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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Eyewitness (1981)

When a Vietnamese businessman (Chao Li Chi) is murdered in a Manhattan office building, the night janitor (William Hurt) pretends to know more about the crime than he does in order to impress a TV reporter (Sigourney Weaver) that he has a crush on. Unfortunately, that lie places both their lives in danger. Directed by Peter Yates (BULLITT) from an original screenplay by Steven Tesich (BREAKING AWAY), this thriller suffers from an overly contrived plot (if only Tesich had realized that less is more) that is far fetched and finally falls apart in a preposterous finale. Hurt and Weaver were both just coming off their breakthrough films, ALTERED STATES and ALIEN, so this film was eagerly anticipated. Fortunately, their careers managed to overcome the disappointment. In fact, Hurt and Weaver are the reason for watching this film. For such newcomers (at the time), they not manage to not only not embarrass themselves in such weak material but display a likable screen presence and a subdued chemistry. But the film is padded out with a subplot involving James Woods as a possible murder suspect and his sister (Pamela Reed) who is engaged to Hurt's character that seems unnecessary. With Christopher Plummer, Morgan Freeman, Irene Worth, Steven Hill, Kenneth McMillan and Alice Drummond.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Flame Of New Orleans (1941)

In 1841 New Orleans, a gold digger (Marlene Dietrich) passes herself off as a Countess in order to snare herself a rich husband. She finds herself one (Roland Young) but a rough river boat captain (Bruce Cabot) catches her fancy. I've never been a fan of Dietrich and with the exception of BLUE ANGEL, I find her movies with Josef von Sternberg rather much although I can see what others see in them. This Rene Clair directed confection on the other hand I find delightful fun and Dietrich appealing. Maybe precisely because it doesn't have the overcooked exoticism of her von Sternberg films, Dietrich doesn't have to try and be the enigmatic woman of mystery or the goddessy femme fatale. She's rather lively here and the twinkle in her eye is refreshing. It's a minor film in the Rene Clair canon but its charm goes a long way and its entertainment value can't be so easily dismissed. The supporting cast consists of some of the best character actors of the era: Anne Revere, Mischa Auer, Franklin Pangborn, Melville Cooper, Laura Hope Crews, Andy Devine, Clarence Muse and the wonderful Theresa Harris.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Man In The Middle (1963)

Set in WWII India, an American Army Lieutenant (Keenan Wynn) walks up to a British Sergeant (Bill Mitchell) and shoots him dead. A Lieutenant Colonel (Robert Mitchum) with some law experience is assigned to defend him. But as he tries to build a defense that his client is mentally unstable, he finds stumbling blocks put in his way from the military brass until he realizes they want to see his client hanged. Based on the novel THE WINSTON AFFAIR by Howard Fast (SPARTACUS) and directed by Guy Hamilton (GOLDFINGER). A potentially interesting script gets a rather routine execution in the hands of director Hamilton. The film never rises above a solid television movie. It might have helped if the conventional romance, Mitchum and an Army nurse played by France Nuyen, had been cut down or even eliminated altogether. What remains is a decent military courtroom thriller where justice finds itself sacrificed to expediency. The brief underscore is by John Barry. With Trevor Howard, Barry Sullivan, Sam Wanamaker and Alexander Knox.  

Latin Lovers (1953)

When a wealthy heiress (Lana Turner) flies to Brazil to pursue her longtime boyfriend (John Lund), she meets a handsome Brazilian (Ricardo Montalban) and becomes smitten with him. But cultural differences and money issues threaten to derail the romance. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, this inconsequential romantic comedy gets the glossy MGM treatment but there's barely anything there! Comedy was never Turner's forte and other than her glamour (dressed to the nines in her Helen Rose wardrobe), she doesn't bring much to the party. Montalban does his usual latin lover bit and Jean Hagen, who the year before had showed what a great comedienne she was in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, is here reduced to the nondescript role of Turner's secretary! It's minimally a musical with more dancing (choreography by Frank Veloz) than songs. For Turner fans only. With Louis Calhern, Rita Moreno, Beulah Bondi, Eduard Franz and Dorothy Neumann who gets the movie's best bits.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Patriots Day (2016)

On April 15, 2013, two homemade pressure cooker bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon. It killed three civilians and injured over 250 people. Two Chechen Islamic terrorists were responsible, one was killed in a shootout with the police and the other caught a few days later. This is a fictionalized account of that day and the days that followed. Directed by Peter Berg, I have some major problems with the film. Mainly, that it takes a horrific and recent tragedy and turns it into a DIE HARD action movie. In 2006, Paul Greengrass directed UNITED 93 which focused on the 9/11 tragedy. But he didn't use any recognizable stars and filmed it in a documentary style. He wasn't milking the tragedy for stand up and cheer applause. PATRIOTS DAY uses a fictional policeman (Mark Wahlberg) at its center but there are so many characters that except for (ironically) the two terrorists (Alex Wolff, Themo Melikidze), there's no time for character development. I cringed at the offensive attempts at humor during some of the scenes. I can respect the film's intentions to honor the first responders, the police and the victims and I applaud that. I can't applaud turning such a recent tragedy into an entertainment for the multiplex. There is one spectacular scene however that stands out and that's when the terrorist's wife (Melissa Benoit) is interrogated by a female detective (Khandi Alexander). It's what I'll carry away from the movie. I suspect I'll be in the minority when this opens during the Christmas holidays. Unless I've miscalculated, this is going to be a big hit. With Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons and Michelle Monaghan. 

