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Jacob's Ladder (1990)
Some of Tim Robbins best work
Some of Tim Robbins best work. He portrays the terror his character feels without overdoing it. The film has to do with the nature of reality. What is real, and what is not, and it goes very deep. This is often boring, but not in this one. Elizabeth Pena was also very good, and very beautiful as well. She seems to have passed away recently. Much too young. Some other familiar actors showing up include Ving Rhames, Eriq La Salle, Danny Aiello, Jason Alexander, S. Epatha Merkeson, and Macauley Culkin. Quite a cast, as it turned out. I give the movie high marks, as it kept my interest throughout, and the payoff at the end was quite powerful.
Get Hard (2015)
This film is exceedingly puerile. Obviously, the target demographic is white, straight, 15-year-old boys. Some of the jokes and gags were mildly amusing, and many were wince-inducingly bad or exceptionally repulsive. It is pretty hard to make rape funny and every effort in this movie failed. I realize that the racial and homosexual stereotypes were being played for laughs (usually not achieving them) but I thought that this wasn't allowed anymore. Micro-aggressions and all that. I just can't keep up with the rules of political correctness. One thing that the material couldn't hide was the beauty and talent of Edwina Findlay and Alison Brie.
John Wayne in his prime
John Wayne was in his prime in this era, and it shows. Although some of his later films are better, this is still classic Wayne. Geraldine Page seems to come in for a fair amount of criticism in this forum, but I thought her performance was just fine. Some of the scenes were a little bit awkward, but that's real life. There was a featurette on the DVD explaining some of the Apache ways of life and war, pointing out that their tactics were usually ambush battles, and that they would have been very unlikely to attack a wagon train in open country. On top of which, most Indians would not fight from horseback as it makes scoring hits from guns or arrows quite unlikely. They would dismount to fight. But that is less photogenic.
Deadline - U.S.A. (1952)
Better than average newspaper drama
Better than average newspaper drama from the Fifties. Seems to be a more or less forgotten Humphrey Bogart film, which is too bad. I couldn't find it on DVD anywhere, and watched it on a tape I made from cable ten or more years ago. The film has three intertwining plot arcs done very skillfully by screenwriter (and director) Richard Brooks. Martin Gabel plays the bad guy, a mobster who is suitably menacing, without overdoing it. Icon Ethel Barrymore puts in a fine turn as the newspaper heiress, and the lovely Kim Hunter shines as Bogey's ex-wife. Bogart is outstanding as the crusading newspaper editor, doing everything possible to save his paper, and bringing low the criminal element. Definitely worth seeing, if you can find it.
The Gunfighter (1950)
Can't put my finger on what is wrong with this movie
I can't really put my finger on what is wrong with this movie. The plot is predictable and formulaic, but hey, this is 1950. (Interesting that we see Western films of this era as less authentic than, say, Clint Eastwood films, when, after all, the times depicted were in living memory in 1950) Anyway Gregory Peck was a fine actor and did the role well. Millard Mitchell played the consummate Western supporting role. I really liked Helen Westcott and Jean Parker, although I am not familiar with their work. I understand that this movie is thought of as a classic, and I have to judge it as a product of its time, but, bottom line, it bored me.
Father of the Bride (1950)
Pretty good film
This is Spencer Tracy's movie all the way, and that was a good choice. He is excellent as the eponymous, point-of-view character and narrator. He is a bit past his prime as a romantic lead, so being the father character fit him well. Elizabeth Taylor's part was not really all that large, but her beauty was undeniable.
This film's release date is 1950, which brings to mind (to me) that it was only five years removed from the war, tough times for everyone, but this goes unmentioned in the film. Perhaps audiences then did not care to be reminded too much of wounds so fresh.
So, while not at all an uproarious comedy, it carried a wry wit throughout. Pretty good film.
Million Dollar Mermaid (1952)
Esther Williams, doing her thing
A nice color film of a certain age. The plot is formula melodrama, but so were most dramas of the day. In this world of Meryl Streeps, it was interesting that the filmmakers made absolutely no effort at Australian or English accents in spite of the characters, or the settings. It seems that many liberties were taken with the story of Annette Kellerman, the Aussie swimming phenom, who became the first real international swimming star. Esther Williams, who owned swimming in Hollywood in those days was very good, her acting thoroughly credible, and her theatrical swimming unparalleled. Victor Mature and Walter Pidgeon round out the cast.
High Noon (1952)
Gary Cooper's finest role
I don't know how I spent all these years without ever seeing "High Noon", but I just saw it for the first time. It was quite good, even though it went against the well-developed formula for Western movies at that time. The tension is built through anticipation, sort of like a Hitchcock film. There is no action whatsoever, aside from a fistfight, until the climactic scene. Gary Cooper's finest role, and Grace Kelly's first major one. While there have been many done more recently, this is the earliest film I can recall where the action takes place in more or less real time. This is over-emphasized a bit with just a few too many shots of clocks, but then again, that is part of the suspense-building. Apparently this was somewhat allegorical about the HUAC hearings and subsequent blacklisting. I guess the Commies had to get their propaganda in somehow.
To Please a Lady (1950)
Fun to see the vintage racing footage
A decent film of its era, with a very formulaic story arc between the two main characters. I had only watched this because Barbara Stanwyck was starring in it. I had no idea that it was a racing movie. But as a racing fan, it was a lot of fun to see the vintage racing footage. Even though Clark Gable was mostly acting in front of a projection screen for the racing closeups, they spliced it all together very well. And even though auto racing is dangerous now, wow, they raced open top cars with no seat belts at all, no roll bar, no fire suit, pretty much nothing at all to protect a driver except a partial helmet and goggles. Also fun to see the pit stops with a lever for a jack, and hammers to remove and replace the main tire nuts. Apparently, a lot of footage from the 1950 Indianapolis 500 was used and it was something to see.
Pat and Mike (1952)
Fun to see Kate Hepburn display her athleticism
Kate Hepburn was the consummate professional, and never hit a false note, in this film or any other. It was fun to see her show her athleticism in spite of her petite build. And the chemistry with her and Spencer Tracy was undeniable. I actually liked some of her later films much better, like "African Queen" and "The Lion in Winter". This film had a lot of familiar faces including Jim Backus, Chuck Connors, and Charles Bronson. Listed in the uncredited cast was Roger Moore as "Photagrapher". I looked for him but never saw him. Some famous athletes of the day were also featured, such as Babe Zahariah and Don Budge. Aldo Ray as the dim-witted boxer rather overplayed his part, but I suppose that this was the style for movies in those days. Overall, not Hepburn/Tracy's best, but pretty decent anyway.