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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Telmisseomding (aka Tell Me Something) (1999)

Set in Seoul, South Korea, a police detective (Suk Kyu Han) under a cloud of suspicion for receiving graft is assigned to a serial killer case. Dismembered bodies are being found around the city but the pieces are all mixed up, the body parts don't all belong to the same person. The common link is a young woman (Eun Ha Shim) who knew all the victims romantically and is apparently being stalked by the killer. But is she an innocent victim or is she complicit in some way? Directed by Yun Hyeon Jang, this was a massive hit in South Korea though its success wasn't duplicated in the U.S. It's a variation of American films like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and SE7EN but a little more crudely done. The gross factor keeps it from moving into more elevated terrain. It's done cleverly enough even to the point of planting a huge red herring at the beginning which I bought hook line and sinker. The most interesting character is a young female doctor (Jung Ah Yum) who's ambiguous and even when the film is over, you're not quite sure who she is/was and what her motivations are. I enjoyed it but it doesn't quite have the resonance that a great thriller should have. With Hang Seon Jang and Joon Sang Yoo. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Spoilers (1955)

In 1898 Alaska, claim jumpers are are attempting to legally rob miners of their rightful claims by filing claims with the newly appointed gold commissioner (Rory Calhoun). The town's glamorous saloon owner (Anne Baxter) takes in an interest in him because she has money invested in some mines and one gold miner (Jeff Chandler) in particular. Based on the 1906 novel by Rex Beach and directed by Jesse Hibbs (TO HELL AND BACK), this is the fifth film version of Beach's book. The most famous one is the 1942 version with Marlene Dietrich, John Wayne and Randolph Scott. I've never cared much for that version probably because of my antipathy toward Dietrich in general. I rather enjoyed this lively Technicolor concoction with Baxter at her most appealing especially in Bill Thomas's eye catching costumes. I'm usually bored with barroom brawls in westerns but the fight in this one which ends the film isn't as silly as most. Chandler remains a dominating screen presence and Calhoun is less bland than usual. No doubt western fans still prefer the 1942 but give this one a chance with an open mind. Nothing special but an entertaining genre piece. With John McIntire, Ray Danton, Barbara Britton, Wallace Ford and Carl Benton Reid.   

The Black Pirate (1926)

After he and his dying father are washed ashore after their ship is blown up by pirates, the son (Douglas Fairbanks) swears to avenge his father's death. To this end, he joins the very pirates who were responsible for blowing up their ship. As directed by Albert Parker, this is an amiable swashbuckler with Fairbanks doing his special blend of panache and athleticism masquerading as acting. Handsomely shot in the early two strip Technicolor process by Henry Sharp, it could have used a wee bit more punch but that might have more to do with the editing which tends to dwell too long on the scenes. Certainly Mortimer Wilson's lazy musical doodling which serves as an underscore doesn't help matters any (oh, what Korngold could have done with this movie!). Still, a fun movie all in all. With the lovely Billie Dove as the romantic interest, Donald Crisp and Sam De Grasse as Fairbanks' pirate rival. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Deepwater Horizon (2016)

On April 20, 2010, an oil rig owned by British Petroleum exploded in the Gulf Of Mexico. It was so powerful it could be seen from outer space and killed 11 people, injured dozens more and for 87 days oil was flushed into the Gulf Of Mexico until it was capped. It was the worst oil spill disaster in U.S. history. This is the story of the why and how it happened, the people on the rig, their rescue and fate and the aftermath. Frankly, I wasn't expecting much but I was wrong. Directed by actor turned director Peter Berg, it's very well done. It's tight and economical, throwing you into the chaos, confusion and terror of the event. It's so tight and lean, in fact, that it's over before you know it. As long as the film focuses on the impending and actual disaster, it's on firm cinema ground. Where it fails is -no surprise- in the trite domestic scenes between Mark Wahlberg and Kate Hudson and their little daughter (Stella Allen). I could watch the graphic scenes like Kurt Russell pulling glass shards out of his naked body but I had to close my eyes at the sentimental father/daughter hugs. It's not the kind of film where the acting matters much but both Kurt Russell and John Malkovich stand out. With Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O'Brien and Ethan Suplee. 

Little Shop Of Horrors (1986)

A nerd (Rick Moranis) working in a florist shop has a crush on a co-worker (Ellen Greene) who is dating a sadistic dentist (Steve Martin). But things change when an odd little plant he's named Audrey II that he bought after a total eclipse of the sun starts developing and attracting national attention. The only problem is the plant needs human blood to survive. Based on the 1982 off Broadway musical by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (THE LITTLE MERMAID) which was based on the 1960 Roger Corman horror film comedy. Directed by Frank Oz, it's a delirious and silly musical with catchy songs and a playful attitude that's infectious. Audrey II is a spectacular creation with a lewd sinister grin and as voiced by Levi Stubbs (of the Four Tops), he roars! The movie is briefly stolen by Bill Murray in a priceless performance as a masochistic dental patient (played by Jack Nicholson in the 1960 version). It's an irresistible film and even if you don't like musicals, this one will win you over. I watched the director's cut which has the darker apocalyptic ending rather than the "happy" ending foisted on the original release. With Vincent Gardenia, John Candy, Christopher Guest, Miriam Margolyes, Paul Dooley (original cut) and replaced by James Belushi in the altered version. Plus Tichina Arnold, Tisha Campbell and Michelle Weeks who are marvelous as a Motown style singing Greek chorus.   