Gone To Earth (1950)

Set in 1897 Northern England, a half Gypsy girl (Jennifer Jones) with a passion for animals finds herself torn between a cruel aristocrat (David Farrar) and a country minister (Cyril Cusack). Her spirit wants one man while her flesh desires the other man. Based on the 1917 novel by Mary Webb and directed by Michael Powell and Eric Pressburger. Like most of Powell's Technicolor films (RED SHOES, BLACK NARCISSUS, TALES OF HOFFMAN),  this is a real beauty with Christopher Challis (TWO FOR THE ROAD) in charge of the cinematography which was filmed on location in the Shropshire countryside. To be honest, it's not one of Powell and Pressburger's best films but it's far from a failure. Jennifer Jones always had an ethereal "not of this Earth" quality about her which makes her perfect for the wood nymph like country lass who has an affinity for the land and the animal life around her. Her role isn't all that far removed from her Pearl Chavez in DUEL IN THE SUN as there, as here, she fights her dual nature between the "good" Joseph Cotten and the "bad" Gregory Peck. Selznick's husband disliked the film and had it released (2 years later) in America in a re-edited and cut version by almost a half hour and retitled it THE WILD HEART. With Hugh Griffith, George Cole and Sybil Thorndike.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Collateral Beauty (2016)

After his young daughter dies, the head (Will Smith) of an advertising company lets the business slide. His three partners (Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Michael Pena) hire three actors to play Death (Helen Mirren), Love (Keira Knightley) and Time (Jacob Latimore) to help him through the grieving process. Dreadful! I felt like I was reading platitudes from sympathy cards for 90 minutes! I suppose I should be grateful it wasn't a 2 hour film. Talk about your manipulative, sentimental "new age" (yes, I know it's not the 70s anymore but that term applies here) twaddle! I suppose on paper it might have looked workable which explains how so many good actors got roped in. But director David Frankel's heavy hand hammers home every trite tearjerking phrase as if they were pearls of profundity. It's the first Kate Winslet performance that I could call bad. Can't say the same for Helen Mirren who's been worse but she's pretty crappy here too. No doubt there will be those blubbering by the film's end and accuse we dried eyed cynics as having no heart but it really is godawful! With Naomie Harris, who thankfully has MOONLIGHT this year to be proud of.    

Allied (2016)

During WWII, a British intelligence officer (Brad Pitt) and a French resistance fighter (Marion Cotillard) on a mission in Morocco fall in love. They marry but it isn't long before he suspects that his wife may be, in fact, a German agent. This is a surprisingly good entertainment directed by Robert Zemeckis (DEATH BECOMES HER). There's an old fashioned glamour to the proceedings and with a little tweaking (cut out the sex, the lesbians and the cocaine), I can easily see this as a late 40s Hollywood offering with Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman in the Pitt/Cotillard roles. Zemeckis balances the romantic elements with the thriller elements as well as Hitchcock at his best (though, of course, Zemeckis is no Hitchcock). We all know what a great actress Cotillard is and her performance is suitably ambiguous but she has never seemed more a movie star than here and Pitt, of course, is a bona fide movie star. There are twists and turns and one has to hand it to Zemeckis and screenwriter Steven Knight for not giving us the ending we want (I was bummed) but it's an honest one. With Jared Harris, Simon McBurney and Lizzy Caplan.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Tre Fratelli (aka Three Brothers) (1981)

When their mother passes away, three brothers return to the family country home in Southern Italy to console their father (Charles Vanel) and bury their mother. Each of the brothers have found a different calling in life: a judge (Philippe Noiret), a social worker (Vittorio Mezzogiorno) working with juvenile delinquents and a factory worker (Michele Placido) involved in a labor dispute. Directed by Francesco Rosi (HANDS OVER THE CITY), on the surface the film may seem like an intimate look at the dynamics of a country family split by an encroaching urban lifestyle and it is that, too. But it's a really a political film as all three brothers are part of a changing political landscape in modern Italy. Noiret's judge must deal with a domestic terrorism that respects no life if it can't further its cause, Mezzogiorno's religious social worker must deal with an apathetic society which turns its back on its children and Placido is torn between justice for the working man and to what lengths does one go to to achieve that justice. Rosi balances everything beautifully as he's ably assisted by Pasqualino De Santis' (DEATH IN VENICE) carefully crafted cinematography and a rich but subtle underscore by Piero Piccioni. With Andrea Ferreol and Simonetta Stefanelli (THE GODFATHER).  

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Man In The Dark (1953)

A criminal (Edmond O'Brien), who's stolen $130,000, undergoes surgery to remove his criminal tendencies. The surgery works but it totally removes his memory of his previous life. When his old gang kidnap him and demand to know what he did with the money, he truly doesn't know! Directed by Lew Landers (1935's THE RAVEN), this was originally filmed in 3D. I'm not a fan of 3D but I suppose the film might have played better with the novelty of having things shoved in your face or getting run over by a rollercoaster. Without the gimmick of 3D, it's just a passable programmer. The most interesting aspect of the film (outside of the 3D) is how dreams are used to solve the mystery of what happened to the stolen money. The film itself is a remake of a 1936 Ralph Bellamy movie called THE MAN WHO LIVED TWICE which I've never seen. The film was a rush job (shot in 11 days) to cash in on the 3D craze and it feels like it. If only a little more time had been spent on the script, it might have stood on its own legs without 3D like HONDO or HOUSE OF WAX. With Audrey Totter as O'Brien's moll, Ted De Corsia, Horace McMahon and Nick Dennis.

The Comedian (2016)

A washed up stand up comedian (Robert De Niro) is recently released from prison for assaulting a heckler in a comedy club. As he attempts to revitalize his career, he also has to still do community service at a soup kitchen where he meets a troubled young woman (Leslie Mann) who will have a profound effect on his life. Directed by Taylor Hackford (DOLORES CLAIBORNE), the good news is that this is De Niro's best performance in years. After too often coasting on his reputation in movies not worthy of him, he's got a juicy role that he jumps in fully committed. The bad news is that the film itself isn't very good. As an actor, De Niro has good comic timing which he displays here in the film proper. But he doesn't have a stand up's comic timing which is a different thing and when he's onstage doing stand up, he doesn't feel authentic especially when he's surrounded with real working stand up comics doing their act. The film's highlight is a Jewish lesbian wedding and if the rest of the film were on that level, this would have been a terrific film. But it's still worth checking out to see De Niro back in top form. The massive supporting cast is wonderful and includes Harvey Keitel, Danny DeVito, Edie Falco, Billy Crystal, Charles Grodin, Cloris Leachman (very good), Patti LuPone, Lois Smith (wasted), Jimmie Walker and Brett Butler. 

