A bandit (Lee Van Cleef) and his gang rob a bank and get away with a ton of money. But when he impulsively marries a beautiful woman (Gina Lollobrigida), she dupes him and runs off with all the loot and he's sent to prison. When he gets out, he finds her again but some men never learn, do they? This comedy western was filmed in Spain and its near incoherent plot not only doesn't make much sense, it's simply not funny. The underscore by Waldo De Los Rios, which sounds like something composed for MCHALE'S NAVY, marches perkily along as if to say, "Hey! Laugh people, this is funny stuff!". The anachronistic songs range from jazz to rock and only accentuate the mess that the movie is in. James Mason somehow manages to hold on to his dignity but everyone else tries too hard and the more they try, the more desperate they come off. Directed by Eugenio Martin. With Sergio Fantoni and Diana Lorys.
A divorced single mother (Jennifer Lawrence) is trying to keep a dysfunctional family remaining on civil terms which is hard when they all live under the same roof. Her ex-husband (Edgar Ramrirez) lives in the basement with her father (Robert De Niro) who is divorced from her mother (Virginia Madsen) who lives in her bedroom watching soap operas all day. But there's a way out from a strength that even she doesn't know she has in her. Everybody loves a story about an underdog and director David O. Russell follows his AMERICAN HUSTLE with this marvelous dramedy with another sensational Jennifer Lawrence performance. The true story about the inventor of the Miracle Mop doesn't sound very exciting but Russell has crammed his movie with eccentric and interesting characters and Lawrence's Joy is so likable that the audience is rooting for her all the way through the downs and ups and downs again. It's fresh and unpredictable and a love song to powerful women and what they have to overcome in a man's world. In the hands of a lesser director, this might have been just another Lifetime movie but what Russell gives us is, well ..... a joy (pun intended). With Bradley Cooper, Isabella Rossellini, Diane Ladd, Susan Lucci, Elisabeth Rohm, Donna Mills, Dascha Polanco and Melissa Rivers (playing her mother Joan).
Having sold her house, a seeming successful psychiatrist (Liv Ullmann) moves in with her grandparents (Aino Taube, Gunnar Bjornstrand) until her new home is completed. However, haunted by images and repressed emotions from her past, she begins to unravel and struggles to maintain her sanity. Directed by Ingmar Bergman, we're in familiar territory here and the film suffers from Bergman fatigue in that it seems we've seen it all before. It's not a bad film at all, far from it but in the Bergman canon, I'd call it middling Bergman. But there is genuine greatness in the film ..... Liv Ullmann. It's a remarkable performance, perhaps Ullmann's greatest and one of the greatest performances by an actress you'll ever see. It's raw, visceral and at times painful to watch as if we're seeing something terribly private that we're not supposed to see. The film was originally made for Swedish television and the TV version is some 40 minutes longer but the theatrical cut was released before it played on television. With Erland Josephson, Helene Friberg, Sven Lindberg and Kari Sylwan.
During the infamous House Un-American Committee hearings in the late 1940s and early 1950s, screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) is subpoenaed, imprisoned and blacklisted in the film industry. One of the most evil and unjust periods of American history and one of its most fascinating. Okay, let's cut to the chase ... this movie stinks! For a film based on a true story, almost everything about it comes across as phony especially Cranston's performance which is all mannerisms and tics and nothing resembling an actual human being. It's the kind of liberal movie that gives liberal movies a bad name. If Michael Moore made narrative films instead of docs, this is the kind of bad movie he'd make. I couldn't help but feel sorry for all the poor actors floundering with even Helen Mirren (as gossip maven Hedda Hopper) possibly giving the worst performance of her career and yes, I've seen CALIGULA. There are a couple of good moments though: Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje as a black inmate suddenly makes the movie come alive, the potent moment when Trumbo sees his writer's credit on the screen in SPARTACUS and the score by Theodore Shapiro is first rate. Directed by Jay Roach (AUSTIN POWERS). With Diane Lane, John Goodman, Louis C.K., Elle Fanning, Michael Stuhlbarg as Edward G. Robinson, Dean O'Gorman as Kirk Douglas and David James Elliott as John Wayne.
Set in 1952, a young Irish girl (Saoirse Ronan) dissatisfied with her lot in life in Ireland emigrates to the U.S. Terribly homesick at first, she slowly comes to accept her new life in America especially when she falls in love with an Italian boy (the adorable Emory Cohen). But a family tragedy requires her to return to Ireland. Based on the novel by Colm Toibin and directed by John Crowley, this is a lovely film. The subject of immigrants seems to be topical at this time and the film does a superb job of recreating the emigrant experience. And one doesn't have to have moved from a different country to feel homesick or to question what is "home"? Just moving from one state to another or even one metropolis to another can bring up emotions and feelings. The film shifts tone halfway through the film and Ronan's character becomes (at least to me) somewhat unsympathetic. But she's superb and moves to the front of the line in this year's best actress Oscar category. A genuine emotional experience. Go, you won't regret it. With Jim Broadbent, Domhnall Gleeson and in a scene stealing performance, Julie Walters.
In 1905 at the North West Frontier of British India (now Pakistan), a group of Islamic rebels overthrow the ruling Maharajah (Frank Olegario) who is Hindu. But the Rajah has sent his young son (Govind Raja Ross) to safety under the care of his American governess (Lauren Bacall) and a British soldier (Kenneth More). But the danger isn't over yet as the Islamic rebels will stop at nothing to kill the future Rajah. Bacall called it a "good little movie" and that just about sums it up. It's an old fashioned adventure along the lines of films like THE FOUR FEATHERS and GUNGA DIN. Some critics have called it a blatant reworking of John Ford's STAGECOACH set on a train instead of a stagecoach and in India instead of the American West. Since the credits say adapted from a screenplay by Frank Nugent, who wrote 9 films for John Ford (though not STAGECOACH), it sounds plausible. It's robustly directed by J. Lee Thompson (GUNS OF NAVARONE) and though the film's "villain" is a Muslim (which makes it topical), the script doesn't portray him as one dimensional. He's allowed to score some valid points off the British colonialists. With Herbert Lom, Wilfrid Hyde White, Ursula Jeans, I.S. Johar and Eugene Deckers.
