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Thursday, August 17, 2017

City Lights (1931)

A happy go lucky tramp (Charlie Chaplin) meets a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill) who lives in poverty with her grandmother (Florence Lee). She mistakes him for a millionaire and he does nothing to dissuade her and when she needs an operation, he goes to work to get the money. I'm not Chaplin's biggest fan and I can see why some are not taken with him. That being said, this is Chaplin's masterpiece and considered by many one of the greatest films of all time and I won't disagree with them. Indeed, the film is highly regarded by Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini, Woody Allen and Andrei Tarkovsky as one of the great films. This is Chaplin at his best, balancing pratfalls and pathos with equal dexterity. You may find yourself chuckling through out the movie but the film's final moments are among the most heartbreaking in all cinema. By 1931, talkies were in full force but Chaplin's insistence on making it a silent film didn't hurt the film at all as it was one of Chaplin's biggest hits. Even if Chaplin or silent cinema isn't your "thing", this should be mandatory viewing to anyone remotely interested in film. It's about as close to perfection as cinema gets. With Harry Myers as the drunken millionaire.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tom Horn (1980)

A famed but notorious scout and gunfighter (Steve McQueen) is hired by a cattleman's association to investigate and deter cattle rustling. But when he becomes too good at the job he was hired to do, the association decides to cut ties with him. Based on the writings of the real Tom Horn and directed by William Wiard (mostly known for his TV episodic work), this underrated western is a sparse but straightforward film. Beautifully shot in earth tones (not a splash of red, yellow or green) by John Alonzo (CHINATOWN) in Arizona locations. The character of Tom Horn is a perfect fit for Steve McQueen in one of his last film roles. But as written, the character is problematic. He seems so complicit in his own destruction that it's hard to be sympathetic. Historically, whether he was guilty of the murder for which he was hung is still debated. The film itself is only slightly ambiguous but seems to favor the "not guilty" charge. That the film works is surprising considering its troubled history. It went through 3 directors (including Don Siegel) before Wiard was brought in to finish the film. With a deglamorized Linda Evans in her best performance as a frontier schoolmarm, Richard Farnsworth, Billy Green Bush, Slim Pickens and Elisha Cook.    

Brand (1959)

A religious fanatic (Patrick McGoohan) returns to the Norwegian mountains of his childhood where he becomes the village priest. But he is a hard unforgiving man who believes in the often cold and cruel God of the Old Testament and he places near impossible responsibility on his parishioners and even his own wife (Dilys Hamlett). Based on the play by Henrik Ibsen and directed by Michael Elliott. If an artist, like Ibsen, is great then it stands to reason that therefore everything he writes is great. But BRAND gives rise to the notion that even great writers have their off days/plays. I'll concede that BRAND probably reads better on the page than when played out on stage where it's a rather dull play with ideas on God and faith and one's duty to God are bantered about to the point of exhaustion. It doesn't help that McGoohan's performance is a really bad imitation of Richard Burton and he's played or at least comes off very unsympathetically. With Patrick Wymark and Peter Sallis.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

From Here To Eternity (2014)

Set in a 1941 army base in Hawaii in the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. A career Sergeant (Darius Campbell) falls in love with his Captain's (Martin Marquez) wife (Rebecca Thornhill) and a private (Robert Lonsdale) fall in love with a prostitute (Siubhan Harrison) who works in a Waikiki brothel. Directed by Tamara Harvey, this musical is based on the James Jones novel, not the 1953 film adaptation. The idea of a musical version of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY sounds ghastly but it's not bad at all though wildly uneven. The musical restores the brothel and the prostitutes, the venereal disease and the gay sex in the military that were all removed from the 1953 film. The songs (music by Stuart Brayson and lyrics by EVITA's Tim Rice) are a mixed lot but generally weak. The film is basically a straight on filmed play performance. The two male leads have strong voices but are weak actors while the 2 leading ladies fortunately are strong in both departments. The fifth major character Maggio (Ryan Sampson) is not a singer so he talk/sings his way thru his big number but he's a strong actor so he pulls it off. With the addition of the songs, it leaves very little room for in depth characterization so it helps if you're familiar with the novel or the 1953 movie. The choreography by Javier De Frutos is uneven. The numbers with the soldiers looks like their doing calisthenics rather than dancing but the big number in the brothel with the hookers is a dance highlight. I think the material might have played smoother as an opera rather than as a musical. The Pearl Harbor attack is done with slow motion and lighting and looks rather tacky and the final number sounds a LES MISERABLES reject.   