A Night At The Opera (1935)

A shyster (Groucho Marx) talks a wealthy social climber (Margaret Dumont) into investing in an opera company and thus paving her way into society. Directed by Sam Wood (GOODBYE MR. CHIPS), this is my favorite Marx Brothers comedy. I love Groucho and he's pure gold here. I'm less enthusiastic about the antics of his brothers, Chico and Harpo. Harpo's mime act has always seemed too precious to me and Chico overworks the Italian accent. But they're less offensive here than usual. The big flies in the ointment are the two juvenile romantic leads, Allan Jones and Kitty Carlisle who also sing and their musical interludes drag the movie down. But in the end, it's a small price to pay for Groucho's zingers and such classic scenes as the jammed stateroom aboard ship (which has been borrowed endlessly) and the hilarious hotel room sequences. You may never view grand opera the same way again! The film is a significant change from their Paramount period which many fans prefer. With Sig Ruman and Robert Emmett O'Connor.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bite The Bullet (1975)

A 700 mile horse race across the American Southwest in 1906 attracts a disparate group of entrants. Among them: a former Rough Rider (Gene Hackman), a gambler (James Coburn), an ex-prostitute (Candice Bergen), an old saddle tramp (Ben Johnson), an English gentleman (Ian Bannen), an arrogant punk (Jan Michael Vincent) and a Mexican (Mario Arteaga). Directed by Richard Brooks (ELMER GANTRY) from his original script, this is a superior western. Brooks' screenplay falters briefly toward the end before recovering in time for the finale but for the most part, it's a thoughtful and intelligent western. It has a lot to say about winners and winning (the last shot is a beaut), about horse racing and the cruelty of it (pushing horses beyond endurance) and as two of the film's characters say, "the people some people marry". The actors are good except for Jan Michael Vincent though I'd venture to say it's more because of the ill conceived conception of his character than the actor. The justifiably Oscar nominated score is by Alex North. With Dabney Coleman, Jean Willes, Sally Kirkland, Paul Stewart and Robert Donner.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Masquerade In Mexico (1945)

A down and out chorus girl (Dorothy Lamour) finds herself in Mexico without any money and no job. With the help of a taxi driver (Mikhail Rasumny), she passes herself off as a Spanish Contessa and gets a job as a nightclub entertainer. Enter a bullfighter (Arturo De Cordova), a banker (Patric Knowles) and his catty wife (Ann Dvorak) ... complications ensue. Directed by Mitchell Liesen (MIDNIGHT), this is an attempt at sophisticated comedy but the script seems warmed over and it needed actors with expert comedic timing (say, Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea) to make it work. What we get are Dorothy Lamour and Patric Knowles. Nothing against them, they're attractive and likable but their talents aren't specific enough for a farce like this. It's not an unpleasant way to pass the time but quite early on, you realize it will never rise above adequacy. The few songs and dance numbers are forgettable but the real stars of the film are Roland Anderson and Hans Dreier's art direction (that Spanish style country villa is a real beauty) and Edith Head's exquisite costumes. With Natalie Schafer, Billy Daniel and George Rigaud. 

Murder On The Orient Express (2010)

The famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (David Suchet) finds himself a passenger of the Calais coach on the Orient Express. He is approached by an unpleasant passenger (Toby Jones) and offered a large amount of cash for protection which he refuses. The next morning, the passenger is found dead in his compartment with 12 stab wounds. Based on the classic Agatha Christie novel and directed by Philip Martin. Reputedly the best selling novelist of all time, Agatha Christie wrote clever precisely constructed murder mysteries, intricate puzzles that engaged the reader who pored over the pages for possible clues. Yet why do so many adapters of her work feel the need to "improve" on her? The 1974 Sidney Lumet film version was pure bliss for a moviegoers and mystery fans alike. Here, they've decided to rewrite Christie to give the story a more politically correct ending with Poirot behaving like he would never ever do in one of the Christie books. She must have been spinning in her grave. I've never understood the praise for Suchet's Poirot. I've read every Poirot novel and Suchet is not the Poirot of the books. The cast is good but to no avail, it seemed doomed from the start. With Jessica Chastain, Barbara Hershey, Eileen Atkins, Hugh Bonneville, Susanne Lothar and Brian J. Smith.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Jag Ar Ingrid (aka Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words) (2015)

A documentary on the legendary actress Ingrid Bergman based on her diaries and letters as well as interviews with her four children: Pia Lindstrom, Isabella Rossellini, Ingrid Rossellini and Robert Rossellini. Alicia Vikander (THE DANISH GIRL) provides the voice of Bergman through out the film as the letters and diary are read. Directed by Stig Bjorkman, this isn't a gushing fan piece about a beloved film actress. Rather, it's an honest look at a complex and unconventional woman whose single mindedness when it came to what she wanted, whether it was her career or personal life, took precedence over what others thought of her or perceptions of how she should live her life. Her children are remarkably understanding in this regard. Instead of whining that she was never there for them and was away making movies or her latest relationship, they understand that she sought out her own happiness at whatever price but that her love and commitment to her children were never in question. Of course, today, Bergman's actions don't seem shocking at all but one can imagine how in the late 40s, how scandalous it was for a woman to abandon her husband and daughter for another man and bear his child. With Liv Ullmann and Sigourney Weaver who both worked with Bergman.

Toni Erdmann (2016)

A retired music teacher (Peter Simonischek) is a prankster who is alienated from his adult daughter (Sandra Huller), who is a workaholic currently working as a business consultant in Romania. He makes a spontaneous unannounced visit to her in an attempt to reconnect by putting on a wig and false teeth and passing himself off as Toni Erdmann. Directed by Maren Ade, this is Germany's submission for this year's foreign language category at the Oscars. My major problem with the film is that it sees the daughter as the problem while I see the father as the problem. The film doesn't give us any background on their relationship: what caused the riff, why is she so obsessed on career, what was their relationship like when she was a child etc. It doesn't help that Simonischek is a pretty creepy looking guy even without the wig and false teeth. Fortunately, Huller's performance anchors the film, her face is like a tight fist, you can sense her frustration and unhappiness. Also, the movie is way too long, it pushes near the 3 hour mark which seems a bit much for a father/daughter relationship movie. There are excesses like a sex scene between Huller and Trystan Putter which stops the movie cold. It's just a film I wish I had liked more.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

An attractive widow (Doris Day) working at an aeronautics research think tank catches the eye of a top executive (Rod Taylor) at the top secret laboratory. However, it isn't long before suspicion falls upon her as a spy working for the Russians. Directed by Frank Tashlin (THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT) who brings his requisite cartoonist's sensibility to the satiric proceedings. Day once again shows why audiences adored her in the 60s though truth to tell, she was getting a bit mature for parts like this. Thankfully, since she's playing a widow, at least they didn't saddle her down with kids. The film's comedic highlight is a farcical cocktail party with Dom De Luise as a wimpy American working for the Soviets and Paul Lynde as security officer going undercover in drag. The film's obvious slapstick gags and broad humor may not be to everyone's liking but for fans of Day and/or Tashlin, it's a tasty cocktail. With Arthur Godfrey, Dick Martin (LAUGH IN), Eric Fleming, Edward Andrews, John McGiver, Ellen Corby, Elisabeth Fraser, Robert Vaughn (as Napoleon Solo) and Alice Pearce and George Tobias doing a riff on the couple they played on TV's BEWITCHED.     