Set in the New Orleans of the 1930s, a newspaper reporter (Rock Hudson) wants to write a story about a traveling daredevil barnstorming act consisting of a former WWI hero (Robert Stack) and his beautiful parachutist wife (Dorothy Malone). But he becomes too involved with them, especially the wife, to be objective. Based on the novel PYLON by William Faulkner (who stated this was his favorite of all the films adapted from his books), this is a rich and complex film that gets better with each passing year. Made during director Douglas Sirk's most productive period at Universal, the film serves as a stark contrast to the lush Technicolor palette of his other films like ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS, WRITTEN ON THE WIND or IMITATION OF LIFE. Shot in B&W by Irving Glassberg rather than Sirk's usual cinematographer Russell Metty, the film is darker and grittier while still employing Sirk's detailed observations of a trio long past their glory days, people long stripped of their illusions and with nothing else to replace them. The hectic atmosphere of impetuous risks and bruised survivors perfectly done. With Jack Carson, Troy Donahue, Robert Middleton and Christopher Olsen.
A homely girl (Rita Tushingham) leaves her home in Liverpool to go live in London where she hopes to meet a man who will get her pregnant. But the man (Shane Briant) she meets is a psychopath and a serial killer. He despises beauty and is attracted to her precisely because she is plain looking. Will she find out his secret in time? By the early 1970s, Hammer films had begun to move toward more diverse "horror" fare than the period horror films that had made its reputation. This film is pretty twisted. We know from the outset that the androgynous "pretty boy" is a murderer so the suspense comes from waiting for her to find out and how she will react and if she will be able to get away from him. The film's ending is ambiguous enough that we don't know her fate. Unfortunately, the effete Briant is a big zero and repulsive enough that you wonder why she doesn't go screaming in the other direction. But the film makes you squirm but not in a good way and the most truly horrifying moment in the film (there's a similar moment in KLUTE) is hard to take. Directed by Peter Collinson (THE ITALIAN JOB). With the jazz singer Annie Ross (who also sings the title song), Tom Bell, James Bolam and Katya Wyeth.
A young English girl (Helena Bonham Carter) visits Italy along with her chaperoning cousin (Maggie Smith). It is there she meets an impetuous free spirit (Julian Sands) with whom she has an attraction. But upon returning to England, she gets engaged to a pompous stuffed shirt (Daniel Day Lewis) but not long after, the free spirit and his father (Denholm Elliott) move into her village. Based on the E.M. Forster novel, this is the crown jewel of the Merchant/Ivory catalog. Everything falls into place: the acting, the writing (Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who won an Oscar for her screenplay), the cinematography (Tony Pierce Roberts), the music (Richard Robbins) and praise be to director James Ivory for piecing it all together. It's romantic without being all soppy about it and sophisticated without being pretentious. It's lost none of its charm in the almost thirty years since its release and is the kind of film that word "timeless" seems to be apt. With Judi Dench, Simon Callow, Rupert Graves, Fabia Drake and Rosemary Leach.
A young secretary (Mary Astor) is in love with a rough around the edges salesman (Robert Ames) at the paper company she works for. She grooms him for success by changing the way he dresses, speaks and gives him advice on business deals. But as he rises to the top, he still sees her only as a secretary. Enter a wealthy married man (Ricardo Cortez) who would like nothing better than to have the secretary as his mistress. Based on the novel PRIVATE SECRETARY by Alan Brener Schultz, this pre-code film isn't as daring as some of its pre-code brethren. At heart, it's your basic unappreciated woman behind the man scenario and the inevitable conclusion is far from a mystery. What is a mystery is what Astor sees in Ames. He doesn't treat her well, can barely remember her name and lets her do most of the work while he takes the credit. The dialogue by Carey Wilson is fast and tart if amusingly dated ("Pipe it down, you flaming youth! This ain't no speakeasy!"). Astor is attractive and appealing and the reason to check this out. Directed by Melville Brown. With Kitty Kelly and Catherine Dale Owen.
A sleazy tabloid reporter (Tyrone Power) has been writing a series of unflattering articles on a wealthy heiress (Gene Tierney) without even knowing her. Under an assumed name, he meets her and manages to worm his way into her confidence but when she finds out she's been duped, she plots her revenge. This is a rare case of an actor remaking one of his old movies. This is a remake of LOVE IS NEWS (1937) which starred Power and Loretta Young in Tierney's role. As directed by Robert B. Sinclair, this is a somewhat amusing piece of romcom fluff, the kind of stuff that would be perfected by Rock Hudson and Doris Day in the following years. Power and Tierney aren't exactly noted for their comedic skills but the screenplay allows them to play their characters straight and let the humor comes from the situations. It's a lightweight but the kind of product that the old Hollywood factory turned out with regularity in the 40s. With Reginald Gardiner, Arleen Whalen, Lucile Watson, Chill Wills and Gene Lockhart.
In 1880s Austria, the Crown Prince (Omar Sharif) is not only stuck in an unhappy marriage of state but he opposes his father's, the Emperor Franz Joseph (James Mason), repressive political nature. When he falls in love with a young Baroness (Catherine Deneuve), it becomes a scandal. This is not a remake of the 1936 Anatole Litvak film on the same subject but based on other source materials. As a film, it's a real piece of eye candy, gorgeously shot by Henri Alekan (Cocteau's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST) making exquisite use of its Austrian and Italian locations. But for a film whose center is a story of forbidden love, it lacks passion. Sharif and Deneuve (has there ever been a more gorgeous movie couple?) moon over each other but there's no fire in their performances to indicate that this is a love worth dying for. The movie eventually collapses under the weight of its own pretensions. The underscore is credited to Francis Lai (A MAN AND A WOMAN), a composer certainly capable of writing a romantic underscore but instead we're given large doses of Aram Khachaturyan compositions that weigh the movie down. This is a movie to look at, not listen to. Directed by Terence Young (THUNDERBALL). With Ava Gardner (looking beautiful) as Empress Elizabeth, Genevieve Page, James Robertson Justice, Veronique Vendell and Andrea Parisy.
