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The Lady Eve (1941)
The lady is a tramp
I had high expectations for this film. I liked the quirky "Sullivan's Travels" and wanted to see what Preston Sturgess could do with a screwball comedy.
Unfortunately, "The Lady Eve" was a disappointment. The opening scene introduces Charles (Henry Fonda), a dedicated ophidiologist. Then we meet Jean (Barbara Stanwyck) and Harrington (Charles Coburn), a couple of professional gamblers looking to take money off rich suckers aboard a cruise liner. There is some snappy dialog as Jean targets Charles for a take-down. Stanwyck has charisma in this role and the supporting cast do a fine job up to this point.
Then things go off the rails. Charles is boring and Fonda gives no life to this character. Why a cynic like Jean should go gooey-eyed over him is absurd. I dislike movies where the romantic leads say "I love you" when there is nothing to make you think these are anything more than words in a script.
The setup for this supposed romance is stupid. Jean finds that Charles' passion is for snakes. She is deathly afraid of snakes. This could be an act but her running out of his cabin and down the stairs is sped up for a cheap gag. Will he give up snakes for her? No! So now she is in love and wants to marry him?
That is pretty much the end of the snake theme. After the opening credits, we are led to expect that snakes and the legend of Eve must be a big part of this story. A snake appears in a brief scene at the Pike mansion later. Will a snake appear at the wedding to reveal Eve is Jean after all? No!
There are a couple of other things in the film that go nowhere. On the ship, Charles goes dizzy at the smell of Jean's perfume. At the mansion, Eve wears the same perfume but Charles refuses to believe that Eve is Jean. When Charles is courting Eve, the horse misbehaves. They shoot the scene from a different angle with the horse in shot. If this is meant to be a sight gag, it doesn't work.
The final scene is ridiculous. Charles is back on a ship where he meets Jean again. Why is he on a ship? Why is Jean there? Most importantly, why does Charles say he is in love with Jean? It makes no sense.
Screwball comedies are funny. This is not.
For a much better movie about a con artist marrying a clumsy naturalist, watch "A New Leaf" instead.
Play Misty for Me (1971)
It's not on the playlist
"Play Misty for Me" could have been a good thriller but is let down by the script, acting and direction.
Firstly, the script. Evelyn looms out of nowhere with no back story. Does she have a job or home? Was she always a psycho? What draws her to Dave? With none of these questions answered, she is more like a slasher film monster with supernatural abilities e.g. following Dave as if he had a GPS tracker on him, convincing Tobie to be her flat mate, killing a police detective with a pair of scissors, etc.
Secondly, the acting. Jessica Walter is good. Clint is OK but squints all the time as if he is facing down Lee Van Cleef in a Spaghetti Western. The rest of the cast range from boring (Donna Mills as Tobie) to over-the-top (James McEachin as Al).
Finally, the direction. Clint Eastwood had to start somewhere I suppose but this is self-indulgent and badly paced. Clint likes Carmel so we get panoramas of sea cliffs and pine forests. Clint likes jazz so we get home movies of the Monterey Jazz Festival. Clint likes sex so he gets naked in a waterfall.
I seem to be one of the few people who has not seen "Fatal Attraction" so I will not compare the two films. But I have seen movies with suspense and "Play Misty for Me" has very little of that.
45 Years (2015)
For What It's Worth
Adam Kempenaar from the Filmspotting podcast had this at number 3 in his Top 10 Films of 2015 list. Well - sometimes I agree with Adam and sometimes I don't.
I felt this film lacked a pivotal scene - maybe something was cut? To me, the "big reveal" just didn't do it. I don't mind a downbeat ending but Kate looking dyspeptic after the dance was a little underwhelming. I was waiting for Geoff to make a bonfire of his scrapbook and photos in the back garden.
I don't think we really get inside the heads of the characters. Does Geoff ever think about Katya before the letter arrives? Does Geoff really spray perfume about the house? Maybe he's just looking at old porno mags in the attic - who knows?
For what it's worth (cue song), the performances are excellent but without a compelling story, such a film does not make my top 10 list.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
How to win an Oscar
This movie starts well but as soon as the protagonists get to Vietnam it just gets very - silly.
The Soviets staged a walkout at the Berlin Film Festival when this was shown. I'm not surprised. The first Vietnamese depicted on the screen commits an atrocity on civilian women and children (that way we know who the baddies are). He pays for his crime, however, when the hero burns him alive - hooray!
Then, all the heroes are captured by the enemy. Oh no! How could this happen? We are spared the humiliation of viewing this terrible event because next up is a hideous torture scene. Who knew that the Commies played Russian roulette with their (highly valuable) US prisoners?
Never fear, the heroes kill their captors and escape! Luckily they can just float down the river to be picked up - then dropped back in the river? Oh well - back to Saigon where they are able to overcome the trauma of captivity - by playing some more Russian roulette?
And so it goes until the movie ends with a rousing rendition of "God Bless America" - the US must have won the war after all! Oscars for everybody!!
** SPOILERS ** Some deer were injured in the making of this movie ** SPOILERS **
Lola Montès (1955)
The chocolate box is empty
It is a great shame that Max Ophuls only made one colour wide-screen movie - this one. The master of the tracking shot might have done so much more but this was his last completed movie.
