the movie isn't anything too great it is at least acceptable entertainment. Contrary to the promoted billing, Barney Oldfield (pioneer automobile racer who also served as the technical coordinator for the movie) is neither the main star nor does he have too much on screen, aside from a scene where he drives an automobile at one mile a minute, which is quite fast for the time depicted in the film (1904); in real life he was the first to reach a speed of 60 mph (97 km/h). The film mostly revolves around Mack and Simpson and their conflict over the transition from horses to "horseless carriages", which works alright for the 75 minute run-time. Miller is fairly alright, though nothing too special. The rest of the cast is fairly decent in their roles. Mack was killed in a car accident while driving to work, which occurred near the end of filming, with the movie premiering three months later.

What is interesting about this silent film is that it has a Vitaphone sound-on-disc soundtrack, complete with a musical score and sound effects (synchronized to the movie) that also contains spoken words (three) and laughter at some points. This is a fairly adequate comedy-drama, having a few tidy gags while also being relatively serious enough without going too overboard; the climax has a few thrills, even if it sounds a bit odd: Simpson and Miller are attempting to get to the automobile race before Mack's car (filled with sulfur) explodes, while they are on horse carriage. The automobile action (such as the race against a horse and the races at the end) is neatly executed, and I imagine this will appeal to fans of old automobiles (one particular photo of Oldfield and Henry Ford is shown near the end, featuring the Ford 999). The whole transitioning technologies aspect of the plot is still fairly applicable now, albeit with a few changes (such as the climax). On the whole, this is a mildly entertaining movie that works best alongside other silent movies of the time while not requiring too much to invest in. It's not hard to recommend, if you're looking for a movie with some old-fashioned automobiles.

My condolences go out to the families of the seven members of the USS Fitzgerald who were killed in a collision this weekend. This especially hurts to write considering that Noe Hernandez, one of the men that died, came from my home city of Weslaco. No one should have to go through a saddening tragedy like this. They will be missed and they will never be forgotten; may they rest in peace.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.