An American photographer (Robert Stack) working in China is given a package from a man (Maurizio Arena) who saved his life when he was on the run from the Red Chinese. Soon it seems everyone knows about the package and wants it ..... even if they have to kill for it. Despite being shot in English and Stack's presence, this isn't an American film but a West German/French and Italian co-production. Directed by James Hill (BORN FREE) but the version I saw which had German titles gives the directorial credit to one Frank Winterstein (a pseudonym?). It's a moderately entertaining Saturday matinee adventure with a touch of Indiana Jones and a smidgen of James Bond. It's not the kind of film that challenges your mind but it's fun in a nutty sort of way what with Macao gangsters, Chinese torture and treasure maps. There's a nifty title song sung by Dusty Springfield. With Elke Sommer, who's inexplicably dubbed when she spoke perfect English though the German language track has her voice. Also in the cast: Nancy Kwan, Werner Peters and Christian Marquand.
In 2001, The Boston Globe newspaper gets a new editor (Liev Schreiber), an outsider from Miami and Jewish unlike the most of the staff which are native to the city and Catholic. When he proposes that a special unit of reporters follow up on a story on sexual abuse on children by Catholic priests, he has no idea of the far reaching implications of and the effect it will have on the city. Based on actual events (The Boston Globe won a Pulitzer for their story), this is the best movie of its kind since ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (1976). As the reporting team gather their evidence and meet resistance from both the perpetrators and their victims as well as the Catholic church itself, the film almost plays out like a thriller. The actor turned director Tom McCarthy (THE STATION AGENT), who co-wrote the screenplay, doesn't push. Rather than go the Stanley Kramer route and go for the obvious, he gives us little moments, real moments that when added up combine to make a potent film. The ensemble cast is perfect all the way down to the tiniest of parts. Michael Keaton as the head of the "spotlight" team follows up last year's BIRDMAN with another award worthy performance. Strong stuff and be prepared to be outraged. The excellent cast includes Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Stanley Tucci, Brian D'Arcy James, John Slattery, Billy Crudup, Jamey Sheridan and Len Cariou.
In 2002 Los Angeles and the aftermath of 9/11, a group of federal agents investigating terrorism are shocked when the daughter (Zoe Graham) of one of their agents (Julia Roberts) is found brutally raped and murdered. The head of the department (Alfred Molina) is reluctant to prosecute the suspect (Joe Cole) because he is an important informant so he is released and vanishes. Jump 13 years later and one of the former agents (Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 YEARS A SLAVE) finds the suspect but will justice finally be done? I doubt it will matter to those who were so upset that the 2009 Argentinean Oscar winning film was being "remade" but in reality, it bears little resemblance to the first film. The director Billy Ray (CAPTAIN PHILLIPS) has used the 2009 film as a blueprint for a grittier, less political film. By changing the race (Ejiofor) and gender (Roberts) of two of the characters, Ray has given the film some sexual tension (Ejiofor and Nicole Kidman) that the earlier film lacked and a vulnerability and determination (Roberts) that the male character was weak on. A totally deglamorized Roberts continues her roll after AUGUST OSAGE COUNTY and THE NORMAL HEART with one of her strongest performances. My one complaint is that they shouldn't have messed with the original's ending which was more horrifying than what we're given here. With Dean Norris and Michael Kelly.
An ex-soldier (Steve Railsback) on the run from the police finds himself on the set of a movie taking place during WWI. The film's director (Peter O'Toole at his best) hides him from the police by giving him the job of a stunt man. Adapted from the novel by Paul Brodeur, Richard Rush's woozy black comedy keeps us off kilter right off the bat. In a bravura opening sequence, we're never quite sure what's going on or where we are and when we meet our "hero", he's every bit as unsure as the audience is. Once he becomes part of the movie's crew, we never know what to believe. What we see turns out to be false, what we hear turns out to be a lie to the point that we can no longer believe the "hero" any longer either. Some of it we can chalk up to the unreality or the phoniness inherent in film making but there's a thread of paranoia running through the film too. I don't mean to make it sound so heavy handed. After all, it's a rather exhilarating if dizzy cinematic exercise that keeps afloat and never touching ground. The driving underscore by Dominic Frontiere is an important element to the film, moving it forward. With Barbara Hershey, Allen Garfield, Sharon Farrell, Alex Rocco and Adam Roarke.
In 1944 Nazi Germany, a serial killer (Mario Adorf) goes undetected for years. But when a man (Werner Peters) is convicted of the murders, an investigating officer (Claus Holm) has serious doubts about his guilt. When the missing purse of one of the victims is turned in to the police, it leads to the arrest of the real serial killer. But under the morally bankrupt Third Reich, can justice be done? Loosely based on the case of Bruno Ludke, an alleged serial killer who murdered over 50 people between 1928 and 1943. The director Robert Siodmak was one of many German emigres who fled Hitler's Germany to work in Hollywood and he is best known for such noir classics like THE KILLERS and CRISS CROSS. He returned to Germany in the mid fifties to work and this Oscar nominated (best foreign language) film is his most admired post Hollywood film. It's a superbly done film although the outrage one would normally feel at a miscarriage of justice is tempered by the fact that this is, after all, Nazi Germany. A government whose mass murder of innocent Jews and others dwarfs the 50 odd victims of a serial killer. Still, it's an intense and deeply disturbing film. With Annemarie Duringer, Hannes Messemer and Carl Lange.
