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The documenting of a needed voice silenced
1 September 2005
The 1961 assassination of Zaire's prime minister Patrice Lumumba is the subject of this modest documentary. Raoul Peck directs this unique look at a tragic time in African history, where the one man who seemed poised to finally speak up for the black population of the Congo was brutally killed before his goal of equality could be completely achieved.

Peck, who intertwines bits of his own childhood into the mix to establish the period, uses little music to help establish the somberness of the subject. The result is a worthwhile documentary, especially to those interested in African history. Peck, who also narrates, directed the 2001 narrative film on the same subject entitled "Lumumba."
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Africa in the movies, circa 1935
1 September 2005
Leslie Banks stars as the title character, a British officer who manages to keep the peace between the African tribes loyal to His Majesty and those loyal to the African king. His right-hand man, one of the tribal leaders, played by Paul Robeson, does all he can to help Banks maintain the peace, but when Banks takes a trip away from the region, all heck breaks loose. Robeson tries his best to stem the tide of revolution against the British in Sanders' absence. Zoltan Korda directed this surprisingly lesser-quality film, but actually wanted to make a more positive film in regards to its portrayal of Africa, but sadly he was dissuaded. Also, it is sad to see Robeson, such a political force for equality in real life, play a stereotypically subservient role to Banks. The film was based on Edgar Wallace's novel at the urging of the film's producer and director's brother, Alexander.
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Desire (1936)
Dietrich and Cooper steal away some laughs in this breezy romance
13 June 2001
Marlene Dietrich stars as a European jewel thief who comically pilfers an extremely rare and expensive pearl necklace from a renowned jewelry store in France. Making her escape through Europe, she keeps bumping into a persistent, not-so-bright, vacationing American motor engineer played delightfully by Gary Cooper. After blowing he and his advances off several times, she realized that he unknowingly has obtained her stolen prize, and now she must find him in Spain and play up to him romantically. The film is very breezy and light most of the way, and Cooper and Dietrich do a fine job together. Meanwhile, Ernest Cossart as the jeweler and Alan Mowbray as a psychiatrist who is an unwitting accomplice to Dietrich have a great comedic scene with each other early on in Mowbray's office. 7 out of 10.
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Liberal views with some truth to them...
6 June 2000
Lee Grant directs and narrates this dismaying look at the results of Reaganomics upon America's working class. She looks at the plight of the farmers who face foreclosure on their lands, people living in a 1980s' version of a "Hooverville" and are being forced to move, and at a family who has been burned out of their home and has nowhere to turn except for an overcrowded welfare house. The stories are moving and prove that bad things can happen to good people, but the film grows a bit tiresome by its conclusion. Grant does an obviously careful job of choosing well-spoken subjects in order to help strengthen her slant on the issues at hand. The result is the feeling of being a bit manipulated by the filmmaker, but of course, almost every documentary filmmaker is going to have a passion for his or her subject matter and have his or her opinions on it, otherwise the filmmaker would not bother to make the film in the first place. "Down and Out In America" is an interesting film in terms of its subject matter, but it offers nothing ground-breaking in regards to its contribution to the genre of the documentary.
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Felix the Cat gets to talk!!!
3 June 2000
In 1936 Felix the Cat was resurrected to the screen in three short animated films. This is one of them. In it, Felix, speaking audibly for the first time, must protect his goose who lays golden eggs for him from a band of pirates. The two other animated shorts produced in 1936 are "Neptune Nonsense" and "Bold King Cole." Besides talking for the first time, these three shorts also marked the first time that Felix was produced in color. One of the film's directors was Otto Mesmer, who also happened to be Felix's creator in 1919, though credit is also given to Pat Sullivan, the head of the studio that employed the young artist Mesmer. This is the era where Felix looks his best, and this is the second best of the three 1936 productions. "Neptune" is its superior, but this still is a splendid film for Felix fans of all ages!
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Richard III (1995)
Shakespeare again updated to the 20th century...
3 June 2000
Ian McKellen adapts this strikingly original update of Shakespeare's classic play about the murderous king who kills his way up the family tree to get the crown. McKellen also stars as the wicked Richard in his version, set in the 1930s. A great cast of players supports him as he magnificently pulls off the part of the evil king. The dialogue stays true to the bard's script and McKellen's adaptation gives a new meaning to the famous line, "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!" Annette Bening does seem out of place. She and Robert Downey Jr., as her brother Rivers, apparently are supposed to be American, yet Bening occasionally slips into a weak British accent, which only confuses the matter.
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Well, actually he was just a coach...
3 June 2000
A college football coach goes through his roughest season both on the field and off in this light comedy. Fred MacMurray plays the kindly coach who has lost touch with his oldest daughter, Betty Lynn, and lost favor with the head of the alumni, Rudy Vallee. His wife, Maureen O'Hara playing much older than her actual age of 29 at the time, stands by his side as he stumbles through the rough times. Jim Backus is fun as their next-door neighbor, and Thelma Ritter adds some punch as their maid who always has money on the team that MacMurray's school is playing. Lynn is good as the teen caught up in angst and a young Natalie Wood plays his precocious youngest daughter very nicely. Overall, it's an amiable film, but underwhelming.
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Citizen Kane (1941)
Most certainly one of Hollywood's greatest...
3 June 2000
"Rosebud" is the mournful, deathbed utterance of Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles). "Can one word explain a man?" one reporter asks. This is what reporters intend to find out. The film is a jigsaw puzzle of Kane's life assembled piece by piece by those who "knew" him best so that everyone might learn what or who "Rosebud" is. The film's opening seems to suggest that this investigative intrusion into his personal past is not a place that should be trespassed upon. The cast is brilliant, especially Welles as the unfulfilled newspaper mogul. The story, scripted by Herman J. Mankiewicz and Welles, owes as much to the life of Welles himself as it does to yellow journalist William Randolph Hearst, its most obvious model. The film remains fascinating from start to finish, in viewing after viewing, in this, Welles' directorial debut. It is filled with innovative technique, symbolism, and powerful meaning and has solidified its place as one of the true masterpieces of cinema.
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A window to Hollywood and the Russia of years old...
3 June 2000
Josef Von Sternberg directs this magnificent silent film about silent Hollywood and the former Imperial General to the Czar of Russia who has found himself there. Emil Jannings won a well-deserved Oscar, in part, for his role as the general who ironically is cast in a bit part in a silent picture as a Russian general. The movie flashes back to his days in Russia leading up to the country's fall to revolutionaries. William Powell makes his big screen debut as the Hollywood director who casts Jannings in his film. The film serves as an interesting look at the fall of Russia and at an imitation of behind-the-scenes Tinseltown in the early days. Von Sternberg delivers yet another classic, and one that is filled with the great elements of romance, intrigue, and tragedy.
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Small Time Crooks...Small Time Laughs...
2 June 2000
Woody Allen is at the helm of this comedy in which he stars and also wrote. He plays a nebish, what a surprise, who fancies himself a criminal mastermind and plans a bank heist with his dopey pals. Tracey Ullman plays his wife who dreams of someday joining the sophisticated lifestyle of royalty. The laughs, sadly, are just not there as Allen seemingly abandons his heist plot entirely partway through to explore the comedic possibilities of Ullman's vain attempts to achieve her goal of joining high society. Meanwhile, Woody just wants his life back to normal once they have struck it rich. The film seems disjointed as if Allen ran out of ideas for one story and simply combined it with another. It is certainly one of Allen's lesser films as this viewer found himself forcing himself to try to laugh at Woody for the first time ever.
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