August 17, 2017

Viva Las Vegas.


Review #983: Viva Las Vegas.

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

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

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

August 14, 2017

Fast Times at Ridgemont High.


Review #982: Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

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

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

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

August 11, 2017

Bonnie and Clyde (1967).


Review #981: Bonnie and Clyde.

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

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

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

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

August 8, 2017

Dunkirk (2017).


Review #980: Dunkirk.

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

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

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

August 7, 2017

Me, Myself & Irene.


Review #979: Me, Myself & Irene.

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

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

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

Overall, I give it 5 out of 10 stars.

August 1, 2017

Atomic Blonde.


Review #978: Atomic Blonde.

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

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

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

July 29, 2017

Frenzy.


Review #977: Frenzy.

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

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

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

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

July 27, 2017

The Four Musketeers (1974).


Review #976: The Four Musketeers.

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

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

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

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

July 26, 2017

Deliverance.


Review #975: Deliverance.

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

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

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

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

July 24, 2017

A Star Is Born (1954).


Review #974: A Star Is Born.

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

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

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

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

July 21, 2017

A Star Is Born (1937).


Review #973: A Star Is Born.

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

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

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

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

July 20, 2017

The Three Musketeers (1973).


Review #972: The Three Musketeers.

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

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

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

July 18, 2017

Baby Driver.


Review #971: Baby Driver.

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

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

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

July 17, 2017

Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941).


Review #970: Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

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

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

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

July 14, 2017

Planet of the Apes (2001).


Review #969: Planet of the Apes.

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

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

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

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

Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

July 13, 2017

Throne of Blood.


Review #968: Throne of Blood.

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

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

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

Overall, I give it 10 out of 10 stars.

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.