115 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Titanic (1953)
This version will "go down" as one of the better ones.
8 December 2017
The best Titanic film is undoubtedly 1958's "A Night To Remember," particularly for its more realistic depiction of events, but 1953's "Titanic," while fictionalized, focuses on the human drama. The climactic father/son reckoning is far more moving than the maudlin Rose/Jack story in James Cameron's overblown 1997 extravaganza. This version better conveys the era of the voyage and spends less time on special effects of people drowning. Barbara Stanwyck looks like a John Singer Sargent portrait, whether donning an elegant evening gown or dripping in fur. She never looked better. And who can resist a movie with the inimitable Thelma Ritter?
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Night Watch (1973)
Sickbay Watch
8 December 2017
An atmospheric thriller that's a bit short on thrills, "Night Watch" is nonetheless entertaining. Ninety-nine minutes of watching 41-year-old Elizabeth Taylor, still looking good and decked out in Valentino, is reason enough. The successful Broadway play by Lucille Fletcher (ex Mrs. Bernard Herrmann) suffers in its translation to the screen. Like Fletcher's most famous writing credit, "Sorry, Wrong Number," the female protagonist is way too shrill. Poor Laurence Harvey, close to death and generously reunited with his good friend and "Butterfield 8" co-star Taylor, tries hard as the deceitful husband. The ending will satisfy the long, tedious buildup. A fun movie to watch as a distraction when you're home with a cold, but certainly not among Taylor's best.
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September (1987)
I said what the lawyers told me to say.
7 December 2017
I may be in the minority here, but I place "September" among Woody's most mature and profound films. Though at times the dialog overreaches, more often than not it resonates in the hands of the performers. The characters' mismatched affections divert us from the tragic history of mother and daughter, which comes to a ferocious boil. Elaine Stritch is a force of nature, barreling over everyone in her path, especially daughter Mia Farrow. The film looks and plays out like a stage show, which isn't a bad thing. It's interesting to read the history of this film, how it was shot with a different cast then completely reshot again. Don't let its poor reputation turn you away from what is intelligent and thought-provoking commentary on human behavior.
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Amour (2012)
An Unflinching Look at End of Life Issues
6 October 2017
This is quite a remarkable film. It tackles a subject seldom addressed in such depth in mainstream cinema. It's certainly not entertaining, in fact, it's rather painful to watch. But it's an accurate depiction of what middle class couples in today's Western societies can expect if they're lucky enough to live to a ripe old age.

After living a comfortable, cultured life, circumstances change in an instant once good health fails. In this case, a man in his 80s suddenly becomes caregiver to his wife, doing things and making decisions which previously never crossed his mind.

Major kudos to Jean-Louis Trintignant, whose exceptional performance tops anything he's done in his long, prodigious career on screen. He says not a word in a scene where he watches a nurse bathe his wife, yet his face conveys everything that needs to be said. In another scene where he fires an unsuitable nurse, he manages to keep his dignity and resolve despite his compromised defenses. Just two examples of many well-played episodes.

