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Mean Dreams (2016)
Nifty Neo-Noir set in Canada
Mean Dreams is a nifty neo-noir set in Canada. Northern Ontario near Sault Ste. Marie to be more precise. The film centers around Casey and Jonas, two lovers on the lam from Casey's abusive cop father played brilliantly by the late Bill Paxton in his last role before his untimely death. The film invoked memories for me of Nicholas Ray's "They Live by Night" 1948 and Robert Altman's remake of the film called "Thieves Like Us" 1974. But the film may be closest to Terrance Malick's "Badlands" 1973 where Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen were the two lovers on the lam after murdering Sissy's abusive father played by Warren Oates. But comparisons can continue as it allowed me to recall the quirky "Moonrise Kingdom" directed by Wes Anderson.
Lovers on the lam is old theme most famously portrayed by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the ill fated lovers "Bonnie and Clyde" 1967. Both Casey and Jonas, played by Sophie Nelisse and Josh Wiggins, both of whom we are liable to see more of, are good in this film. Starting out as young and naive they quickly have to grow up as Jonas gets caught up in a drug deal gone wrong that was set up by Casey's father. Indeed how do you go to the police when it is the police that are bad guys. Colm Feore plays the other bad cop. You just know that none of this going to end well even if the lovers are somehow seen as getting away in the end.
The film is well-acted. It develops slowly and builds. We get to like Casey and Jonas and do really hope they escape the abusive father (Paxton). It's an indie neo-noir film worthy of being amongst the many neo-noirs that come out over the years. One of the biggest stars in the film is the landscape of Northern Ontario from the lakes, the fields and yes the small towns that prevail up there. Seeing the gorgeous landscape made me want to take a trip back.
Black Sunday (1977)
Ahead of its time
John Frankenheimer was it seems a visionary director. His films always seemed to be ahead of its time. And Black Sunday is no different. While ostensibly based off the Munich Olympics attacks of Black September the attack on the Super Bowl seemed to almost forecast events like 9/11 and the incessant war on terrorism that envelopes us today.
Frankenheimer did not stray from controversy. He drew a picture of the terrorists far more than many others might have. We feel the bitterness of Dahlia Iyad (Marthe Keller)on how the Israeli/Palestinian conflict has impacted her life, her family and the Palestinian people.
We even have some sympathy for Michael Lander (Bruce Dern) who while playing his crazed best is actually a tortured soul clearly suffering from PTSD and his feeling of embitterness towards his wife who deserted him and his eventually court martial even though he spent years in prison as a POW in Vietnam (probably Hotel Hilton and was no doubt tortured). He may have received the silver heart (or was it purple?) but he was deeply embittered and a perfect foil for the Iyad led terrorists to be the fall guy for their planned attack on the Super Bowl.
Lander is an ex pilot and when he was normal he was the pilot for the Goodyear blimp that hovers over the Super Bowl. But it wasn't just the terrorists who were drawn well. Major David Kabakov (Robert Shaw) is clearly a Mossad agent even though it never seems to utter the word Mossad. He is a ruthless killer whose sole purpose is to track down terrorists like Iyad and assassinate them. That he seems to be given a somewhat sympathetic portrayal suggests they needed someone to act like the good guy. But there was little good about him and especially not his ruthless sidekick Moshevsky (Steven Yeats).If there was anyone who actually came off as a bit of a good guy it was the FBI agent Sam Corley (Fritz Weaver).
My one complaint about the film was turning Robert Shaw into a latter day James Bond with his phony heroics to hook up the blimp to the helicopter to drag it away from the Super Bowl before it blows up. It was all a bit too neat and tidy.
Black Sunday is a superb action and political thriller worthy of Frankenheimer's better pictures. Considerable tension and the music score of John Williams added to the tension. The shot of of the Goodyear blimp coming in over the Super Bowl was superb and the ensuing panic was filmed not CGI'd. We felt the panic. *** out of 4.
The Midnight Meat Train (2008)
One helluva ride
After seeing this film you will never travel the subway late at night alone ever again. And even travelling with a friend won't save you. Nope this film was one helluva ride. Vinnie Jones I am sure would scare the heck out of you just meeting him. On the other hand he's probably a nice decent guy in real life.
This film is either one of the best you will ever see or one of the worst. Take your pick. But there is no denying its impact. Bradley Cooper before he became more famous with Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and America Sniper plays a photographer who loves to prowl the streets of New York (looks like New York) looking for interesting subject matter so he can put together a show. One night he got more than he bargained for.
His subject was later reported missing, just disappeared. And Bradley had taken the last shot of her alive getting on the subway late at night. And as he soon discovered it, the realization came that there might be a serial killer on the loose. Only what happens to the victims who just disappear seemingly into thin air.
This is where the film becomes one helluva ride twisting, turning, tension ridden, brutal violence,gory. The sick twisted mind of Clive Barker could be the only person to invent a sicko like Mahogany (Vinnie Jones). Actually while watching Vinnie in action he reminded me of one of the creepiest guys I ever saw in a film. His name was Laird Cregar and the film was I Wake Up Screaming (1941). Well after seeing The Midnight Meat Train you will wake up screaming from the nightmares.