Ride In The Whirlwind (1966)

Three drifters (Jack Nicholson, Cameron Mitchell, Tom Filer) wander into the hideout of a group of stagecoach robbers by chance. When the law comes to take the robbers in, they assume the drifters are part of the gang and when they escape, they are pursued as outlaws. Directed by Monte Hellman from a screenplay by Nicholson, this western was shot back to back with Hellman's THE SHOOTING which had some of the same cast. Like that existential western, this one is equally fatalistic. The cowboys here are victims of circumstance by being in the wrong place at the wrong time which seals their fate. Beautifully shot in Utah by Gregory Sandor (De Palma's SISTERS), the film's rich look belies the film's minimal budget restrictions. Never released theatrically in the U.S. (it went straight to TV), it was released in Europe where it was a hit and played in Paris for six months. It has since moved from cult status to a critically acclaimed western. With Millie Perkins, Harry Dean Stanton, George Mitchell, Rupert Crosse and Katherine Squire.  

Monday, August 14, 2017

Greenwich Village (1944)

A young composer (Don Ameche) from Kansas arrives in 1922 Greenwich Village with the hopes of having his concerto performed. But when he falls in love with a nightclub singer (Vivian Blaine), the club's owner (William Bendix) isn't pleased since he has designs on her himself. Directed by Walter Lang (THE KING AND I), this Technicolor piece of cinematic cotton candy should be more fun than it its. It's creaky storyline could be forgiven if the musical numbers were good but they're a dull lot. Not even Carmen Miranda in her platform heels and fruit salad headgear can liven things up. The movie's chief asset is Leon Shamroy's (PLANET OF THE APES) eye popping three strip Technicolor lensing. Three notable names make their feature film debut here: Judy Holliday, Betty Comden and Adolph Green but their parts have all been cut out of the film leaving them briefly seen in a party scene. With Felix Bressart and B.S. Pully, who manages to get a few laughs. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1972)

A wealthy widow (Shelley Winters) hosts an annual Christmas party for the local orphanage at her mansion. But this Christmas, she becomes taken with a little girl (Chloe Franks, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC) who resembles her deceased daughter. This does not please the girl's brother (Mark Lester, OLIVER). Directed by Curtis Harrington, this is an updating of the fairy tale HANSEL AND GRETEL. Only this one has a twist. Instead of being poor little innocents, the children are ungrateful brats who are also murderers, liars and thieves (they steal the widow's jewelry). This has the effect (at least for me) of making the mentally unhinged "witch" perversely sympathetic! Winters is deliciously over the top here which livens up the movie considerably. Has anyone overacted by simply eating an apple before? Harrington appears to encourage the self knowing humor whenever possible but never quite crossing over into "camp". Rather fun! With Ralph Richardson, Hugh Griffith, Lionel Jeffries, Rosalie Crutchley, Pat Heywood and Michael Gothard.

The Glass Castle (2017)

In 1989 Manhattan, a magazine journalist (Brie Larson) reflects on her childhood and growing up with irresponsible counter culture parents (Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts). Growing up in poverty, going hungry and the parents skipping town every time the bill collectors are after them. Based on the autobiographical book by Jeannette Walls and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. I haven't read Walls' non fiction book but I suspect it's richer in detail and complexity than the film we're given. There's a lot to admire in Cretton's film especially the quality of the acting. But Walls' journey to forgiveness of her father (who's an alcoholic abuser) just seems to come so easily in the film. One moment she's outraged and refuses to ever see him again and suddenly we're in an episode of THE WALTONS. It's not so easy to overlook the abuse and near psychotic behavior of Harrelson's father and to a far lesser extent Watts' mother. So when the movie goes all Oprah on us, there's a certain amount of resentment. It's not fair of me to judge a life I've never lived through but it's the film maker's responsibility to get me to empathize. I didn't. Still, there's no denying the emotional power of many of the scenes in the film and it's worth seeing for the actors if nothing else. With Max Greenfield and Ella Anderson and Chandler Head playing the younger versions of Larson. 