This Is The Night (1932)

When the husband (Cary Grant) of his mistress (Thelma Todd) comes home unexpectedly and catches them together, her lover (Roland Young, TOPPER) hires a girl (Lili Damita, who was married to Errol Flynn and Michael Curtiz) to pose as his wife to throw the husband off the scent. When all four of them go on a vacation to Venice, things get interesting. Based on the 1923 French farce POUCHE by Henri Falk and Rene Peter which in turn was adapted for the American stage in 1925, this is a perfectly charming pre-code screwball romcom. While not a musical, the director Frank Tuttle (THIS GUN FOR HIRE) opens the film with a musical sequence in the manner of Rene Clair and Rouben Mamoulian. This was Grant's film debut but the romantic male lead is Young, who would switch to character work in a few years. I'm surprised the film doesn't have a more well known reputation but I suppose it's because the leads (Young, Damita) never became major stars and Tuttle doesn't have the reputation of a Clair or Mamoulian. But it's a delightful piece of fluff which reminded me of TOP HAT and THE GAY DIVORCEE without the musical numbers. One amusing running gag has Thelma Todd (who died under mysterious circumstances at 29) constantly being stripped of her dress. With Charles Ruggles and Irving Bacon.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty (1947)

A mild mannered and henpecked proof reader (Danny Kaye) for a pulp magazine spends much of his time daydreaming. In his daydreams, he's a daring WWII pilot, a Mississippi gambler, a sea captain, a cowboy, even a designer of ladies hats. But soon when he encounters a pretty blonde (Virginia Mayo), he finds himself on a real life dangerous adventure. Loosely based on the James Thurber short story, this is one of Danny Kaye's best movies and was quite popular in its day. It may not do Thurber's story justice (Thurber disliked the film) but as a comedy, it's quite fun. Kaye gets to do two of his specialty patter songs (written by his wife, Sylvia Fine) but it's not a musical. Kaye's antics may not be for everybody but I find him one of the screen's great clowns. Curiously, the emphasis seems to be on the "real life" story than on his daydreams which get short shrift. Directed by Norman Z. McLeod. With Boris Karloff, Fay Bainter, Ann Rutherford, Florence Bates and Konstantin Shayne.

Plunder Of The Sun (1953)

An American adventurer (Glenn Ford) in Cuba is persuaded by a private art collector (Francis L. Sullivan) to smuggle a small parcel into Mexico. But that parcel contains a map to a treasure and there are other people who are determined to  get it ..... even if they have to lie, cheat and kill. Based on the novel by David Dodge (TO CATCH A THIEF) and directed by John Farrow. This minor adventure flick is modestly if predictably entertaining should have gone the extra mile and been shot in Technicolor. The B&W lensing by Jack Draper is handsome enough but the Oaxaca and Veracruz locations (including the Zapotecan ruins) cry out out for vivid colors. It's your standard dumb Yankee gets in over his head in a Latin American country action/adventure movie but even taking that into account, Ford's character seems incredibly naive and gullible for a man who lives by his wits and his fists. On the plus side, Diana Lynn and Patricia Medina make for an attractive pair of femme fatales. With Sean McClory, Eduardo Noriega, Julio Villarreal and Douglass Dumbrille. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Gold (2016)

Set in 1988, a small time opportunistic businessman (Matthew McConaughey) puts everything he has in a partnership with a geologist (Edgar Ramirez) to hunt for gold in the jungles of Indonesia. Before long, they become rich enough to attract some Wall Street companies who want to invest in their company as partners. Directed by Stephen Gaghan (SYRIANA), this is loosely based on the 1993 Bre-X mining 6 billion dollar scandal. I found it decent enough but unexceptional. It's not the kind of film that will resonate (either negatively or positively) with me in the future. While its ending is perceptively ambiguous, there's still a sense of deja vu about the whole thing. You have to hand it to McConaughey. Whether you like him or not, as an actor he commits himself 110% to his roles and he's in top form here. Physically, it's the reverse of his emaciated character in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, here he's overweight, soft and flabby. Although based on true events, a lot of dramatic license is taken, so much that the characters have different names from their real life counterparts. With Bryce Dallas Howard, Stacy Keach, Craig T. Nelson and Joshua Harto.   

Once Upon a Mattress (1972)

Set in a medieval kingdom, a duplicitous Queen (Jane White) is determined to keep her son (Ken Berry) unmarried and tied to her. She insists on a test for all the Princesses who apply to be his wife but the tests are rigged for the Princesses to fail. But when a rather unrefined Princess (Carol Burnett) catch's the Prince's eye, the Queen has to make her test more difficult than ever. Based on the fairy tale THE PRINCESS AND THE PEA, this musical began off-Broadway in 1959 but it was a surprise success that quickly transferred to Broadway the same year. It made Carol Burnett a star and one can see why. It's been done for television three times: in 1964 and 1972 with Burnett repeating her stage role and in 2005 with Tracey Ullman as the Princess and Burnett as the Queen. Unfortunately, this 1972 production is played way too broadly as if it were an extended sketch on Burnett's variety show. Worst of all, they've added a horrid laugh and applause track which all but sabotages the production. What remains is the lovely song score by Mary Rodgers (Richard's daughter) and Marshall Barer even though some songs from the stage production have been eliminated. Directed by Ron Field and David Powers. With Bernadette Peters, Wally Cox, Jack Gilford, Ron Hussman and Lyle Waggoner.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Seven Days In May (1964)

After the U.S. President (Fredric March) signs a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union, a right wing general (Burt Lancaster) sets a secret plan in motion that would have the U.S. military take over the government from the reins of the President. When a Colonel (Kirk Douglas) uncovers the scheme, there are only seven days to expose and stop the military junta. Directed by John Frankenheimer with Rod Serling adapting the screenplay from the best selling novel by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II. Like Frankenheimer's previous film (THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE), this is a first rate conspiracy thriller. It's tightly paced and lean and Frankenheimer keeps it moving like a well oiled machine. One of the things that stands out is how different the presidency was back then. A series of incriminating letters are obtained by the Colonel from the General's ex-mistress (Ava Gardner). The question of whether to use those letters is volleyed back and forth from an ethical standpoint. Today, there's no question those letters would be put out there pronto! Remarkably, considering that Lancaster, Douglas and March are among the three biggest acting hams in the business, all three are very restrained in their performances here. The brief score (about 15 minutes) is by Jerry Goldsmith. With Edmond O'Brien in an Oscar nominated performance, Martin Balsam, John Houseman, Hugh Marlowe, Andrew Duggan, Richard Anderson and George Macready.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

