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One of the best silent movies!
In my opinion, this version of Ben-Hur and The Big Parade are the two best films to come from the silent era. After over two decades of cinema, all the aspects of film making came together in the mid 1920s before Hollywood had to start all over again with talking pictures. Despite the passing of three-quarters of a century, the movie stands up remarkably well. Quite technologically advanced for its day, Ben-Hur boasts several colored sequences as well as a terrific sea battle and chariot race.
I have not read the book by Wallace but I am familiar with it enough to know that this movie is more faithful to the book than the 1959 remake. I liked the way the 1959 version pulled the story together to make it a better movie plot, but this version isn't far behind. It has suspense, romance and adventure!
Definitely worth many viewings!
Although this isn't one of Hitchcock's best films, it is still great and has many great elements. It drags a little during the first half but as Bergman hopelessly falls for criminal Peck, the story gains momentum.
The plot relies on the audience suspending its disbelief significantly. Most of the unraveling of the movie's mystery is due to Freudian analysis. Although very intriguing, it is not very plausible that John Ballantine (Gregory Peck) would remember an entire dream which could then be so intricately explained... almost flawlessly by psychoanalyst Bergman. Still, the story is captivating and the dialogue is well written.
The score, by Hungarian composer Miklos Rozsa is definitely one of the best of the 40's and was obviously an influence for Bernard Hermann's scores.
The acting is superb by all, especially by character actor Leo G. Caroll and the gorgeous Ingrid Bergman. It's not surprising that Hitch decided to use her again as the trashy alcoholic in "Notorious" the next year.
And of course, there are the Hitchcock touches... the use of color for a few frames, the kissing/door-opening sequence (you'll understand when you watch it), etc.
Overall, a very good film. *** 1/2 out of ****
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
One of the best
I saw this movie for the first time a year and a half ago. I liked it, but I didn't remember how much until it was on TV today. Everything comes together so well at the end, and on repeated viewing, there is a whole new level to it.
Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are both exceptional in their roles. Robbins plays Andy Dufresne, a convicted murderer who goes to Shawshank Prison where he is befriended by Red (Morgan Freeman), who has already served 20 years there. Despite the hardships of prison, Andy refuses to lose hope, and he tries to inspire Red to feel as he does.
I can't think of one scene that was wasted. Everything helped build to the movie's conclusion. Every character was important, as was every line of dialogue.
I actually cried at the end. This movie really makes you think and touches your heart. Next to Pulp Fiction, the best movie of the 90's.
The Killing Fields (1984)
Moving and timeless
This touching film is (the true story) about journalist Sydney Schanberg and his Cambodian interpreter Dith Pran. Caught up in the chaos of the American bombings and the Khmer Rouge, Pran eventually has to struggle just to stay alive.
This movie deserved every Oscar it won for its year (1984). The cinematography is excellent. First, Cambodia is photographed as almost a paradise. Then, we see the horror of warfare, also stunningly photographed. It looked so realistic, that for a moment, I felt like it wasn't a movie, but a documentary.
The acting is top notch as well, especially from Dr. Haing S. Ngor and John Malkovich (in his screen debut).
Everyone needs to see this movie at least once. Although it might be a little disturbing, the violence is not gratuitous. It only adds to the story and emphasizes the tragedy. Despite the tragic elements, however, the movie is inspirational. One of the best films to come out of the 80s!
If for some reason, you've read my review of Suspicion, you know that I named that movie as my favorite Hitchcock film of the 40s. I have changed my mind. Although a great movie, it simply doesn't compare to Rebecca. Fontaine's acting in both is superb, but Rebecca is much more atmospheric, and creepy.
Creepiest of all is Judith Anderson in the chilling role of Ms. Danvers. George Sanders is a weaselly detestable foil for Olivier and Fontaine, but I wonder... is he the villain? Or is Anderson? Perhaps only Rebecca is the villain.
Unfortunately, the plot twist didn't take me by surprise. I had already read about the film, so I knew what was coming, similar to my experience with Psycho, but it's interesting to go back and watch it through after seeing it the first time, and you see a whole new level.
Too bad this is the only Hitchcock movie that won Best Picture. Truly monumental film making!
One of my favorites
The first time I saw this movie, I was kind of undecided. I had taped an Alfred Hitchcock marathon on TV and I only watched it for the sake of watching another Hitchcock film. The second time though, was in the back seat of a conversion van on a LONG road trip and I had a lot of time on my hands, so the more movies I had to watch, the better.
I thoroughly enjoyed it. Having read about the movie, I knew that the ending wasn't Alfred Hitchcock's first choice, but I thought the final shot was very beautifully filmed, and the ending was ok with me.
Of course, the whole movie is beautifully filmed in brilliant sunlight. I think the only really dark scene is the milk one. However, the theme of a woman suspecting that her husband is a murderer is indeed dark.
The movie is about Lina McLaidlaw (Joan Fontaine) who marries the rascally Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant). She slowly begins to suspect that he is plotting to murder her for money, and it certainly doesn't help when his best friend dies under mysterious circumstances. Fontaine is excellent in her role and she certainly deserved her Oscar.