Madame de... (aka The Earrings Of Madame de...) (1953)

The wife (Danielle Darrieux) of a French aristocrat (Charles Boyer) has debts to pay because of her spending. Without telling her husband, she sells an expensive pair of diamond earrings that her husband gave her to relieve her debts. But those earrings will return to her and play a pivotal part in her destruction. Based on the novel by Leveque de Vilmorin and directed by Max Ophuls, this is one of the most exquisite pieces of cinema. While Ophuls' technique has never been more brilliantly on display (the ball montage designating the passage of time is remarkable), this is not just a visual film. Like his previous masterpiece LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN, Ophuls delves into an obsessive love that literally kills its heroine. Darrieux's Madame de is a heartbreaking creature, a shallow pretty thing completely unprepared for the flood of passion that envelops her to the point of no return. All three leads are superb. Vittorio De Sica's performance as her lover reminds us that not only was he one of cinema's great directors but an excellent actor too. With Jean Debucourt, Mireille Perrey and Lia De Leo.  

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Between Heaven And Hell (1956)

It's 1945 during WWII and on a remote Pacific island, a sergeant (Robert Wagner) who has been busted to a private for assaulting an officer reflects on his life before the war. Based on the novel by Francis Gwaltney and directed by Richard Fleischer (THE VIKINGS). As a war movie, it's decent enough without ever rising to anything special but there are two interesting aspects of the film, one of which is underdeveloped. The flashback sequences to Wagner's life before the war as a wealthy Southern cotton farmer who exploits his sharecroppers against his wife's (Terry Moore) wishes suggests something more complicated than we're given here. It seems more like superficial exposition than anything and else and indeed, although second billed Terry Moore's role consists of very little screen time. The most interesting portion of the film involves Broderick Crawford in the film's best performance as a possibly psychotic and definitely paranoid Army Captain. The film's portrait of army life is hardly jingoistic and often unflattering which sets it off from most routine WII war flicks. The Oscar nominated underscore is by Hugo Friedhofer. With Buddy Ebsen (terrible!), Robert Keith, Brad Dexter, Mark Damon, Frank Gorshin, Skip Homeier and Ken Clark. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Go Naked In The World (1961)

Returning home after a stint in the Army, a young man (Anthony Franciosa) is trying to move out of the shadow of his domineering Greek father (Ernest Borgnine). He falls in love with a beautiful woman (Gina Lollobrigida), who at first discourages his attention. What he doesn't know is that she's one of Manhattan's highest paid call girls! Based on the novel by Tom T. Chamales and directed by Ranald MacDougall, this is essentially an updated version of CAMILLE. While it's quite blunt and frank (for its day) about Lollobrigida's profession, this is still 1961 Hollywood. You can't be a whore and live and although she doesn't die of consumption like Garbo in the 1936 film, she's still punished by death. Funny how a hooker's clients are never punished in these movies. Sexual frankness aside, it doesn't do the movie much good as the dialog is dreadful. Even taking that into account, there's no accounting for Borgnine's awful performance! For fans of Lollobrigida, she looks stunning in her Helen Rose creations and though that's a meager asset, it's something at least. With Luana Patten, Will Kuluva and Nancy R. Pollock.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

White Woman (1933)

Set in Malaya, after her husband commits suicide under mysterious circumstances, a woman (Carole Lombard) is shunned by the British community. When she resorts to singing in a "native" nightclub in order to support herself, the white community insists she be deported. She agrees to marry a plantation owner (Charles Laughton) just to escape their persecution. But when he turns out to be a sadistic madman, things grow worse. Based on the play HANGMAN'S WHIP by Norman Reilly Raine and Frank Butler and directed by Stuart Walker. This pre-code potboiler is one of those movies where the tropic nights are humid and native drums beat all night long while "forbidden" love flourishes. It all sounds more fun than it actually is. It's weird but Laughton is relatively restrained here yet he still seems to be overacting! The most interesting character is the crude plantation overseer played by Charles Bickford who still manages to be appealing. This being a pre-code, the violence (decapitations, monkeys shot to death) is a bit more in your face than other films of the 30s. With Kent Taylor, Percy Kilbride (the most sympathetic character in the film), Ethel Griffies and Marc Lawrence.  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Road To Rio (1947)

Two out of work musicians (Bing Crosby, Bob Hope) stowaway on a cruise liner going to Rio De Janeiro in Brazil. On board, they meet a young woman (Dorothy Lamour) who is being forced to marry the brother (George Meeker) of her guardian (Gale Sondergaard). Directed by Norman Z. McLeod, this was the last Crosby/Hope/Lamour Road picture of the 1940s and there would be only two more (in 1952 and 1962). This is one of the best ones with some of Crosby and Hope's best gags and routines. If you're a fan of the series, you've probably already seen it and if you're not, if given half a chance you're likely to fall under its featherbrained spell. The supporting cast is good notably Gale Sondergaard at her villainess best and there's a trio of goofballs by name of the Wiere Brothers. There also several musical numbers which are painless including a duet between Crosby and The Andrews Sisters. With Frank Faylen, Joseph Vitale and Jerry Colonna.  