King Solomon's Mines (1985)

Set in Africa during WWI, a young woman (Sharon Stone) hires an adventurer (Richard Chamberlain) to help find her missing father (Bernard Archard) who was looking for the fabled King Solomon's Mines. But a German Colonel (Herbert Lom) and a Turkish slave trader (John Rhys Davies) are also seeking the legendary mines. Based on the 1885 novel by H. Rider Haggard which has been filmed several times, the two most notable versions are the 1937 British film and the 1950 Hollywood film. This one, directed by J. Lee Thompson, is clearly attempting to appeal to the Indiana Jones fanboys. The film is over the top and with lots of humor (or rather attempts at humor) and Sharon Stone is an annoying ditzy blonde, a sister under the skin of the Kate Capshaw character in INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM. Made by the infamous Globus-Golan film producers and their company, Cannon films. For the most part, the film at least looks like an "A" budget feature and I suppose we can thank cinematographer Alex Phillips Jr. (BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA) for that. But some of the stuff put in is unbelievable. Chamberlain and Stone are actually put in a giant boiling pot along with tomatoes and onions by cannibals! The film contains a rare bad Jerry Goldsmith score, a total ripoff of John Williams' RAIDERS scores. Banking on it being a hit, Globus-Golan shot a sequel immediately. With Ken Gampu and June Buthelezi.   

Monday, November 14, 2016

Live By Night (2016)

Set in the 1920s and 30s, a WWI veteran (Ben Affleck, who also directed) doesn't consider himself a gangster even though he works for a mobster (Robert Glenister). But an affair with the mobster's moll (Sienna Miller) brings repercussions that pull him into the gangster life full time. Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane (also the source material for Affleck's GONE BABY GONE), this is Affleck's 4th feature film and batting 4 out of 4 so far. Which is not to say the film is flawless, anything but. The film is a homage to the Warner gangster films of the 30s and 40s. While violent, the violence is fairly muted, no Tarantino bloodbath here. As an actor, Affleck is uninteresting so I wish he had cast another actor in the pivotal leading role. The film looks fantastic with great cinematography by Robert Richardson (NATURAL BORN KILLERS), production design by Jess Gonchor and costumes by Jacqueline West. With the exception of Chris Messina and Matthew Maher whose performances are overcooked ... to put it mildly, the rest of the cast is very good especially Elle Fanning who gives what may be my favorite supporting actress performance this year. With Zoe Saldana, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Cooper, Anthony Michael Hall and Max Casella. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hidden Figures (2016)

In the 1960s, the United States are behind the Soviet Union in the space race. This is the true story of three black women (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae) who contributed immeasurably to the success of the space program with their mathematical expertise. The film's title is twofold. It refers to mathematical equations and also to the incredible story of the three women whose story has been hidden too long. Directed by Theodore Melfi and based on the non fiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly, this is a wonderful movie. Normally when I hear a movie is inspiring or inspirational, I run as fast as I can in the other direction. Most "inspiring" movies are cloying and mushy. But Melfi's movie has a firm backbone and never descends into sappy sentimentality. This is a true ensemble cast and Melfi does a bang up job with them. Boy, do we need a movie like this now! With Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Glen Powell, Aldis Hodge, Kimberly Quinn and Saniyya Sidney.

Arrival (2016)

12 mysterious spacecraft of unknown origins hover over various parts of the planet. The U.S. government recruits a well known linguist (Amy Adams) to assist them in communicating with alien life form to find out why they are here. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (SICARIO), this is a welcome and refreshing piece of intelligent cerebral science fiction. This isn't an us against them INDEPENDENCE DAY scenario nor is it overloaded with CGI. This is sci-fi that engages the mind, the spirit and the heart. Adapted from STORY OF YOUR LIFE by Ted Chiang, Villeneuve and his screenwriter Eric Hesserer challenge us rather than appeal to the lowest common denominator. I'm sure some filmgoers will be disappointed that "nothing happens" but, of course, a lot is happening. It's just not a lot of contrived action. Amy Adams is having a good year with this and the upcoming NOCTURNAL ANIMALS and she gives a subtly complex performance. She's the focus of the film but she gets nice support from Jeremy Renner as a physicist working with her. With Forest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

An art gallery executive (Amy Adams) receives an unpublished novel by her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal). As she reads the novel, the film moves back and forth between the book's story and her own life. Directed by Tom Ford who also wrote the screenplay which is adapted from Austin Wright's novel TONY AND SUSAN. I hated Ford's last film A SINGLE MAN, so much so that I walked out of it. This film is simply brilliant! The contrast of the chic but empty Manhattan lifestyle she leads with the horror of the novel's violent South Texas setting isn't arbitrary. As the two stories (the real and fiction) criss cross, it becomes apparent that there's a connection. It's movies like this that keep me excited about contemporary American cinema. Still, even I wasn't prepared for the ending which I should have seen coming. Bravo, Mr. Ford! As he proved with NIGHTCRAWLER, Gyllenhaal is an actor without vanity who takes risks and his performance here is excellent and if Michael Shannon doesn't get an Oscar nomination, there's no justice. The audience I saw it with was captivated and with it all the way. An incredible underscore by Abel Korseniowski. With Aaron Taylor Johnson, Armie Hammer, Michael Sheen, Isla Fisher, Jena Malone, Andrea Riseborough and Laura Linney, who only has one scene but knocks it out of the ball park.

