15 items from 2015
It’s a little surprising the makers of Canadian-soldiers-in-Afghanistan drama “Hyena Road” didn’t opt for the more obvious title “Canadian Sniper,” but maybe it’s because the sniper in question reps only half the story in this Hollywood-style war picture. Alternately detailed and derivative, thesp-filmmaker Paul Gross’ third feature has a relatively offbeat point of view that only partially masks its formulaic characters and narrative twists. Production values are slick enough for worldwide distribution, but the film is destined to play best on home turf following its Toronto fest gala premiere.
Opening with a sequence that could’ve been plucked directly from Clint Eastwood’s megahit “American Sniper,” adept military shooter Ryan Sanders (Rossif Sutherland) takes out a Taliban rebel planting an Ied in the middle of a frequently traveled desert road. The modest victory leads to Sanders and his three man team on the run from an opposition horde. »
- Geoff Berkshire
Robert Mitchum ca. late 1940s. Robert Mitchum movies 'The Yakuza,' 'Ryan's Daughter' on TCM Today, Aug. 12, '15, Turner Classic Movies' “Summer Under the Stars” series is highlighting the career of Robert Mitchum. Two of the films being shown this evening are The Yakuza and Ryan's Daughter. The former is one of the disappointingly few TCM premieres this month. (See TCM's Robert Mitchum movie schedule further below.) Despite his film noir background, Robert Mitchum was a somewhat unusual choice to star in The Yakuza (1975), a crime thriller set in the Japanese underworld. Ryan's Daughter or no, Mitchum hadn't been a box office draw in quite some time; in the mid-'70s, one would have expected a Warner Bros. release directed by Sydney Pollack – who had recently handled the likes of Jane Fonda, Barbra Streisand, and Robert Redford – to star someone like Jack Nicholson or Al Pacino or Dustin Hoffman. »
- Andre Soares
Omar Sharif in 'Doctor Zhivago.' Egyptian star Omar Sharif, 'The Karate Kid' producer Jerry Weintraub: Brief career recaps A little late in the game – and following the longish Theodore Bikel article posted yesterday – below are brief career recaps of a couple of film veterans who died in July 2015: actor Omar Sharif and producer Jerry Weintraub. A follow-up post will offer an overview of the career of peplum (sword-and-sandal movie) actor Jacques Sernas, whose passing earlier this month has been all but ignored by the myopic English-language media. Omar Sharif: Film career beginnings in North Africa The death of Egyptian film actor Omar Sharif at age 83 following a heart attack on July 10 would have been ignored by the English-language media (especially in the U.S.) as well had Sharif remained a star within the Arabic-speaking world. After all, an "international" star is only worth remembering »
- Andre Soares
Sometimes the critics are just plain wrong. Such is the case with the lavish epic The Liberator, which suffered unfairly at the hands of hypocritical reporters and narrow-minded reviewers. There was a time in Hollywood when the war epic was a staple of cinema with staggering multinational ensembles, specifically in the post-World War II years. International comrades went A Bridge Too Far, blew up The Bridge on the River Kwai, and reached into both the recent and distant past to cross the Nefud Desert in Lawrence of Arabia and make all slaves free in Spartacus. The Liberator is one such film, but in an era of CGI and superheroes, the tastemakers have forgotten what quality is. Every review of the film smacks of unfair cynicism, missing that this is a competent, confident motion picture (yes, motion picture) that should be heralded as a much needed return to what makes cinema profound, »
- Kyle North
'A Hatful of Rain' with Lloyd Nolan, Anthony Franciosa and Don Murray 'A Hatful of Rain' script fails to find cinematic voice as most of the cast hams it up Based on a play by Michael V. Gazzo, A Hatful of Rain is an interesting attempt at injecting "adult" subject matters – in this case, the evils of drug addiction – into Hollywood movies. "Interesting," however, does not mean either successful or compelling. Despite real, unromantic New York City locations and Joseph MacDonald's beautifully realistic black-and-white camera work (and the pointless use of CinemaScope), this Fred Zinnemann-directed melodrama feels anachronistically stagy as a result of its artificial dialogue and the hammy theatricality of its performers – with Eva Marie Saint as the sole naturalistic exception. 'A Hatful of Rain' synopsis Somewhat revolutionary in its day (Otto Preminger's The Man with a Golden Arm,* also about drug addiction, »