I would have liked a less ambiguous ending, yet as it stands, "Amour" reinforces the point that there can be no good ending for a situation like this. Great job by all involved in this production.
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Laurel Canyon (2002)
McDormand Rocks!
15 September 2017
This movie is a mess. The story of a young couple tempted to stray has been done much better in other hands. Casting is odd, with Brits playing Americans and an Israeli, an American playing a Brit, all of it quite unconvincing. (Could Kate Beckinsale please come to life occasionally?). The enigmatic ending probably frustrates those who like this movie; I found it to be the only interesting plot device. The eponymous location isn't given its due, which is a shame. The LA neighborhood offers endless cinematic possibilities yet we're shown mostly its cracked pavement. What makes this movie worth seeing is the remarkable performance by Frances McDormand. She steals the show with no apparent effort. Making it look so easy is very hard to do, and she does it to perfection. Kudos to this versatile actress.
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Joy House (1964)
I Tried
8 September 2017
After forking over big bucks for this hard-to-find DVD, I tried several times (unsuccessfully) to get through it without falling asleep. From the reviews I expected a taut, cool thriller. No such luck. It soon became an unconvincing, muddled mess with not an ounce of suspense. Lola Albright looks fantastic; Why she wasn't a bigger star is the real mystery here. Jane Fonda (in her pre-feminist/militant days) looks the best she ever did. Alain Delon's appeal is lost on me. All three could use a few lessons from The Actor's Studio. The Lalo Schifrin score tries hard, but even at its noisiest couldn't rouse me from my semiconscious state. Anyone wanna buy a used DVD?
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Valentino (1977)
Ken Russell In Decline
30 June 2017
Though he tried valiantly, director Ken Russell couldn't maintain the depth he brought to his biggest success "Women In Love." From that point on, excess took over at the expense of logic and coherence. Films like "Mahler," "Tommy," "Lisztomania," became increasingly messy. By the time "Valentino" came along, while still offering up a visual feast, Russell had become sloppy. The script is bad - none of the narrative is the least bit convincing. Rudolf Nureyev is not at fault here. He gamely subjects himself to all manner of humiliation and comes off pretty well. The same can't be said for the rest of the cast. Leslie Caron tries hard. It's Michelle Phillips whose lack of acting ability brings down the whole production. "Valentino" is worth a look by fans of Russell's visual style, but that's about all it's got to recommend it.
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Chinatown (1974)
Let's talk about Dunaway
23 May 2017
By now it's only redundant to heap more praise on this film. The writing, acting, cinematography, direction, editing, etc. seamlessly come together as if predestined. And yes, I think Polanski's decision to go with a downbeat ending was the correct choice - that final scene is unforgettable.

What I'd like to focus on is Faye Dunaway's remarkable contribution to the film. She reportedly did not get along with Polanski, in fact, was labeled "difficult" on several of her movies. Yet she turned in an incomparable, complex performance. Starting with her look. Hitchcock placed great emphasis on each character's outward appearance, which told us just about all we needed to know. Here Dunaway takes a page from his book and immerses herself in the trappings of a wealthy woman of the 1930s. Compare the way she looked in "Bonnie and Clyde," also set in the 1930s. The eyes and hair are straight out of 1967.

Keep in mind that she was 33 when she made 'Chinatown." That's a knowing performance from someone so young. Her cool demeanor when we first meet her turns out to be misleading. She embodies the classic femme fatale until just toward the end, in her famous "She's my sister. She's my daughter" scene, when we suddenly understand she's the only character with an ounce of integrity. There's been quite a lot going on beneath the surface.

Next time you watch this film, pay close attention to Dunaway. You won't find a better female performance anywhere.
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Philosophy 101
17 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Very good addition to Woody Allen's filmography. Thoughtful, intelligent movie unlike anything Hollywood churns out these days. Woody's fingerprints are all over this one and you can just hear him typing away every time the characters speak. Performances are good (not necessarily great). Look for Bette Midler's daughter in a small role. Santo Loquasto's set design and Rhode Island location photography are idyllic. Compared to Allen's other great morality plays (Crimes and Misdemeanors, Match Point, Cassandra's Dream), this one seems a bit over-emphatic, though it remains intriguing and satisfying throughout. There are even several Hitchcock touches thrown in - the unrelated murder from Strangers on a Train and the final struggle between good and evil from Shadow of a Doubt. Especially noteworthy are the classroom lectures which question the validity of classic philosophical thought.
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I May Never Go To The Movies Again
16 March 2017
Have we really sunk this low? This is what's considered entertainment? Poor Tippi has to see her granddaughter splayed all over the screen! This nonsensical tale is so tasteless, not to mention un-erotic, it makes you wonder whether the entire human race has lost their brains. It'll put you into a 2-hour coma. Poorly acted. Inane dialog. Hey, nice scenery. Did they have to steal the giddy glider rendezvous from the remake of "The Thomas Crown Affair?" Have they no imagination of their own? Can't think of any redeeming qualities here. Someone please clue me in. No, wait! Better off spending your time reading D. H. Lawrence if you're looking for a wee bit of titillation. At least you'll get some exposure to good writing. And get this - "Fifty Shades" was such a sensation it merited a sequel! I give up. I'm going into hibernation. See ya!
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