The movie is really quite entertaining. Many people consider Rebecca or Notorious Hitchcock's best movie of the 40's. I like both films a lot, but something about Suspicion makes it my personal favorite of the decade.
This is a must-see for Hitchcock fans. Full of classic performances and of course, suspensefully directed!
American Beauty (1999)
A gorgeous satire
American Beauty was my pick for the best film of 1999. Every aspect of film making came together to make this movie great.
The script is darkly funny and is a very biting satire of all of us suburban middle class folks. In fact, I was a little scared when I could compare the characters to "normal" people I knew.
The acting was excellent. I can't imagine anyone other than Kevin Spacey in the role of Lester Burnham, who goes through a midlife crisis and wreaks havoc with the lives of everyone around him. The three young stars: Thora Birch, Mena Suvari, and Wes Bentley delivered on target performances. They add just the right amount emotional depth and pathos to save their characters from becoming the caricatures that they could have. Chris Cooper is the fascist neighbor, and an underused Allison Janney is his submissive wife. In a small comical role is Peter Gallagher, providing a foil for Annette Bening, who plays Spacey's wife. Bening's performance was perhaps the most widely criticize, but I thought it was excellent. She has been accused of being over the top. Of course she was over the top. That was the image of success her character was trying to project constantly, but when she stops projecting that image, we see a human side that is very touching in the film's final sequence.
The film has a good message about what beauty is, and Spacey's closing monologue brings everything to a close wonderfully. If the inevitable had come a half an hour earlier, it would seem less tragic, but that extra time gives the audience a chance to "look closer" and empathize with each character, even Chris Cooper's.
Also of note, is the beautiful cinematography. The use of color is striking, especially in the surreal dream sequences. This film definitely deserved the oscar it received for cinematography, as well as the other four oscars.
So, if you want to see what everyone has been talking about, you should see American Beauty. **** out of ****
The Insider (1999)
Well filmed and scripted
This was a very intelligent film, whose script neither condescends or patronizes its audience. Russell Crowe was very impressive and Al Pacino was great as always. Plummer also did a nice job as 60 Minutes' Mike Wallace.
However, there is more to the film than the fine performances. The filming is well though out, painting a cold uninviting picture of America. The cinematography was the second best of the year, topped only by American Beauty's rich colorful portrait of suburban life. This movie was almost Kubrickian in its realistically icy style. No sentimentality here, folks.
I would really recommend this movie. It's a little longer than your average film, but there isn't a wasted moment. The approximately 2 hrs. and 40 minutes will go by quickly. If you want to watch a movie that appeals to your intelligence, watch the Insider. *** 1/2 out of ****
Foreign Correspondent (1940)
This is one of Hitchcock's lesser known movies, probably because his Rebecca, released the same year received so much attention. Nonetheless, it is a well-crafted movie.
The script is very witty, not surprising considering that one of its writers was Robert Benchley, who has a humorous supporting role himself. Another great supporting role is George Sanders' 'ffoliot'. After seeing All About Eve, and Rebecca, I thought of Sanders as Hollywood's conniving imp. This movie turned my views 180 degrees. Where would Joel McCrea and Laraine Day be without Sanders' heroics? His performance is terrific.
This paragraph contains a spoiler! (You may want to skip this paragraph if you haven't seen the film.) Terrific as ever, is Hitchcock's direction. The murder and subsequent umbrella and windmill scenes are marvelously photographed. The suspense carries through to the end. The climax on an airplane is astonishing. As soon as the ship opens fire, the suspense will be thick enough to cut with a knife. When the plane hit the water, I could not believe how much I was anticipating the outcome. The ending was very patriotic but it seemed very appropriate.
Some of the film's special effects may seem dated - some exteriors look like models, and in one scene, there is obviously a dummy in use, but by the end, these are forgotten. The climax is breathtaking. It was filmed in a way that only Hitchcock could film.
A very well-made movie by the master of the cinema. A must-see!
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
Bad and worth watching!
This is the most terribly made movie I have ever had the pleasure of watching, and as such, is extremely enjoyable.
The acting is mediocre at best, and is often not even that. The gravestones wobble. When on fire, the flying saucers look like burning paper plates.
In some scenes, the time of day switches back and forth several times. For example, toward the beginning, some gravediggers are working late in the day, around sundown. At the same time, a plane is flying overhead, and it is almost 4:00 on the plane. Since the people on the plane describe it as being early morning (although the sun is brightly shining, creating shadows of everyone), one can only assume that it is 4:00 A.M. Next, the scene shifts back to the graveyard, where it is apparently sundown. That's only one of many plot holes big enough to fly a saucer through.
There is also Bela Lugosi, who died before production even began. Ostensibly seeking Lugosi's box office draw, director Ed Wood put old Lugosi outtakes in. The result is hilarious. One scene is used several times, and in between, there is his taller standin who uses a cap to conceal the fact that he is not Lugosi.
Another highlight is Eros's description of how the earthlings will destroy the universe by exploding sunlight.
I've only covered part of why this movie is soooo enjoyable. Anyone who wants a good laugh should see this movie
For a movie: 0/10
For entertainment value: 8/10