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Follies In Concert (1986)

A group of showgirls from the Weismann Follies in the 1940s reunite in the 1970s. But there are ghosts from the past in the theater that will take them back and confront their younger selves. Originally produced in 1971 where it was a critical success but not a financial one, Stephen Sondheim's musical may well be his masterpiece. In 1985, a staged concert of his musical directed by Herbert Ross (STEEL MAGNOLIAS) has taken on near legendary proportions. As thrilling as this document is of that night, it's frustrating because it's not complete. We're given bits and pieces of the production and even some of the full length numbers are abbreviated for the documentary. The first half is devoted to the rehearsals, the actors discuss the show and we see them in rehearsal. The second half is devoted to the concert itself. And what performers! The great Barbara Cook (who died this week) is a heartbreaking Sally and Elaine Stritch, whose upstaging of the other performers becomes irritating, kills it with her rendition of Broadway Baby. I'm grateful for this archival record of the production but it's such a teaser making us hungry to see it all! The excellent cast includes Lee Remick, Carol Burnett, George Hearn, Phyllis Newman, Adolph Green, Betty Comden, Andre Gregory and Liliane Montevecchi. 

The Mysterious Lady (1928)

A Captain (Conrad Nagel) in the German army falls under the spell of a Russian seductress (Greta Garbo). They fall in love but it is only later that he discovers she is spy for the Russian government and when she steals secret plans from him, he is declared a traitor and sent to prison. Based on the novel WAR IN THE DARK by Ludwig Wolff and directed by Fred Niblo (1925's BEN-HUR). Ah, the divine Garbo! One of the great faces in cinema history. This romantic spy drama isn't one of Garbo's best vehicles but it's enough to bathe in her extraordinary presence and star power which is in full display here. She more than makes up for the lump that is Conrad Nagel. The print that I saw had a marvelous score by Vivek Maddala which only accentuates how important music is to silent cinema. With Gustav von Seyffertitz.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Migrants (1974)

A family of migrant workers goes where the work is. Picking crops and eking out a living that allows them to exist and nothing more. The son (Ron Howard) hopes for something more but everything seems against him. Based on a story by Tennessee Williams and adapted by the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Lanford Wilson (FIFTH OF JULY) and directed by Tom Gries (WILL PENNY). This is a wonderful film! Simply told without sentiment and an eye that allows us to view these disenfranchised people with empathy. Anchored by a superb performance by Cloris Leachman as the family's matriarch. Without any dialog at all, her ravaged face saying so much more about these folks than all of the cloying twaddle of Ford's THE GRAPES OF WRATH and her final angry outburst is heartbreaking and you'll never forget David Clennon's death scene. Definitely worth seeking out. With Sissy Spacek, Cindy Williams, Ed Lauter (unexpectedly weak), Claudia McNeil and Brad Sullivan.  

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Earth Girls Are Easy (1989)

Three furry multi colored aliens: blue (Jeff Goldblum), orange (Jim Carrey) and green (Damon Wayans) have their spaceship crash in a pool in the California's San Fernando Valley. The three are taken under the wing of the flighty manicurist (Geena Davis) who lives in the house with the pool. Directed by Julien Temple (ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS), this delightful musical comedy has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek and while at times it seems all over the map, its silliness is hard to resist. Its failure at the box office suggests audiences weren't quite sure what they were getting but the film has developed a strong cult following. It's also a chance to see Jim Carrey and Daman Wayans exercising their comedy chops shortly before they became big name Hollywood players. It's absurd but that's part of its charm. The film's musical numbers are clearly influenced by the style of the music videos then constantly rotating on MTV. With Julie Brown, Michael McKean, Charles Rocket and L.A. phenomenon Angelyne (those outside of L.A. may not know who she is/was).