- Andre Soares
'Nicholas and Alexandra': Movie starred Michael Jayston and Janet Suzman 'Nicholas and Alexandra' movie review: Opulent 1971 spectacle lacks emotional core Nicholas and Alexandra is surely one of the most sumptuous film productions ever made. The elaborate sets and costumes, Richard Rodney Bennett's lush musical score, and frequent David Lean collaborator Freddie Young's richly textured cinematography provide the perfect period atmosphere for this historical epic. Missing, however, is a screenplay that offers dialogue instead of speeches, and a directorial hand that brings out emotional truth instead of soapy melodrama. Nicholas and Alexandra begins when, after several unsuccessful attempts, Tsar Nicholas II (Michael Jayston) finally becomes the father of a boy. Shortly thereafter, he and his wife, the German-born Empress Alexandra (Janet Suzman), have their happiness crushed when they discover that their infant son is a hemophiliac. In addition to his familial turmoil, the Tsar must also deal with popular »
- Andre Soares
This week marks the 10th anniversary of the release of "Crash" (on May 6, 2005), an all-star movie whose controversy came not from its provocative treatment of racial issues but from its Best Picture Oscar victory a few months later, against what many critics felt was a much more deserving movie, "Brokeback Mountain."
The "Crash" vs. "Brokeback" battle is one of those lingering disputes that makes the Academy Awards so fascinating, year after year. Moviegoers and critics who revisit older movies are constantly judging the Academy's judgment. Even decades of hindsight may not always be enough to tell whether the Oscar voters of a particular year got it right or wrong. Whether it's "Birdman" vs. "Boyhood," "The King's Speech" vs. "The Social Network," "Saving Private Ryan" vs. "Shakespeare in Love" or even "An American in Paris" vs. "A Streetcar Named Desire," we're still confirming the Academy's taste or dismissing it as hopelessly off-base years later. »
- Gary Susman
Having worked with the likes of Ridley Scott, Ron Howard, Peter Weir, Michael Mann, and Darren Aronofsky, I would venture to say Russell Crowe may have picked up one or two directing secrets over the years. The Water Diviner shows us what the Aussie actor may have learned from some of these cinematic legends. Immediately visible are traces of Ridley Scott’s wide scope as well as Ron Howard’s knack for schmaltz. In his directorial debut, Crowe feels assured in his presentation of a heartfelt historical drama, but this confidence can’t make up for a story that feels a little tired and a presentation that leans towards superfluous melodrama.
Australian farmer Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe) travels to Turkey four years after the Battle of Gallipoli to look for his three missing sons whom are presumed dead. World War I may have ended but other obstacles still stand in »
- Michael Haffner
Teresa Wright-Samuel Goldwyn association comes to a nasty end (See preceding post: "Teresa Wright in 'Shadow of a Doubt': Alfred Hitchcock Heroine in His Favorite Film.") Whether or not because she was aware that Enchantment wasn't going to be the hit she needed – or perhaps some other disagreement with Samuel Goldwyn or personal issue with husband Niven Busch – Teresa Wright, claiming illness, refused to go to New York City to promote the film. (Top image: Teresa Wright in a publicity shot for The Men.) Goldwyn had previously announced that Wright, whose contract still had another four and half years to run, was to star in a film version of J.D. Salinger's 1948 short story "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut." Instead, he unceremoniously – and quite publicly – fired her. The Goldwyn organization issued a statement, explaining that besides refusing the assignment to travel to New York to help generate pre-opening publicity for Enchantment, »
- Andre Soares
Part I: The Lawrence Bureau
T.E. Lawrence (1888-1935) ranks among the 20th Century’s oddest heroes. This short, smart, and mischievous British soldier helped organize the Arab Revolt against Turkey, a secondary front of the First World War. He became Emir Feisal’s trusted ally, painfully conscious that the Allies wouldn’t honor promises of independence. After the Paris Peace Conference, Lawrence retreated into the Royal Air Force and Tank Corps as a private soldier, T.E. Shaw.