The scenes are mostly well-directed and beautifully photographed but the main problem with "Lola Montès" is Lola. It is impossible for the viewer to understand how this plain, charmless woman (underplayed by Martine Carol) could seduce and inspire composers and kings. Where is the beauty, the sexiness, the vivacity of Lola?
I am not asking for a documentary but the real life story of Lola is so much more interesting. I know that Ophuls is commenting on the downside of celebrity - Lola wants to be a star and ends up in a circus (if Ophuls made this today, Lola would appear in a TV "reality" show or sex tape) - but without a compelling central character the spectacle falls as flat as the cardboard cutouts of Lola.
The Last Airbender (2010)
Beware the wrath of the fan-boys
DISCLAIMER: I did not watch the TV show before I watched this movie.
I thought "The Last Airbender" was an OK popcorn movie. The settings and special effects were pretty good. The big fight scenes didn't really hold my attention but at least they didn't drag on for too long. The characters were interesting. The acting, particular the kids, was not going to win any awards but was passable.
Some reviewers say the dialog is clunky with too much exposition. I didn't notice that. In a fantasy film, you have to explain more than in a real-world drama. I was able to follow the narrative without having to watch a second time. I understood the motivations of the characters.
It's a shame that some people's obvious love of the TV show has poisoned their enjoyment of this movie. They don't seem to realize that different media call for different treatments of the same story. This film is subtitled "Book 1 Water" so I assume that it covers the same material as the 20 (!!) episode TV series. Obviously a lot of scenes and character development were left out of the movie script - you can't fit an elephant in a mini.
This won a Razzie for worst film - seriously?? To say this is worse than "Sex and the City 2" or "Twilight Eclipse" is absurd. Take a chill pill fan boys and girls. Nobody's stealing your precious memories.
Old Dogs (2009)
Why are people so unkind?
Don't understand all the hate for this movie. It's a comedy - I laughed.
As a movie starring Robin Williams about a father and his children, it's a lot better than "Hook". Williams and Travolta have great comic timing and no scenes drag.
The supporting actors are fine. The kids are bearable and I liked the fact that a "mature" woman played the love interest.
Some of the scenes and characters are unconventional but I like a movie that isn't filled with clichés. If people have a problem with understanding the plot, they should forget about watching anything more demanding than "Jack and Jill".
Ever get the feeling you're being cheated?
Some reviewers have criticized this movie for not being a truthful record of the life and times of the Sex Pistols. They are missing the point.
This is Malcolm McLaren's fictionalized version of events. Right from the start, McLaren makes it obvious that this is not "real". Malcolm knows that you, the audience, are smarter than the media (including this film). You, the audience, know what situationism means. You, the audience, know this IS a swindle.
Is this a good film? Is it worth watching? If you loved the Sex Pistols and their music, YES. Their talents and flaws are revealed for all to see.
Sid wearing a swastika? Truly disgusting but watch him swagger along the streets of Paris and compare him with other so-called rock stars. Was he a stupid thug? Probably but this is someone who bowed down before ABBA in an airport - he wasn't all bad!
Steve and Paul playing on a beach in Brazil with a convicted robber and an actor pretending to be a Nazi? Cringe worthy but listen to this pair play the intro to "Pretty Vacant" and you are listening to rock history.
Glen Matlock airbrushed out of the picture completely? It's like telling the story of the Rolling Stones without mentioning Brian Jones but watch the cartoon at the end and see who Johnny kicks off the boat.
As for Johnny Rotten, that laser beam stare and sneer says "I am not a puppet and never will be."
If you want accuracy, watch the "Never Mind the B*llocks" episode of "Classic Albums". If you want a swindle ("and we don't care"), watch this.
Opening Night (1977)
Perfect Blue > Black Swan > Opening Night
The performances (how much was improvised?) save this film but it is deeply flawed.
The main problem that I had with this movie is that the characters are so unappealing. Myrtle is so difficult to work with, it is strange how *everyone* from the director down to the doorman is in love with her. And Manny and co are no better - they blithely drive away from a fatal car accident - the dinner at the restaurant must have been really good!
The plot is very contrived - since Myrtle obviously hates the play why did she sign up for it? And what director would not have an understudy ready to fill in on opening night for such an unreliable and unstable actress?
There are much better films out there with the "performer goes crazy" theme - watch those instead.
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
A movie is not a book!
Other reviewers seem obsessed with Capote's original novella and criticize this movie saying that it's not the same as the book.
Well - get over it. A movie is not a book! This is a Hollywood romance with some slapstick thrown in to balance the pathos. Would a more downbeat drama be a "better" film?
Despite the treatment, the deeper issues of identity and truth ("She's a real phony") still shine through. Audrey Hepburn plays a character re-inventing herself in NYC. Like Don Draper in Mad Men, Holly Golightly has discarded her rural family. It *is* a stretch to imagine the svelte and sophisticated Hepburn as an overweight child bride - Capote's original choice of Marilyn Monroe in the role might have worked better. Sadly, Norma Jeane's star was fading.
In any case, Hepburn's performance was iconic. Nobody can deny that.
The supporting cast are strong, in particular Buddy Ebsen and Patricia Neal. In my opinion, Peppard is stoic not wooden as some think. And what about that cat!