Boccaccio 70 (1962)

An anthology of four short films by four different directors: 1) A young married couple (Marisa Solinas, Germano Gilioli) must keep their marriage a secret in order to keep their jobs. Directed by Mario Monicelli (BIG DEAL ON MADONNA STREET). 2) The self appointed judge of public morality (Peppino De Filippo) is outraged when a sexy billboard of Anita Ekberg is put up in front of his building. Directed by Federico Fellini. 3) After her husband (Tomas Milian) is caught in a public scandal involving call girls, his wife (Romy Schneider) devises her own revenge. Directed by Luchino Visconti. 4) In order to help out a friend who owes taxes, a statuesque beauty (Sophia Loren) offers her body in a raffle. Directed by Vittorio De Sica. The first segment was originally cut from the release print but has been restored which pushes the movie's running time past the three hour mark! It's actually the best of the bunch. The other three feel extended beyond their welcome with the Visconti segment particularly chatty without much of a payoff. Not among their directors best work but there are worse ways of spending one's time than with Loren, Ekberg and Schneider at their most beautiful.

Detroit (2017)

In 1967 Detroit, riots ensued when police raided an illegal after hours club in a black neighborhood. At the height of the riots, police invade a local motel where ten black men and two white women are beaten and terrorized by the police with three of the black men murdered. After the one-two punch of THE HURT LOCKER and ZERO DARK THIRTY, I'll concede it's three in a row for director Kathryn Bigelow but this is by far the weakest of the three. It couldn't be more timely what with aggressive police tactics toward citizens (specifically African Americans) in the headlines for the past few years. It starts off with a bang in a semi documentary style setting up the background but once the storyline reaches the motel, its predictability causes it to lose steam. I think a major case of casting deflates the power of this sequence. Will Poulter who plays the racist cop in charge of the motel siege has, to put it bluntly, the face of a serial killer. He looks psychotic from our first view of him. If the role had been played by an actor with a more "normal" face, it would have added the necessary power to keep us off our balance. Instead, it's "Oh yeah, he's going to go all psycho on everyone here!". At 2 1/2 hours, the film is way overlong and frankly, we could have done without the entire courtroom section and Algee Smith's church moment. An epilogue would have sufficed. Outside of Poulter, the acting is excellent including John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, Jacob Latimore, Jason Mitchell, Hannah Murray and Kaitlyn Dever.  

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Valley Of Gwangi (1969)

In turn of the century Mexico, a carnival stuntman (James Franciscus), a paleontologist (Laurence Naismith), a cowgirl (Gila Golan) and her manager (Richard Carlson) stumble across a hidden valley where long thought extinct creatures still survive. When they see a Tyrannosaurus, their first thought is to capture it and turn it into a sideshow at their traveling rodeo. Directed by Jim O'Connolly, this lacks the magic of the previous Ray Harryhausen/Charles H. Schneer collaborations like 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD and JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS because the lack of mythological fantasy elements. However, it's a still an entertaining action film elevated by Harryhausen's superior creature effects. In films like this, where the creature is kidnapped by humans, I have no sympathy for the humans when the creature turns and gobbles them up. The film has a fiery finale but I felt sorry for the creature rather than satisfaction that he had been destroyed. The characters are a greedy and annoying lot anyway. There's a thrilling underscore by Jerome Moross (THE BIG COUNTRY). With Gustavo Rojo and Freda Jackson.

Sylvia (2003)

The story of the troubled American poet Sylvia Plath (Gwyneth Paltrow) from 1956 when she meets the poet Ted Hughes (Daniel Craig) who she would marry to her eventual suicide in 1963. Directed by Christine Jeffs, the film bypasses many of the mistakes made by movie bios who attempt to cram an entire life in two hours of film. Instead, it concentrates on an 8 year period focusing in on her relationship with Hughes and the slow deterioration of her psyche. Paltrow is very good here in a subtle performance of a slow descent into madness, no "snake pit" histrionics here. The film could have used more of Plath the writer, we don't get as much sense of the poet and her passion for poetry as we should. Granted that may not be as cinematic as going crazy but it would have helped us understand Plath more. 3 years before becoming James Bond, Craig is in fine form as the poet unable to cope with his wife's illness. There's a nice underscore by Gabriel Yared. With Blythe Danner, Michael Gambon and Jared Harris. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Sheriff Of Fractured Jaw (1958)