An art dealer (Marie Windsor) is a rotten to the core manipulator. She refuses to give her husband (John Archer) a divorce to marry the woman (Nancy Gates) he loves unless he gives her half his income plus a hefty settlement. She breaks up the engagement of her assistant (Jil Jarmyn) when she decides she wants her boyfriend (Richard Crane) for herself. She dumps her current lover (Patric Knowles) when he is no longer of any use to her professionally. So when she turns up murdered, there's no lack of suspects! Ah, the joys of the "B" movie. Cheaply made pieces of pulp that were often more entertaining than their "A" budget brethren. Marie Windsor played leads in "B" movies and supporting roles in "A" movies and she was never able to break out of the "B" movie rut. She had plenty of talent (she's superb in Kubrick's THE KILLING) and was attractive in a hard bitten post menopausal Joan Crawford sort of way and really deserved a better career. She really breathes some life into this murder mystery and when she's killed off, a bit of the movie dies with her. Directed by Franklin Adreon. With Fern Hall and Morris Ankrum.
On his way to a remote fortress, a Lieutenant (Paul Heidemann) is waylaid by a group of mountain bandits under the leadership of a feisty mountain girl (Pola Negri). They find themselves attracted to each other and she lets him go after stripping him of his clothes. The fort's commander (Victor Janson), however, has plans for the Lieutenant to marry his daughter (Edith Meller). This comedic farce courtesy of Ernst Lubitsch was difficult for me to get into. Not because of the film itself which seemed rather charming and I found Negri quite appealing. But for some reason, Lubitsch decided to shoot the film in various frame formats. Thus we watch the film square shaped, round shaped, eye shaped, road shaped, goblet shaped, egg shaped, even in the shape of a four leaf clover! It's a gimmick that doesn't enhance the viewing experience at all and indeed detracts from it! It was a frustrating watch. That aside, it had its moments and I liked the film's "unfairytale" conclusion.
In 1940 occupied France, a young novice nun (Patricia Roc) is arrested as a spy by the Germans and sent to an all female internment camp. The interment camp is a luxury hotel taken over by the Germans but her stay there proves uneventful until three downed RAF officers are hidden by the Englishwomen. This isn't a "serious" look at prisoners of war under Nazi occupation and there's an almost uncomfortable amount of comedy in the film. The lush hotel accommodations aren't that bad and about the worst that happens to the women is that they have to share the same bath water (which is rather gross). Since this is the 1940s, I suppose it's not surprising that some of the portrayals of the women are rather stereotypical such as being emotionally unstable to the point of betraying British soldiers because they've been personally rejected. If you don't take it too seriously, it's passable entertainment. Directed by Frank Launder (co-writer of THE LADY VANISHES). The large cast is almost a who's who of English actresses includes Phyllis Calvert, Flora Robson, Renee Houston, Jean Kent, Thora Hird, Anne Crawford and Dulcie Gray. The British flyers are played by Reginald Purdell, James McKechnie and Robert Arden (MR. ARKADIN).
During the course of a routine business visit, an insurance salesman (Richard Crenna) meets the attractive wife (Samantha Eggar) of a client (Arch Johnson). It becomes clear that the wife wants to get rid of her husband and the smitten insurance agent reluctantly becomes her accomplice. Based on the novel by James M. Cain by way of the classic Billy Wilder film noir (1944), this is the knock off dress you buy when you can't afford the Dior original. On its own terms, if the 1944 film had never existed, it's a competent if undistinguished potboiler that's modestly entertaining. But the 1944 film does exist and one can't help but compare the two versions. While Lee J. Cobb in Edward G. Robinson's old role is good enough (he keeps the ham in the oven), Crenna and Eggar (fine actors in their own right) suffer in comparison. Just in their line readings alone, they miss the darkly humorous irony of the dialogue. And it's an ugly looking film in bright colors which removes any atmosphere whatsoever unlike the Wilder film's moody shadow and light B&W cinematography. Unlike most fans of the 1944 film, I don't hate it at all, I find it an interesting if minor companion piece. But competent just doesn't cut it here. Directed by Jack Smight. With Robert Webber, John Fiedler and Kathleen Cody.
A traveling con man (Matthew Broderick) goes from town to town selling musical instruments and band uniforms to unsuspecting small town communities with promises that he will help teach them but he absconds as soon as he gets his money. But when he reaches River City in Iowa, he becomes more involved with the townspeople than usual and that proves his undoing ..... and his salvation. Meredith Willson's musical was a Broadway sensation in 1957 with Robert Preston. The film version, also with Preston, was one of 1962's biggest box office hits. Preston's performance is pretty iconic so Broderick has some big shoes to fill so he doesn't. By that I mean he doesn't attempt to replicate Preston's performance and goes in another direction. His Harold Hill is more low-keyed, more natural and less Broadway show stopper. It worked for me and proves that the show, not taking anything away from Preston's bravura performance, is not locked into the performance of one particular actor. Kristen Chenoweth makes for a charming Marian The Librarian and the director Jeff Bleckner directs with a strong hand. The film is aided immeasurably by Kathleen Marshall's lively choreography. Broderick is more of a dancer than Preston was so Marshall plays to his strength and uses him as a dancer as much as a singer. With Debra Monk, Victor Garber and Molly Shannon.
Set in 1950 Naples, a woman (Sophia Loren) struggles to be strong as she says goodbye to her lover (Enrico Lo Verso) for the last five years over the telephone. Based on the 1930 play LA VOIX HUMAINE by Jean Cocteau and directed by Loren's son, Edoardo Ponti. Cocteau's play is a tour de force for an actress. Anna Magnani did it on film in 1948 and Ingrid Bergman did it for television in 1967 and Francis Poulenc composed an opera in 1959 that is frequently performed. This film is a clearly a gift of love from a director son to his actress mother. But is it any good? Yes, it is. Even at the age of 80, Loren is up to the task and her acting is as vital as ever. I wouldn't call it a great performance but it's a performance full of anguish and passion and she's absolutely believable as a woman going through an emotional breakdown. Cocteau's play is a monologue but Ponti has added a small speaking part for Virginia Da Brescia as Loren's housekeeper. Transparent and poignant.