Not recommended to watch alone.
Eye in the Sky (2015)
It was great! It was not so great!
I really enjoyed this film. Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman were a delight to watch. There was considerable tension and suspense in the film. The moral ambiguity of the fog of war was fascinating. The supporting cast were all great in their spots. On that basis alone I'd highly recommend the film.
But when one really thought about it as good as Mirren and Rickman were the credibility was a bit stretched that both at their age would still be positions like that. Mirren's position for sure would have been occupied by a man (no offence to women that is just the way it is). I can't imagine either the US or the Brits having that kind of moral ambiguity. They usually don't seem to care a lot about collateral damage. They either deny the collateral damage or if caught out they say oops we made a mistake and promise to investigate or they just dismiss it as nonsense we were killing terrorists.
I can't imagine those two that were playing the pilots who had to pull the trigger hesitating like that. They'd be court martialled. It was my first reaction as I said you're kidding you can't decide that your job is to pull the trigger.
I may agree with the moral ambiguity about bombing so called terrorists (remember one man's terrorist is the other man's freedom fighter - and the US and Britain don't live there - the people live there its their country not the US's and Britain's). So when you hear that the US bombed a hospital in Afghanistan or bombed Syrian troops and then they say oops we made a mistake my reaction is no you did not make a mistake you knew what you were doing.
The US and Britain have got us into these wars because they want to control these countries. But they now are risking WW3 because of their desire to control and exercise hegemony over these countries. And yes over Russia as well. The moral ambiguities depicted in the film may have made for great film drama but I doubt the US and Britain really care. They want to win no matter what the cost in lives. The US since 2001 have spent $4.5 trillion on the wars and cost the lives of millions as well as contributing to the refugee disaster. No one can tell me that Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria and Yemen today are better off today then they were under Saddam, Qaddafi and Assad and others. They may have been brutes but they kept things in order. Their mistake was to challenge US hegemony over the Mid East. But the US does such a great job of manipulating the population they make it sound like it was their fault.
But Mirren and Rickman were a delight to watch and on that basis alone I enjoyed the film.
Imbarco a mezzanotte (1952)
Underrated Joseph Losey Gem
Underrated gem from blacklisted director Joseph Losey (M, The Prowler both 1951) and blacklisted writer Ben Barzman. This little seen film stars Paul Muni best known for winning an Oscar in the 1937 film The Good Earth and Tony in the original Scarface (1932).
Here Muni plays a homeless stranger looking to escape and start a new life by boarding a ship but he doesn't have the money. He tries to raise money by selling his only possession, a gun. Hungry he steals some food from a confectionery and when confronted by the shop owner accidentally kills her.
It was here that he crossed paths with a young boy Giacomo played fabulously by a young Italian lad by the name of Vittorio Manunta who only did 3 films. Giacomo had been sent by his mother to buy milk and return laundry but on the way he lost the money in a marbles game. Unable to buy the milk he steals it just before the Stranger came into the same confectionery.
The two are now on the lam and join forces with young Giacomo thinking the police are looking for him for stealing the milk. Beautifully filmed in b&w in post war Italy with gritty neo-realism amongst the bombed out ruins of a coastal Italian town in Tuscany the story is tender yet contained classic film noir elements with the accidental murder, the innocent theft and the chase. Joan Loring (The Gangster, The Verdict, The Big Night) in a bit part as a lonely woman. Worth the find. Wonderful little seen film.
The Indian Fighter (1955)
Lust in the dust or is it lust in the river.
The Indian Fighter was a good western for Kirk Douglas to show his stuff. Apparently he did his own stunts, riding his own horse, even falling from a horse and breaking his nose in the process although that wasn't part of the script.We got to see Kirk Douglas with his teeth fully clenched and of course we got see Kirk Douglas flexing his biceps and shirtless.
But the best parts were the passionate scenes between him and Elsa Martinelli. Boy they were hot. I can see myself now back in the 1950's at a Saturday afternoon matinée and the theater is packed mostly with kids and there would be a lot of hooting and hollering especially when they rolled in the water. You could call it lust in the dust except they were in the water so lust in the river. But us impressionable young lads weren't supposed to know things like that but it would still have been great fun. Or as some would say darn there they are smooching again. Howls of laughter.
I watched this film recently and given how hot the scenes were between Kirk and Elsa it was not surprising to learn afterwards that the two of them were having a torrid affair on the set. Making it more bizarre was the fact that Kirk was married at the time to Anne Douglas and it was with her that they found Elsa Martinelli and got her for the part of the Indian maiden.Further the other love interest in the film was Donna Douglas playing Susan Rogers a single mother travelling west with her young lad but she was also Kirk's ex wife from 1943-1951 and the mother of Michael Douglas.
Boy the intrigue and relationships behind the movie were better than the movie itself. Not that the film was bad as it was a pretty good duster even literally as a lot of dust was kicked up in the battle scenes. On the plus side this film did a good job of trying to present the Indian in a positive light (Hollywood was starting to figure it out that the Indians were not always the bad guys) and not as godless savages or some such thing as the baddie Lon Chaney declared at one point.