To avoid his uncle's (Robert Morley) interference, a mild mannered British gentleman (Kenneth More) travels to the American West to sell guns to the local population. Instead, he finds himself mistaken for a gunslinger and appointed as the sheriff in order to stop a range war between two feuding cattle ranchers. Directed by Raoul Walsh, this wan comedy western has a big problem ..... it's not funny! The screenplay could have used a little more wit or at least, poked a little fun at the genre. With a little tweaking, it could have played out as a straight western and it might have played better that way. Kenneth More and a miscast Jayne Mansfield have zero chemistry in roles that Bob Hope and Jane Russell could have sailed through easily. The movie was filmed in Spain, Otto Heller( PEEPING TOM) did the cinematography, but it may as well have been shot on the Fox back lot for all the advantage it makes of the location. Mansfield sings three songs but her singing voice is dubbed by Connie Francis. Originally intended as a vehicle for Clifton Webb. With Henry Hull, Bruce Cabot and William Campbell.   

Thursday, August 3, 2017

What Every Woman Knows (1934)

Set in Scotland, a father (David Torrence) and his two sons (Donald Crisp, Dudley Digges) are concerned that their homely daughter/sister (Helen Hayes) will end up a spinster since she's still unmarried at the age of 27. To this end, they propose to finance a young student's (Brian Aherne) education if he agrees to marry the plain Jane, six years his senior. But is a business arrangement the good basis for a marriage? Based on the 1908 play by J.M. Barrie (PETER PAN) and directed by Gregory La Cava (STAGE DOOR). The handsome and robust Aherne and the mousy and delicate Hayes (who had played the part on Broadway 8 years earlier) embody their roles perfectly. The movie plays out like a filmed play without being overly stage bound. But the premise is so archaic as to be uncomfortable. It's an era when a woman had no say in her fate which was decided by men, first her father then her husband, when a woman lived through her husband rather than her own accomplishments although the film's argument is that behind every successful man is the woman who got him there. If you can get past all that, the performers are agreeable and there's a certain pleasurable quaintness to the whole project although I suspect even in 1934 it seemed old fashioned. With Madge Evans as the other woman, Lucile Watson and Henry Stephenson. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Silkwood (1983)

A worker (Meryl Streep) at a nuclear facility in Oklahoma suspects that the company's practices of cutting corners and falsifying documents are endangering the health and safety of its workers. When she becomes a union activist, she finds herself unpopular with the company and many of its employees. Inspired by the life of Karen Silkwood, who died under mysterious circumstances amid much speculation that her death in an auto crash was no accident. Directed by Mike Nichols, the screenplay by Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen doesn't attempt to make Silkwood a Joan of Arc like heroine but presents her warts (and there are a lot of warts) and all as a highly flawed and often irritating woman. Like the political films of Costa-Gavras, Nichols doesn't preach at you but instead gives us the message while still entertaining us. Fortunately, the domestic scenes which usually drag a movie like this down are excellent and allows Streep to flesh out Silkwood even more. But it's not all Streep's show, Kurt Russell as her live in boyfriend and Cher as her lesbian roommate have opportunities to create strong characters on their own. The supporting cast is crammed with excellent actors including Craig T. Nelson, Diana Scarwid, Fred Ward, Tess Harper, David Strathairn, Josef Sommer, Ron Silver, Bruce McGill, Will Patton and E. Katherine Kerr.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Coney Island (1943)

Set in turn of the (20th) century New York, two rivals (George Montgomery, Cesar Romero) cross and double cross each other in the attempt to win the love of a brash entertainer (Betty Grable). Directed by Walter Lang (THE KING AND I), this was one of Grable's biggest hits. But I've never cared much for Grable's period musicals like this one and THE DOLLY SISTERS. I've always preferred her in her contemporary ones like WEEKEND IN HAVANA or MOON OVER MIAMI. Grable gets to act a bit more than in her usual fluff but she's saddled with the stodgy George Montgomery (I guess John Payne wasn't available). I was hoping for a more realistic bittersweet ending than we're given but this is a 1940s Technicolor Betty Grable musical, not LA LA LAND or UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG so we get the dopey happy ending which just doesn't feel right. As for the musical numbers, they're okay with only two standing out. One of them, a jazz number, is uncomfortable with the male dancers in blackface and Grable in a black wig and dark make up as a light skinned "negress". But the splashy finale is fine. The choreography is by Hermes Pan. With Phil Silvers, Charles Winninger and Phyllis Kennedy.