In 1912 London, a young wife and mother (Carey Mulligan) works as a laundress. When she reluctantly helps out a co-worker (Anne Marie Duff) by testifying in front of Parliament about voting rights for women, it is the beginning of her radicalization. Directed by Sarah Gavron, this is a well made but fairly predictable look at the early days of the women's movement in Great Britain. Considering how potent the subject matter is, it's surprising how often uninvolving the film often is. Indeed, the most powerful and affecting moments come at the very end when we see actual footage of the funeral of a suffragette who died for the cause which is followed by a scrawl listing how long it took for women to get the vote in many countries (1953 in Mexico! Really??). Mulligan gives a strong no nonsense performance but the supporting cast is very good too especially Helena Bonham Carter as a woman whose devotion to the cause is destroying her health. With Brendan Gleeson, Romola Garai, Ben Whishaw, Natalie Press and in a cameo, Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst.
A young violinist (William Holden) has boxing ambitions which his immigrant father (Lee J. Cobb, only 7 years older than Holden) disapproves of. When a struggling manager (Adolphe Menjou) takes him under his wing and he appears to be on his way, he has second thoughts about the path he has chosen. Based on the greatly admired play by Clifford Odets and directed by Rouben Mamoulian. I've not read Odets play but I can only assume the film is a pale shadow of it because the screenplay (there are 4 writers credited) is pretty dire. Surely Odets' play couldn't have been as soppy as this! This was Holden's first big part and his big break but he's still only promising here, his performance awkward enough to understand why the producers wanted to replace him (Barbara Stanwyck insisted that he stay). Cobb gives one of his overly hammy performances that contributed to his reputation as a scenery chewer. But there's Stanwyck, an actress almost incapable of giving a false reading, and Joseph Calleia as the mobster intent on taking over Holden's career who puts out a genuine sense of menace. A period piece that I would imagine would be tough going for most contemporary audiences. With Sam Levene, Edward Brophy and Don Beddoe.
In 1926 Copenhagen, the painter Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) develops a split personality. His other "identity" is that of a woman called Lili. His wife (Alicia Vikander) is understandably confused and afraid but she takes his journey with him right to the end. Directed by Tom Hooper (THE KING'S SPEECH), I was surprised at how much better the film was than I expected. I was expecting another "trapped in the wrong body" drama but THE DANISH GIRL is a love story between two people in a society that was not yet capable of understanding what a transgender person is. The film is every bit as much about Vikander's wife and her journey as it is about Redmayne's character. Indeed, when the film's title is mentioned in the film, it is Vikander they are referencing, not Redmayne. The film sticks to its 1926 time frame without resorting to 21st century insights or political correctness. The 32 year old Redmayne is actually much younger than the real Wegener who was already in his late 40s when he had his sexual reassignment surgery (historically, one of the first of its kind). Another incredible score by Alexandre Desplat. The excellent supporting cast includes Ben Whishaw (Q of the Bond films), Matthias Schoenaerts (RUST AND BONE), Sebastian Koch and Amber Heard.
A deputy (Stephen McNally) and his prisoner (Rory Calhoun) survive a plane crash off the California coast near the High Sierra mountains. A torrential rainstorm forces them to take shelter at the ranch of a sheltered girl (Jean Simmons) whose father (Brian Aherne) is away. The attraction between the girl and the prisoner is strong. Will she help him escape? John Farrow has directed some excellent films (BIG CLOCK, HONDO) but this parboiled semi-western isn't one of them. The film makes no sense, not really. Calhoun's prisoner is relatively free to escape at any time yet he hangs around and even if he's attracted to Simmons, surely he would escape first and come back later. The film's jaw dropping (and not in a good way) "happy" ending has to be seen to be believed. The lovely and talented Simmons is always a welcome presence and brings some much needed appeal to the film but even her presence can't save it from being anything more than a miscalculation. The noise, I mean score is by Dimitri Tiomkin.
An ex-Army veteran (Robert Montgomery, who also directed) arrives in a small village in New Mexico looking for a man (Fred Clark) that he holds responsible for a friend's death. But his mission doesn't turn out to be as simple as he thought. Based on a novel by Dorothy B. Hughes (IN A LONELY PLACE), this film noir is greatly admired by a certain faction. While I can't share their enthusiasm, it's a solid piece of craftsmanship. What keeps me from embracing it is Montgomery the actor. I just didn't buy his tough guy act, he tries too hard to be convincing and the more he tries the more unconvincing he is. As a director though, he's on solid ground and with the assistance of his ace cinematographer Russell Metty (TOUCH OF EVIL), he creates an atmosphere rich in foreboding shadows and ambience. While Montgomery's protagonist is fairly uninteresting, the minor characters are much more colorful and compelling. Among them the carousel owner (Thomas Gomez in an Oscar nominated performance), the femme fatale (Andrea King) and the government man (Art Smith). With Wanda Hendrix, miscast as an Indian but she's good, Richard Gaines and John Doucette.
In 19th century Russia, a married woman (Claire Bloom) risks it all for love when she abandons her husband (Albert Lieven), child and reputation for a handsome Count (Sean Connery). Yet another version of the classic Leo Tolstoy novel, this time by way of the play by Marcelle Maurette (ANASTASIA). This more a highlights from ANNA KARENINA as it leaves out chunks of the novel including important supporting characters and it's a typical "tasteful" BBC (meaning culture for the middle classes) offering. But there is a reason to watch it ..... Claire Bloom! To drag out the old cliche, it's a role she was born to play. Bloom brings so much to part that isn't necessarily in the script. You can hear the passion in her voice, see the pain in her face, this isn't a by the numbers fancy costume performance, there's a real woman in there and Bloom brings all of Anna's burning intensity, conflict and agony to the forefront. It also helps to have the virile young pre-Bond Connery as Vronsky. You can understand why Anna would wreck her life and social standing for this man. Who would do that for Fredric March? Directed by Rudolph Cartier. With Patricia Laffan, Jack Watling, June Thorburn and Valerie Taylor.