Caboblanco (1980)

Set in a small coastal village in 1948 Peru, a mysterious Frenchwoman (Dominique Sanda) steps off a bus and goes to a hotel run by an American (Charles Bronson) who has some information she wants. But that information is also wanted by an ex-Nazi (Jason Robards) hiding in plain sight in a plush villa on a cliff. Directed by J. Lee Thompson (GUNS OF NAVARONE), the film has higher ambitions than it can deliver. It's attempting a CASABLANCA vibe but Bronson and Sanda are no Bogart and Bergman. What we get is a fairly entertaining if routine action/adventure movie with a weak romance at its center that stumbles to a lame conclusion. Sanda seems stymied by dealing with the English language and if I hadn't seen her in her French and Italian films, I'd assume she was an untalented model hired for her looks. The story behind the making of the film (a classic Hollywood tale of wheeling and dealing, betrayal, greed, chutzpah and luck, both good and bad) is far more interesting than anything we see on the screen. The wonderful Jerry Goldsmith score elevates the film. With Fernando Rey, Gilbert Roland, Simon McCorkindale, James Booth, Denny Miller and Camilla Sparv as an aging party girl, who surprisingly gives the film's best performance.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Rules Don't Apply (2016)

In 1959 Hollywood, an aspiring actress (Lily Collins, MIRROR MIRROR) is put under a personal contract by the elusive Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty) although he never puts her in a movie. But a romance develops between her and one of Hughes' drivers (Alden Ehrenreich, HAIL CAESAR). In addition to starring as Hughes, Beatty also directed, produced and wrote the film which is his first movie in 15 years. I was very disappointed. It isn't bad mind you, not at all, just a disappointment. There are really two films going on here. One is the romance between the actress and the driver and the other is about Howard Hughes and although the stories are intertwined, they never quite mesh. If Beatty had focused on just one of the stories, it might have made for a stronger film. Collins and Ehrenreich are enormously appealing which helps. The film is also sloppy with the facts as Hughes marries Jean Peters in the movie in 1959 when in actuality, they married in 1957. The supporting cast is crammed with notable actors in mostly small parts with only Matthew Broderick (my favorite performance in the film) standing out from the pack. With Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin, Candice Bergen, Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, Oliver Platt, Steve Coogan and Amy Madigan who has all of 5 seconds of screen time!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

La Piscine (1969)

A writer (Alain Delon) and his mistress (Romy Schneider) are vacationing at a friend's villa for the summer on the French Riviera. Their quiet solitude is broken when her old flame (Maurice Ronet) and his teenage daughter (Jane Birkin) drop by to visit for a few days. It's a recipe for disaster. Directed by Jacques Deray (BORSALINO), this is an elegant stylish low key thriller. The four protagonists are remarkably shallow yet completely fascinating. Tanned and oiled and lying in the sun like lazy reptiles, there's an unwholesome atmosphere of decadence in the sunlight. One suspects that there's a moral rot under those reclining  mannequins and it isn't long before it starts oozing out. But under that amoral facade they feel, just like the rest of we plebeians. I could have done without the film's last shot which left a bitter aftertaste for me but other than that, I pretty much basked in the film. A big thumbs up for Jean Jacques Tarbes' glistening lensing and Michel Legrand's sensual underscore. Skillfully remade last year as A BIGGER SPLASH. With Paul Crauchet and Suzie Jaspard.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Founder (2016)

The story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), an Illinois salesman who happens upon two brothers (John Carroll Lynch, Nick Offerman) in 1954 by the name of MacDonald who operate a burger stand in San Bernardino, California. And the rest, as they say is history. The story of the founding of the MacDonald franchise empire doesn't sound like promising movie material, does it? But this isn't a biopic, at least in the traditional sense. It's about capitalism, opportunity and the dark side of the American dream. You'll never look at your Big Mac the same way again! The movie it most resembles is THE SOCIAL NETWORK. For the third year in a row, Keaton (BIRDMAN, SPOTLIGHT) gives another superb performance. It's not a great film but it's a solid one and a fascinating piece of entrepreneurial history. Directed by John Lee Hancock (THE BLIND SIDE). With Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson and Linda Cardellini.

Higher And Higher (1943)

After a millionaire (Leon Errol) goes broke, his servants concoct a plan to foist a maid (Michele Morgan) as his heiress daughter in order to catch a rich husband and save him from bankruptcy. Marginally based on the flop Rodgers & Hart 1940 musical but substantially rewritten with new songs by Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson. Directed by Tim Whelan (THIEF OF BAGDAD), it's a rather clumsy affair. Everyone tries so hard to be wacky and bubbly but the desperation is off putting. The songs are actually quite good and includes two standards A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening and the Oscar nominated I Couldn't Sleep A Wink Last Night. But who thought it was a good idea to cast Michele Morgan in a Jean Arthur role? I adore Morgan but she's not a comedienne and she's not a singer (her vocals are dubbed) and I felt bad for her, adrift without a lifeline. Hollywood has never done well by its French imports and like Danielle Darrieux before her, she was ill used (though to be fair, at least Simone Simon returned to France with CAT PEOPLE and DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER on her resume). With Frank Sinatra (a bright spot), Barbara Hale, Jack Haley, Mel Torme, Mary Wickes, Dooley Wilson, Elisabeth Risdon and in a rare film role, Victor Borge.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Drowning Pool (1975)

An L.A. private detective (Paul Newman) is hired by a New Orleans oil heiress and ex-flame (Joanne Woodward) to deal with a blackmailer (Andy Robinson). But a routine case of blackmail quickly turns into homicide and skeletons in closets. Based on the novel by Ross MacDonald, Newman returns to the role he played in HARPER nine years earlier. If it doesn't have the star power or noir-ish sheen of the 1966 film, it's still a more than decent detective mystery. The film benefits from having the great Gordon Willis as the cinematographer who gives the Louisiana locations an atmospheric gloss which compensates for the often uneven direction by Stuart Rosenberg (COOL HAND LUKE). The performances are okay with only the 17 year old Melanie Griffith standing out as Woodward's troublesome daughter. With Anthony Franciosa, Richard Jaeckel, Coral Browne, Murray Hamilton, Gail Strickland, Helena Kallianiotes, Richard Derr and Linda Haynes.   