Indeed there was a lot of that as the white men and women would literally go into a panic at the thought of the Indians coming anywhere near them. After all don't the Indians just want to rape (am I allowed to say that?) and pillage and scalp? No they were presented in a positive light and of course poor Kirk was accused of being an Indian lover. But the film turned on the baddies Walter Matthau and Lon Chaney both plying the Indians with drink and looking for the gold. But it's OK as they get theirs in the end after they were responsible for breaking the peace treaty and of course blaming it on the Indians and everyone runs around like chickens with their heads cut off screaming the Indians are coming or some such blather.
There was a pretty good battle scene and overall this film wasn't bad with great fun and some regular western actors like Ray Teal, Walter Abel and Allan Hale. And a great little turn by film noir icon Elisha Cook Jr. The CinemaScope was great even on my 42 inch Samsung with a clear picture seen in its full glory on YouTube. Great fun with the best fun with Kirk shirtless flexing his biceps and frolicking with Elsa in the river. Lust in the river.
Jingle All the Way (1996)
Idiotic film showing insanity of Americans
This is a completely idiotic film that demonstrates the insanity of Americans at Christmas time. OK probably Canadians as well who knows. Why Arnold would stoop so low as do this piece of idiocy is beyond. Maybe he was desperate for the money. Some good comics in it as well including Sinbad, Phil Hartman and James Belushi. And I have always loved Harvey Korman.
OK so what was I doing watching this piece of c***. Well by accident actually. I passed it while channel hopping. And confess couldn't for at least a little while not stop from looking at it. Actually this film is like watching a train wreck. You know it is bad but you can't take your eyes off it.
Stranger on the Third Floor (1940)
Nifty B Film Noir
In some ways rating this film an 8 out 10 is generous. It's a B film and throughout it feels like a B film. Outside of Peter Lorre who gets top billing even though he is only in the film for a short time the rest of the cast are unknowns who largely stayed that way. Okay Elisha Cook Jr. has a key supporting role as well and he went on to a long film career often appearing in noir films. The film was made apparently for around $175,000.
The film has all the elements of noir. The wrongly accused man, voice over, paranoia, lots of heavy shadows, those low camera angles up the stairs, the Brooklyn setting but the pièce de résistance was the dream sequence that has to be seen to be believed.If any complaints the couple played by John McGuire and Margaret Tallichet were a bit cutesy and the happy ending was a bit schmaltzy.
But it doesn't take away from the overall effects of the film. Peter Lorre is downright creepy as the stranger and Elisha Cook Jr. is his usual wide eyed self as a wrongly accused. McGuire did his best to channel that later B actor Tom Neal of Detour (1945). Well since McGuire came first maybe it was Tom Neal channelling McGuire. As to Tallichet who had a brief film career and went on to marry the director William Wyler (Ben Hur amongst others) well she was that lovely girl next door you always fall in love with. The rest of the cast is peppered with fine character actors especially the landlady and the pain in the neck neighbour of McGuire.
The film is compact and tidy coming in at a swift 64 minutes giving it a TV film feel. Overall a nifty if jagged little film. So remember 'They put you in a shirt with long sleeves, and they pour ice water on you'
Along the Great Divide (1951)
The 1950's brought us a lot of great Westerns - The Naked Spur, High Noon, Man of the West, 3:10 to Yuma, Shane, Vera Cruz and others. Unfortunately this is not one of them despite the hand of the Great Director Raoul Walsh. No it is not bad but overall this is a routine western - straightforward story - Old guy wrongly accused of murder (Walter Brennan), taken by Marshall (Kirk Douglas) for trial, chased by rich rancher (Morris Ankrum) whose son was killed, Marshall has hots for old guy's daughter (Virginia Mayo) despite all the tension between them. It does have its moments and a good cast despite all the western clichés and Kirk Douglas's clenched teeth. Enjoyable though and wrapped up in a tidy 88 minutes.
The Dark Knight (2008)
I gave this movie a one (1). Not that it deserved it. But what it doesn't deserve is the lofty 9 from IMDb viewers that put it #4 on the IMDb list. The movie is good but it is not great. So I give it a one just to balance all the ludicrous 10's.
What was good. Well Heath Ledger as the Joker was the most obvious. Unpredictable but never over the top. A scary Joker - Jack Nicholson - who? Aaron Eckhart was also quite good as Harvey Dent/Two Face. And finally Christian Bale was a good Batman the best of the bunch. Didn't feel like a hero at all. Oldman was good as he always is. Finally Maggy held her own. So I had no complaint about the acting.
I just found the story jumpy and confusing at time. Christopher Nolan is a good director but his stories get lost amongst all the gimmicks. And that is just annoying.
I hadn't seen this picture before nor the other Nolan Batman's either. And now I know why. No not really a bad picture. Just not worthy of a 10 or the overall 9 rating let alone a top 250 IMDb. Not that my one is going to make any difference .