An ex- mobster (Edmond O'Brien) hires a down on his luck press agent (Tom Ewell) to turn his girlfriend (Jayne Mansfield) into a big recording star. There are two problems: one, the agent and the girl find themselves falling in love and two, she can't sing! This delightful satire on rock 'n roll is wittily executed but it also serves as a time capsule of sorts. A document of the early emerging sounds of the rock 'n roll that would soon take over the music industry. The film was hugely influential on two future rock stars, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. As directed by Frank Tashlin, the film is a live action cartoon and Tashlin wickedly pushes the mammary jokes as far as he can as Mansfield plays a scene holding two large bottles of milk to her ample bosom. Mansfield is in on the joke and indeed plays it to the hilt. So if you are into the early days of rock 'n roll or a fan of Tashlin's turning animation into live action, the film should be a treat. With Julie London, Henry Jones, Juanita Moore, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Eddie Cochran, The Platters, Gene Vincent, Abbey Lincoln, John Emery and The Platters.
Living at home, a young returning vet (Emilio Estevez) has problems readjusting to peacetime conditions. His father (Martin Sheen) and mother (Kathy Bates) seem oblivious to what he is going through and only his sister (Kimberly Williams, FATHER OF THE BRIDE) seems to understand that there even is a problem. Based on the play HOMEFRONT by James Duff (who also wrote the screenplay) and sensitively directed by Estevez, this is an incredibly moving and potent film, not only about post traumatic stress disorder but a dysfunctional family unable to communicate. Barely released by Touchstone Pictures (a Disney subsidiary) in 1996, the film has attracted a strong following and remains one of the most powerful films dealing with the aftermath of soldiers returning from Viet Nam and adjusting to a society that (at that time) doesn't comprehend the emotional stress they went through. Unlike mediocrities like COMING HOME (1978) or BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY (1989), the film doesn't have the liberal pat yourself on the back taint. This one comes from the heart. Estevez's assured direction disguises the film's theatrical origins even though it is heavily driven by dialogue. A real heartbreaker of a film. With Carla Gugino, Geoffrey Blake and Penelope Allen.
When a glamorous movie star (Hedy Lamarr) is rescued from a falling light on a movie set by a background actor (George Nader), she finds herself attracted to him. She offers him a job as a caretaker at her beach house. He finds himself attracted to a young girl (Jane Powell) who lives life in the fast lane. But he's unaware she's the movie star's daughter! This B&W melodrama wants to be torrid but its screenplay is substandard. The most interesting aspect of the film is the mother/daughter relationship and sharing the same lover. But unlike THE GRADUATE or MILDRED PIERCE, it's not developed fully but used more for titillation than anything else. Granted the writing just isn't there but poor Hedy Lamarr (still looking great at 44) can't even manage the simplest of lines with any believability. Powell in a rare dramatic role fares better until she gets to a drunk scene and then she's just awful and Nader does his acting by taking his shirt off. Best of all is Jan Sterling as a bitter washed up film star who manages to walk off with the movie. This would be Lamarr's last film role. Directed by Harry Keller. With James Gleason, Ann Doran, Jerry Paris, Mabel Albertson, Gregg Palmer and Max Showalter.
A young girl (Ossi Oswalda) frustrates her Uncle (Ferry Sikla) and governess (Margarete Kupfer) with her tomboyish behavior. She smokes, plays poker and goes joy riding. But when her Uncle is called away on business, her new guardian (Curt Goetz) puts a firm rein on her behavior. She decides to dress as a man and go out in the world. This Ernst Lubitsch comedy is charming and lively. While the heroine's conclusion that it's very hard to be a man (in a man's world?) is debatable, Lubitsch's playing with gender stereotypes is interesting and even daring for its time. Most startling in a scene where she and her male guardian, who thinks she's a boy, make out in the back seat of a car! But even in 1918, the famous Lubitsch "touch" seems firmly in place. There's not much more to it than the one "joke" but Lubitsch keeps it short (the film runs under an hour) so that it doesn't wear out its welcome and repeating itself.
At a school for training gladiators, a slave turned gladiator (Kirk Douglas) incites a rebellion against their masters. Leading an army of former slaves that continues to grow, he strikes fear in the hearts of the Roman senate and the patrician population. The greatest of the Hollywood epics! The film was begun by Anthony Mann but he was fired after a few weeks and replaced by Stanley Kubrick. After years of writing scripts under pseudonyms because of the Hollywood blacklist, Dalton Trumbo was able to use his own name for the first time in over ten years. Unlike most Hollywood epics, it's an intelligent and literate screenplay that complements Kubrick's concise direction, Russell Metty's excellent cinematography (though reputedly Kubrick shot a large portion of the film), Alex North's great score and the excellent acting. Most of the film was shot on the Universal backlot but you'd never know it. Unlike much of Universal's 60s and 70s output, it has a rich and elegant sheen to it. A beautifully crafted film. The massive cast includes Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Tony Curtis, Peter Ustinov (in an Oscar winning perforamnce), John Gavin, Nina Foch, John Ireland, Herbert Lom, Woody Strode, Charles McGraw, Joanna Barnes, John Dall and George Kennedy.
The sheriff (John Wayne) of Rio Bravo arrests a man (Claude Akins) who's killed an innocent bystander. The man's brother (John Russell), a powerful rancher, gathers a gang and applies pressure to the sheriff to release his brother. The sheriff's only three allies are a drunk (Dean Martin), a green kid (Ricky Nelson) and an old man (Walter Brennan). Reputedly, Howard Hawks made RIO BRAVO in response to his dislike of HIGH NOON. But the films style are quite different. HIGH NOON was a tight economical (it runs under 90 minutes) suspenseful western while RIO BRAVO takes its time at a more languid pace (it pushes the 2 1/2 hour mark). It also has a lot more humor. The specter of Bogart and Bacall hover over the scenes between Wayne and Angie Dickinson (in her breakthrough role) which isn't surprising considering the writers also wrote Hawks' THE BIG SLEEP. Only Ricky Nelson, who's given two musical interludes, seems like a fish out of water though he's not detrimental to the film. I don't hold the film in the high esteem that most critics do but I still think it's a wonderful movie. With Ward Bond, Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez and Estelita Rodriguez.