Son Of Kong (1933)

The man (Robert Armstrong) who brought King Kong to New York is under siege from lawsuits and subpoena servers in the wake of the destruction rampage the late Kong went on before he was killed. He skips the country and flees to Southeast Asia. It is there that he hears about the treasure on Kong's island and a small group heads to the island. After the massive of success of KING KONG, RKO rushed this sequel into production. I'm not a big fan of the original 1933 film but this movie lacks the epic mythic qualities of the earlier film. It's extremely lightweight and rather banal really, even Max Steiner's score is anemic. Unlike his father, this "son of Kong" is a head scratching, self sacrificing cutie pie who whimpers when he hurts his finger. There is a bang up apocalyptic earthquake finale that ends the film that's impressive. It's harmless and mercifully short and one can't really dislike it. Directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack. With Helen Mack as the plucky heroine, Frank Reicher, John Marston and Victor Wong.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Strategic Air Command (1955)

An ex-WWII pilot (James Stewart) plays professional baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals in his civilian life. He gets recalled for active duty when the Air Force needs experienced pilots to test fly the newest planes. His dutiful wife (June Allyson) travels with him to a Texas air force base where he takes up his new duties. Directed by Anthony Mann, this was the 8th and final pairing of the actor director team and also Stewart's 3rd and final pairing with Allyson. The film comes off as an expensive recruitment ad for the U.S. Air Force. As long as it's in the air, the film is okay but on the ground, the tedious domestic scenes are a chore to sit through. Allyson doesn't have much to do other than wring her hands worrying about her husband in between cooking bacon and eggs for him. Stewart is at his worst "aw shucks" stammering persona. But for aviation buffs, the film is a treat for the aerial sequences. That B-36 is a thing of beauty and the sequences of it flying in the clouds accompanied by Victor Young's lovely theme is practically an air ballet. With Frank Lovejoy, Barry Sullivan, Jay C. Flippen, Alex Nicol, Bruce Bennett and Rosemary DeCamp as Allyson's mother although she's only 7 years older.  

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Something Wild (1986)

A mild mannered Wall Street executive (Jeff Daniels) hooks up with rebellious free spirit (Melanie Griffith) and plays hookie from work for the day. But that day turns into a wild and crazy and eventually deadly weekend. Directed by Jonathan Demme from an original screenplay by E. Max Frye (FOXCATCHER). Frye's script begins as an 80s screwball comedy, Griffith and Daniels as a Kate Hepburn and Cary Grant coupling right out of BRINGING UP BABY. Around the halfway mark, it takes a 360 degree turn into a nasty little thriller and to Demme's credit, it's done seamlessly. I think one has to see the film as a movie inspired fantasy of sorts (Hawks morphs into Hitchcock) because realistic it's not (that's not a complaint). Daniels is very good in a part that can't have been that easy to play but the movie belongs to Griffith. Then there's Ray Liotta who enters the movie and makes you queasy, you just know he's up to no good. Liotta pushes his psychotic almost to the point of a cartoon ... almost but he's a smart enough actor (and/or Demme's a good enough director) to not cross the line. The film is filled with wonderful performances by actors in small roles. With Margaret Colin, Dana Preu, Jack Gilpin and Anna Levine.  

Fences (2016)

In 1957 Pittsburgh, a black man (Denzel Washington) who works in sanitation struggles in dealing with a changing world while supporting his loving second wife (Viola Davis) and their teenage son (Jovan Adepo). Based on the 1983 play by August Wilson and directed by Denzel Washington who played the role on Broadway in 2010. This is one of the great plays of contemporary American theater. The film uses Wilson's text and he gets credit for the screenplay although he passed away in 2005 (though Wilson had begun a screenplay). Even if you didn't know it was based on a play, the film's first part seems very stage bound as Washington and his cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen use the 2.35 Panavision lens like a proscenium. But it's not long before the film picks up its rhythm and it becomes unimportant although it is a dialog driven film. Washington is truly superb here, a reminder that he's not only one of the great contemporary movie stars but a remarkable actor. In her best film performance since DOUBT, Viola Davis gives a fierce performance. One can't help but think of DEATH OF A SALESMAN as the film unfolds, the similarities are there. An excellent ensemble cast includes Mykelti Williamson who give a beautiful performance as Washington's brain damaged brother, Russell Hornsby, Stephen Henderson and Saniyya Sidney.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Les Tribulations D'un Chinois En Chine (aka Up To His Ears) (1965)

A wealthy but bored young man (Jean Paul Belmondo) is so depressed that he keeps attempting suicide but failing. After signing a life insurance policy, he makes an agreement with an employee (Valery Inkijinoff) to hire someone to murder him. But when he falls in love with a stripper (Ursula Andress), he wants to call the murder contract off. The only problem is that recipients of his life insurance policy want him dead! Very loosely based on Jules Verne's TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN IN CHINA, this is director Philippe De Broca's "sequel" to his box office hit THAT MAN FROM RIO which also starred Belmondo. Unfortunately, it's an overlong, tedious and unfunny dud with none of the style, wit and charm of RIO. The film really belongs to the stunt men/women who work overtime getting punched, pushed, falling out of planes, dropped into the ocean, crashing into cars etc. Belmondo and Andress spend more time running than acting! After all that frantic activity, a quiet island respite that comes toward the end of the film is welcome. Normally, I love comedies with all the characters running around in a hysterical frenzy (IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD) but this one just didn't work for me. With Jean Rochefort, Maria Pacome, Joe Said, Valerie Lagrange, Mario David and Paul Preboist.

Friday, November 4, 2016

La La Land (2016)

A struggling jazz musician (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) both have their dreams of success in their chosen paths. But in L.A., dreams seem made to be crushed. But when they fall in love ... can they still have their dreams? Who would have thought that the director (Damien Chazelle) of WHIPLASH could do a valentine to the classic Hollywood musical (though the film is as much influenced by the musicals of Jacques Demy). This is a full blown unapologetic musical. The film opens on a traffic jam on the 105 freeway. A girl begins to sing. She gets out of her car and other people get out of their car ... and sing ... and dance! They're leaping and spinning on car rooftops and my eyes started to tear up with pure bliss! But Chazelle has a bittersweet sauce to layer on this Technicolor candy. The film works on two levels. For those of us who live in Los Angeles and have worked in the film industry, it works on one level but the romantic portion is for everyone and everyone who's ever had a dream and realized that dreams don't come without a price. Gosling and Stone make for an adorable couple but give two of the year's best performances. If you love the movies, you'll love this. This is the kind of movie magic that made us fall in love with movies in the first place. With John Legend, Rosemarie De Witt and J.K. Simmons.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Miss Sloane (2016)

A ruthless and driven "win at any cost" Washington D.C. lobbyist (Jessica Chastain) is procured by a gun control campaign because she is the best at what she does. But even they are not prepared for the lengths she will go to to win ... even if it means crossing lines and unethical behavior. Directed by John Madden (SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE) from a first time script by Jonathan Perera (his first screenplay though you'd never know it), the script is clearly influenced by the writing of Aaron Sorkin. The female protagonist is the kind of part actresses love and Chastain picks up the ball and runs with it! The film sees Washington D.C. has a bastion of corruption and manipulation where the name of the game is winning and power and everything else is in the shadows. Though gun control is a very important part of the film's narrative, it doesn't define the film as it's so much more than that. Can one justify unethical actions if it is for the "right" cause? The fine underscore is by Max Richter and although the film runs pass the two hour mark, in this case, it's justified. As befits a film named after her character, Chastain dominates the film but there's a stellar ensemble cast nipping at her stilettos: John Lithgow, Sam Waterston, Christine Baranski, Michael Stuhlbarg, Gugu Mbatha Raw and Alison Pill.  