Lawrence lived a curious double life, befriending both private soldiers and notables like Winston Churchill and George Bernard Shaw. He wrote memoirs and translated Homer while repairing boats and seaplanes. His intellect, warmth, and puckish humor masked internal torment – guilt for failing to secure Arab freedom, regret for two brothers killed in the war, shame over an incident where Turkish soldiers sexually assaulted him.
In his autobiography Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Lawrence »
- Christopher Saunders
By Anjelica Oswald
With the DGA Award in hand, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has become a frontrunner in the best director Oscar race for Birdman.
Only seven winners of the DGA Award have not won the best director Oscar in the 66 years that the Directors Guild of America has given the award. The most recent case was two years ago, when Ben Affleck wasn’t even nominated for the best director Oscar for Argo, which won best picture.
No American has won for best director since 2011 and if Inarritu, who is from Mexico, takes the Oscar this year, the trend will continue. Inarritu could become the second Latin American director to win for best director, following Alfonso Cuaron’s win last year.
In the 86 years since the Academy Awards’ inception, 89 Oscars have been given for best director. Twenty-six awards (29 percent) went to non-American born directors.
At the first annual »
- Anjelica Oswald
Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will kick off its 31 Days of Oscar, the network’s annual month-long celebration of the Academy Awards, on February 1 at 8pm with a screening of And the Oscar Goes To…, a documentary tracing the history of the Academy Awards, which premiered on the network last year.
Programming each night, starting February 1 and running through March 3, will feature a chronological “History of the Oscars” through Academy Award-nominated films highlighting at least one Best Picture winner.
Additionally, daytime programming will focus on distinguished films of a particular genre, from adventure to comedy, drama to romance, westerns to musicals.
The programming lineup for this year’s 31 Days of Oscar includes Gone With the Wind (1939), Casablanca (1942), Ben Hur (1959), Patton (1970), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), The King’s Speech (2010) and The Artist (2011). A complete schedule for the month-long Academy Awards tribute is available at 31days.tcm.com. A preview of »
- Melissa Thompson
Moviegoers can finally enjoy a film with a genuine hero who served his country and fought in a righteous war
The New England Patriots spent this past weekend earning a spot in the Super Bowl. But many more patriots went to the movies and propelled “American Sniper” to a record-setting January box office weekend.
In doing so, they officially declared war against the likes of Michael Moore, Seth Rogen and so many liberal, peace loving, pot-smoking A-listers and Hollywood suits who, since the 1970s, have had an ambivalent, if not disdainful relationship with war movies in general, and American patriotism in particular. »
- Thane Rosenbaum
It’s December. And you know what that means? It means for every popcorn blockbuster, we get about three Oscar bait movies that are made solely to appease that body of somewhat stodgy Academy voters. Don’t get me wrong – a good portion of the Best Picture winners in history are still some of the greatest films ever made – “The Godfather” (Parts I and II), “Schindler’s List,” etc. But what about those historically good movies that got the nomination, but didn’t take home the prize? What about those popular movies that carried fan support, but lost out to a smaller, most of the time better, film? Well, here they are. This list focuses on those films that may or may not have been produced as Oscar bait, but earned the recognition of “Best Picture nominee,” only to walk away without the big prize. As usual, not in order of worst to best. »
- Joshua Gaul
15 items from 2015
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