A man (Dan Duryea) breaks into a recently married couple's home and kills the husband (Terence Cooper, 1967's CASINO ROYALE) and demands payment from the wife (Patricia Owens, THE FLY) for killing him. He flees but when he's arrested, he insists he was hired by the wife to kill her husband which she vehemently denies. Is the man an unbalanced stalker? Is the wife a diabolical double crosser? Or is there perhaps more to the story than first meets the eye. This little "B" movie from Great Britain has an intriguing premise but the writing is so stilted and simplistic that it plays out like an above average offering from an ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS or THRILLER episode. Duryea's character is ill conceived but he plays him to the hilt while Owens is suitably "did she or didn't she" ambiguous so we're not really sure what's going through her head. The revelation is clever and satisfactory but the amateurish acting of David Bauer near ruins it. Directed by Frank Nesbitt. With Richard Leech and Shirley Cameron as Duryea's girlfriend and the most sympathetic character in the film.
Over the sky in Naples one day, a voice announces that God will pronounce his last judgement on mankind at 6:00 that evening. The reactions of the population is varied from skeptical to an attempt to rectify their past sins. Directed by Vittorio De Sica (who also acts in it), this satire is a patchwork quilt of a movie. The huge eclectic international ensemble cast ranges from Anouk Aimee to Jimmy Durante! It's really a series of vignettes intercut with each other until all the unrelated characters are united at an elaborate dance at the film's end. The first portion of the film has its moments but when the "last judgement" comes, it falls as flat as a pancake. A musical number about race relations? Really? One can't help but think Mel Brooks did this kind of thing so much better. There is a rain sequence which everyone thinks is the coming of another flood that is very well done though. All in all, a disappointment but there are enough good things (like Alberto Sordi's performance as a man who buys children and exports them to the U.S.) that made the viewing worthwhile. Also in the cast: Melina Mercouri, Jack Palance, Silvana Mangano, Vittorio Gassman, Ernest Borgnine, Fernandel, Akim Tamiroff, Nino Manfredi, Paolo Stoppa, Eleonora Brown and Lino Ventura.
Prior to her death, the previous M (Judi Dench) orders James Bond (Daniel Craig) to "unofficially" track down and kill a man (Alessandro Cremona) in Mexico. But this is merely the start of a journey where Bond must confront his past and deeply buried secrets. SKYFALL was a high point in the Bond franchise and it would be too much to expect SPECTRE to equal it much less top it. That being said, despite a weak third act which can't fulfill the promise of the first two acts, it's still a worthy successor. The film maintains the dark and complex issues that faced Bond in the last entry but as its title indicates, it also makes a connection to the earlier classic Bonds. Indeed, I couldn't help but break out in a grin when the white cat makes its first appearance since FOR YOUR EYES ONLY. Lea Seydoux (BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR) makes for a welcome addition to the gallery of Bond women, more flesh and blood than a male fantasy. Christoph Waltz as the Bond villain seems to have used up his bag of acting tricks or maybe I've become too used to him. Thomas Newman's score is a big improvement over SKYFALL, he seems to be more comfortable in the Bond universe this time around and Sam Smith's title song works a lot better in the context of the film's opening credits. Directed with style by Sam Mendes. With Ralph Fiennes as the new M, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw (proving to be a welcome inclusion to the series), Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista and the drab Andrew Scott.
Set in the upscale suburbs of Connecticut, an older but athletic man (Burt Lancaster) decides to swim his way home by way of the various swimming pools along the way. But as his journey progresses, we begin to suspect that something is terribly wrong. Based on a short story by John Cheever (originally published in the New Yorker), adapted for the screen by Eleanor Perry and directed by her spouse, Frank Perry (MOMMIE DEAREST). The film had a troubled history, friction between Lancaster and director Perry, actress Barbara Loden being replaced by Janice Rule and Sydney Pollack brought in to direct her scenes and it was rather unenthusiastically received when released. It has since been reappraised and admired by contemporary critical factions and has a strong cult following. The film is a very nice cinematic approximation of a good short story and it doesn't overplay its hand when it comes to the film's stylized, almost surreal evocation. Outside of Janice Rule and Janet Landgard, the other parts are brief and it's a tribute to the solid actors that some of them are able to make an impression in so short a time. Lancaster is in every scene and it's one of his very best performances. The memorable score is by Marvin Hamlisch. The large cast includes Kim Hunter, Joan Rivers, Charles Drake, Marge Champion, Diana Muldaur, Cornelia Otis Skinner, Dolph Sweet, Louise Troy, Bernie Hamilton, Jan Miner and Rose Gregorio
In the private chambers of a domestic court judge (Madge Kennedy), a husband (Aldo Ray) and wife (Judy Holliday) on the verge of divorce retrace their bumpy relationship in flashback. With George Cukor in the director's chair and a screenplay by Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon and the enormously appealing Holliday and Ray in the lead roles, is it too much to expect something better? Oh, it's not bad at all mind you but it is rather pedestrian. Clearly, the intent of the script is to show us that in spite of their differences, this couple belongs together. But from what we're shown, they don't belong together. Over 90 minutes of constant bickering, unreasonable demands and hollering at each other and one wants to scream "just leave him/her!". While it's nice that the protagonists are a struggling working class couple instead of the usual (for its day) upper class couple (think ADAM'S RIB), there's no balance in the film. When the most affecting moments in the film surround the death of a child, you know the writers have run out of ideas. Thankfully, Holliday and Aldo Ray have a genuine chemistry that steamrolls over the movie's tiresome battles. With Peggy Cass, Mickey Shaughnessy, Charles Bronson, Nancy Kulp, John Alexander and Joan Shawlee.