Rocky Mountain Mystery (1935)

When a ranch hand is murdered, the chief suspect is a missing engineer. The engineer's brother in law (Randolph Scott) joins forces with the deputy sheriff (Charles Chic Sale) to solve the murder but meanwhile residents of the ranch start getting bumped off! Based on the novel GOLDEN DREAMS by Zane Grey, this is nominally a western (it was re-released several years later under a new title, THE FIGHTING WESTERNER). It's really a murder mystery, sort of an Agatha Christie out West so western fans may find it slow paced. But for mystery fans, it's fun trying to guess who the murderer is as with each new victim, the list of suspects dwindles. This effort was part of Paramount's "B" unit and right after this, Scott would sign up with RKO and get into "A" features. It would take a few more years before his leading lady, Ann Sheridan, found stardom at Warner Brothers. The film also contains one of the few film appearances by the renowned stage actress Mrs. Leslie Carter as the housekeeper, she died 2 years later but 3 years after her death, a movie was made on her life with Miriam Hopkins playing her. Directed by Charles Barton (ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN). With Kathleen Burke, George F. Marion, Florence Roberts and Willie Fung. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Grand Canyon (1991)

When an immigration attorney's (Kevin Kline) car breaks down in a dangerous "ghetto" neighborhood, a black tow truck driver (Danny Glover) arrives in time to help him and possibly save his life. As the men come to know each other, their lives become intertwined. Directed by Lawrence Kasdan (THE BIG CHILL), this is a thought provoking and well intentioned piece of film making. I just wish I couldn't see the strings being pulled. This view of Los Angeles sinking into a morass of apathy and violence has been done better. The Oscar winning CRASH and the recent THE INVITATION come to mind. Kasdan is an optimist or at least takes the high road when it comes to his view of humanity though there's (thankfully) still a bit of cynicism to go round, notably in the crass movie producer played by Steve Martin. But for the most part, it's about the gap between races and cultures inhabiting the same space (L.A.) and how our lives touch each other whether it's a kind gesture or an act of fate that can change our lives irretrievably. The movie could have used a little more edge rather than sentiment but then again, Kasdan is just not that kind of director. Wonderful score by James Newton Howard. With Mary McDonnell, Alfre Woodard, Mary Louise Parker and Jeremy Sisto.

Reunion In France (1942)

A spoiled Parisian socialite (Joan Crawford) gives little thought to Hitler and the Nazis and "men and their wars". But when France falls and she finds her elegant mansion taken over by the Gestapo, reality rears its ugly head as more surprises await her. In spite of the pedigree behind the camera, it was produced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and directed by Jules Dassin (NEVER ON SUNDAY), this is a typical WWII propaganda programmer. That being said, I found it decent enough for what it is and more enjoyable that many of Crawford's overheated melodramas at Warners. And make no mistake about it, this is a Crawford picture all the way. Though second billed, John Wayne doesn't even turn up until the halfway point. There's not much chemistry between Crawford and Wayne but the casting in general is rather ludicrous. A mixture of Americans, British and Europeans playing French and Germans that the only way you know who's which is when they (or someone else) announce what nationality they are. With Philip Dorn, John Carradine, Albert Basserman, Reginald Owen, Natalie Schafer, Howard Da Silva, Henry Daniell, Ann Codee and a pre-stardom uncredited Ava Gardner who has one line and in German yet.

Lady In The Dark (1954)

The editor (Ann Sothern) of a fashion magazine is undergoing psychoanalysis due to an inexplicable restlessness and confusion. The analyst (Shepperd Strudwick) attempts to get to the core of her depression through her dreams. Based on the 1941 hit Broadway musical (made into a film in 1944 with Ginger Rogers) with a book by Moss Hart, music by Kurt Weill (THREEPENNY OPERA) and lyrics by Ira Gershwin. Its narrative hasn't dated well, its psychoanalytical approach though sophisticated and daring for 1941 is way too simplistic in 2016. Certainly through contemporary feminist eyes, it's slightly offensive. What remains good about it today are the songs which include the lovely My Ship and the witty Saga Of Jenny and for this production, the lively choreography by Rod Alexander. One amusing note: this was done live for TV and one of the actors says "tonight" when he clearly should have said "tomorrow night". Directed by Jeffrey Hayden (Eva Marie Saint's husband). The cast includes James Daly, Paul McGrath, Luella Gear and Carleton Carpenter (in the role that made Danny Kaye a star on Broadway).

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Faculty (1998)

When their principal and teachers begin behaving in strange and mysterious ways, six disparate students have their worst suspicions confirmed. Parasitic aliens have taken over the staff and are now taking over the student body. Directed by Robert Rodriguez (SIN CITY) from a screenplay by Kevin Williamson (SCREAM), this silly but quite effective horror movie is either a homage to or a ripoff of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956 or 1978) or John Carpenter's THE THING. It's quite enjoyable but it's also inconsistent which is why it pales to either of its inspirations. For example: once a parasite has taken over the body, they're easy to recognize because their behavior changes but when several of the protagonists change, it comes as a surprise because their behavior has been the same all along! But it's not the kind of movie where logic plays a major part so it's best not to take it seriously at all. While I never feel guilty about enjoying any movie, I suppose this movie falls under the category of "guilty pleasure". The students are as stereotypical types as the six protagonists of THE BREAKFAST CLUB but the young cast is good (well, maybe not Josh Hartnett). The large ensemble cast includes Salma Hayek, Jon Stewart, Elijah Wood, Piper Laurie, Bebe Neuwirth, Usher Raymond, Famke Janssen, Clea DuVall, Robert Patrick, Christopher MacDonald, Shawn Hatosy, Jordana Brewster and Laura Harris.