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea (1976)

On the Dartmouth coast, a widow (Sarah Miles) is raising her precocious young son (Jonathan Kahn) who is a member of a secret group headed by a pretentious boy (Earl Rhodes) who is referred to as The Chief by the other kids in the group. When a seaman (Kris Kristofferson) comes into his life, he's pleased at first but when the sailor becomes romantically involved with his mother, he feels betrayed. Based on the novel by Yukio Mishima and adapted for the screen by the film's director, John Lewis Carlino. Carlino has changed the story from Japan to England and in doing so, the story is severely compromised because Mishima's novel is an allegory for post war Japan. What we have left is a story about some psychologically disturbed children who carry out an atrocious act. Carlino's film is sabotaged by the awful child actors who seem clueless as to the meaning of their lines and parrot them phonetically. The film's sex scenes which gained quite a bit of notoriety at the time of release are surprisingly dull as Carlino has no talent for eroticism and Sarah Miles (though a good actress) is one of the least sensual of actresses. On the plus side, Kristofferson is perfectly cast and quite good plus there's Douglas Slocombe's first rate cinematography and Johnny Mandel's haunting score with an assist from Kristofferson. With Margo Cunningham. 

The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942)

On a lecture tour in Ohio, a famous author (Monty Woolley) with an acidic wit and a venomous tongue slips on some ice injuring himself and is confined to the home of a bourgeois couple (Billie Burke, Grant Mitchell). To say he makes their lives (and everyone else around him) a living hell is an understatement. Based on the 1939 hit Broadway play by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman who based Woolley's character on Alexander Woollcott. Considering how topical circa 1942 the film is, its humor holds up remarkably well though it helps to be familiar with the political and pop culture of the era to "get" some of the jokes. Biting and witty, it's one of the best comedies of the era and one doesn't even mind that it's mostly stage bound. Thankfully, Woolley was allowed to recreate his stage performance as he's nothing less than perfect. I assume Bette Davis was cast for box office insurance. As the secretary, she seems overqualified (she'd already won her 2 Oscars) for an uninteresting role just about any of Warners contract players could have done. As the glamorous actress, Ann Sheridan hits it home and the rest of the cast does itself proud. Directed by William Keighley. With Jimmy Durante, Reginald Gardiner, Mary Wickes, Elisabeth Fraser and Richard Travis. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Women In Love (1969)

Set in a country coal mining town in 1920s England, two very different sisters find themselves attracted to two complicated men. One (Glenda Jackson) gets involved with the wealthy son (Oliver Reed) of the mine's owner (Alan Webb) while the other (Jennie Linden) falls in love with a free thinking non-conformist (Alan Bates). Based on the classic novel by D.H. Lawrence and directed by Ken Russell. I'm not an admirer of Lawrence's novel which I found very abstruse and enigmatic. I'm more than willing to admit the fault is mine though to be fair I was only 20 when I read it. That being said, Russell's film does an admirable job of keeping the essence of Lawrence's novel while freely going all cinematic on us rather than give us a tasteful Merchant/Ivory rendition of a classic novel. Admirers of the book may feel differently. Stunningly shot by Billy Williams in Great Britain (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire) and Switzerland, Russell's films explores the complex question of what defines love and if love can be limited to just one person or gender. This was the career breakthrough for Jackson (who won an Oscar for her work here) and she dominates the film although I felt Reed held his own in his scenes with her. As crazy, sensual and envelope pushing as it is, ironically this may be Russell's most restrained motion picture. With Eleanor Bron, Vladek Sheybal, Michael Gough, Catherine Willmer and Christopher Gable.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)

France 1792 and the Reign Of Terror is in full swing at the height of the French Revolution. A British aristocrat (Leslie Howard) plays the fop to throw suspicion off him when he is, in fact, the Scarlet Pimpernel: a master of disguise who helps condemned French aristocrats escape the guillotine right under the nose of the new French power. Based on the novel by Baroness Orczy which has been filmed several times for both film and television as well as adapted for the stage. Directed by Harold Young, this is probably the best known (and liked) version. I suppose technically this would fall under the category of swashbuckler but there's very little "swash", no sword fights and little derring-do. Still, it's quite enjoyable and while Leslie Howard isn't one's idea of an action hero, as an actor, he brings a bit more depth to his two sided character than is usual in such films. Merle Oberon as his wife is gorgeous and that's enough and Raymond Massey makes for a deliciously unctuous villain. With Nigel Bruce, Walter Rilla, Melville Cooper and Joan Gardner.  

The Pride And The Passion (1957)

Set in the early 19th century during the Napoleonic wars as France occupies Spain. A British naval captain (Cary Grant) is sent to find a massive abandoned cannon and prevent it from falling into French hands. But he finds himself at odds with a band of Spanish guerrillas headed by a peasant (Frank Sinatra) who insist the cannon belongs to them and is to be used to liberate the city of Avila. Based on the novel THE GUN by C.S. Forester and directed by Stanley Kramer. Although the film is usually dismissed if not reviled, it's my second favorite Kramer film (as a director) after IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD. One reason is that we're not being preached at or hit over the head with a lecture. Also, like IAMMMMW, it's visually interesting. Kramer is one of the least interesting directors visually, his films tend to be talking heads movies. This one is gorgeously shot by Franz Planer (BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S) in VistaVision. Kramer's intention was to make an epic and he falls short but it's not for lack of trying with its cast of thousands! The casting is off too. When we see Grant in a knife fight with Jose Nieto, it almost seems surreal. Cary Grant in a knife fight? Still he fares better than Sinatra who's unconvincing as a Spanish peasant with a piss poor accent to boot. Wasn't Anthony Quinn or Ricardo Montalban available? Fortunately there's the spectacular Sophia Loren whose flamenco is a highlight of the movie. Perhaps a bit turgid but never boring. There's a killer score by George Antheil. With Theodore Bikel and Jay Novello.