While staying in a large forbidding old mansion, a young woman (Joan Blondell) is stabbed to death in her bedroom. Since she switched bedrooms with her best friend (Carole Landis), it's clear that it's the friend who was the intended victim. The "ghost" of the dead girl coerces a neighbor (Roland Young) into helping her solve the murder. The third and final TOPPER film is may lack the glamour and sophistication of the first film but if you're a fan (as I am) of old dark house murder mysteries with secret doors, revolving walls, ghosts haunting and masked killers on the loose then this one is for you. It's a comedy, of course, rather than a fright movie but everything comes at you so quickly that you're clinging to every quip lest you miss a punchline. The real scene stealer here is Billie Burke as Topper's ditzy wife ("Isn't it strange that it's always cold in the winter and so warm in the summer?") whose deliveries had me grinning all the way through the movie. Truly, they don't make them like this anymore. Directed by Roy Del Ruth. With Dennis O'Keefe, Eddie Rochester Anderson, Patsy Kelly, George Zucco, H.B. Warner and Donald MacBride.
A beautiful widow (Raquel Welch) and a hard drinking sailor (Jack Thompson, BREAKER MORANT) are shipwrecked on a deserted island after the ship they were on goes down during a storm at sea. Their relationship is antagonistic at first but its not long before an attraction begins to bloom. Movies about a man and a woman being shipwrecked on a desert island are common enough to almost be a genre onto itself. This one adds a touch of THE AFRICAN QUEEN to the mix and if you're in the mood, this can be a pleasant time waster. For fans of Raquel, we're treated to the closest to nudity she's done on film including sex scenes. Fortunately, she and Thompson have a nice low key chemistry and it's also nice to see a rather ordinary (and not so young) bloke romancing the glamour girl instead of the usual hunk. The lush island setting and an adorable mutt only add to the attraction. Sure it's a string of cliches tied together but no one was expecting THE AFRICAN QUEEN. Directed by Di Drew. With Nicholas Hammond and John Gregg.
A disillusioned somewhat cynical writer (Leslie Howard) hitchhiking through the Arizona desert finds himself at a small diner where a young girl (Bette Davis) with artistic aspirations waits on tables. Meanwhile, a notorious fugitive killer (Humphrey Bogart) is reported to be in the vicinity as an approaching sandstorm heads their way. Based on the Broadway play by Robert Sherwood with Howard and Bogart repeating their stage roles and Archie Mayo in the director's chair. Its theatrical origins intact (this is one talky piece), the film is surprisingly engrossing just the same. Howard's reading of Sherwood's faux existentialist dialogue gets tiresome after awhile but the fresh Davis and the wound up Bogart (like a spring waiting to uncoil) provide some much needed keenness to their performances. Some nice supporting work by Charley Grapewin as Davis's grandfather and Genevieve Tobin as an unhappily married woman. With Dick Foran, Joe Sawyer, Porter Hall and Paul Harvey.
A luxury Boeing 747 carrying art treasures is hijacked by thieves but by flying too low to avoid radar detection, it hits an offshore oil drilling platform and crashes into the sea. It's a race against time as sea water slowly penetrates the submerged airliner while waiting to be rescued. The third entry in the AIRPORT franchise, this is the second best in the series. It doesn't have that cut rate cheapness that AIRPORT 1975 had and it's superior in every way to the worst of the batch, THE CONCORDE - AIRPORT 79. The premise is intriguing enough to override the worst parts of the film and the logistics of rescuing a submerged plane and the execution of the rescue are compelling. On the downside are the trite dialogue and (mostly) poor acting. There are so many minor characters that we don't get to know so how can we possibly care about them? The actors seem to know they only have a few minutes to make an impression so they overact. Somehow Lee Grant as an unhappy bitchy wife manages to give a characterization that resembles an actual human being. The rest of the cast doesn't fare so well. Directed by Jerry Jameson. The massive cast includes Jack Lemmon, James Stewart, Olivia De Havilland, Christopher Lee, Brenda Vaccaro, Darren McGavin, Joseph Cotten, George Kennedy, Kathleen Quinlan, Robert Foxworth, Pamela Bellwood, Monica Lewis, Robert Hooks and James Booth.
In 16th century England, the Lord Chancellor Of England (Paul Scofield) refuses to sign a letter to the Pope asking him to annul the marriage between Henry VIII (Robert Shaw) and Catherine of Aragon so that the King will be free to marry Anne Boleyn (Vanessa Redgrave). Based on the play by Robert Bolt (who adapted his play for the screen) and directed by Fred Zinnemann (FROM HERE TO ETERNITY). This is a handsomely mounted production but in terms of pure cinema, it's lacking. But it more than makes up for it with its intelligent and literate script and the superlative acting. Not all movies need to move and a dearth of style or a visual sense are replaced by a cerebral film of ideals. In other words, it's basically a filmed play where any attempt at style would detract from what the film is trying to say. Normally I find films of this sort a bit of a slog but this is one of the best of its kind. Scofield's wonderful performance and the screenplay make Sir Thomas More an admirable idealist without being sanctimonious. The minimalist score is by Georges Delerue. With Orson Welles, Wendy Hiller, Susannah York, Leo McKern, John Hurt, Nigel Davenport, Corin Redgrave and Yootha Joyce.
As a young actress (Anne Baxter) receives a coveted award, several people at the ceremony reflect on her rise to the top and the lives she damaged climbing the ladder of success: a playwright's wife (Celeste Holm), a theater critic (George Sanders) and the actress (Bette Davis) whose life and career she desired. There are some films that are so well written and acted that they hold up to multiple viewings without one ever tiring of them. This is one of them. Based on a short story by Mary Orr (loosely based on an incident in actress Elisabeth Bergner's life), this is probably the best film ever made about the "theater". Joseph L. Mankiewicz's screenplay drips with acid and wit. Its story may be slight but the joy is in the journey. It's only flaw is that Baxter's Eve is just a little too obvious that you wonder how so many could have been taken in so easily and Baxter, who's excellent, is not the force of nature that Davis (at her very best here) is so it's improbable that she could take her place. But that's all nitpicking. The pleasures of the film are so great that the quibbles don't damage the film at all. With Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Gregory Ratoff, Barbara Bates, Thelma Ritter and at the beginning of her career and already showing sign of the megaStar she would become, Marilyn Monroe.