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74 reviews in total 
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Malle, Sarandon, and Lancaster Create Movie Magic, 5 November 2015

"Atlantic City" is the movie wherein my crush on Susan Sarandon (and her figure) reached full flower. She is klutzy, strong-willed, and hopeful as an aspiring casino dealer at the dawn of Las Vegas East. Burt Lancaster gives a heart-rending performance as a two-bit crook who has simply outlived all the real thugs. It was like watching a mighty oak refuse to shed its last few tender leaves before succumbing to the frigid indifference of Winter. Louis Malle keeps the movie moving along amiably, and the few weak points (the ex-husband, occasional overacting by SS, some viewers may also find BL a bit hammy for their tastes) are not particularly dire. The film evokes the spirit of the great film noirs of the 1940s and 1950s. Think Coen Bros. served with a thick glaze of sentimentality. Comic yet poignant, "Atlantic City" is one of the Best Films of the Eighties (says I).

"Tutti-frutti ice cream and craps don't mix."

The Hunger (1983)
Masquerade of Empty Souls Preserved in Amber, 5 November 2015

"The Hunger" is a fairly empty exercise in Style, but, ooh-la-la, what style! Tony Scott's transition piece from shooting commercials to directing features, it feels like a 97-mnute Chanel ad. Nowhere in evidence are the grotesque framing, cutting, editing, and color-filtering choices that mar so much of Scott's later work. "The Hunger" boasts three gorgeous leads, and incredibly rich photography and of-the-moment music, combined with the lazy, narcotic pacing of an afternoon spent lounging in an opium den. It was cutting-edge culture in 1983, and has influenced countless film-makers ever since. A much, much better movie than "Only Lovers Left Alive", IMO.

The Champ of All Baseball Movies, 5 November 2015

A freewheeling, bawdy humor enlivens this love letter to the quintessential American sport. Susan Sarandon met her love Tim Robbins on this film-set, and their chemistry is entertaining and funny. Kevin Costner literally inhabits the role of Crash Davis, a lifetime minor-leaguer in pursuit of a dubious record. Robert Wuhl steals all the bases as the hilarious assistant manager/coach. If you like comedy with a bit of adult frankness and a lot of heart, run, don't walk to watch Bull Durham. It is a safe bet for an enjoyable evening. A double-header with Pastime (1990) would make a clean sweep of good times.

"Don't think. It can only hurt the ball club."

The Warehouse of Broken Dreams Stands on the Edge of the City, 4 September 2015

"Edge of the City" casts Sidney Poitier as a warehouse worker who befriends John Cassavetes' troubled loner. His ready laugh and casual manner belie a character of depth and fortitude. As Tommy Tyler, Poitier exudes kindness and grace, even as Jack Warden's Charlie tries to bully and intimidate him. Cassavetes was skeptical of Lee Strasberg's Method by 1957, and he plays it fast and loose as Axel, an Army deserter who cannot find his place in the world. "Edge" spends a considerable amount of time showing these two characters at work in a warehouse, and the incidents of harassment and horseplay ring equally true to anyone who has done time in the world of unskilled blue-collar labor. This is the first feature film directed by Martin Ritt, and the themes of male bonding (Hud) and workplace injustice (Norma Rae) are ones he would revisit during his illustrious career. Exemplary cinematography by Joseph C. Brun, and observant writing by Robert Alan Aurthur add to the verisimilitude of this examination of the everyday existence of men who toil anonymously in the background of urban life.

"You go with the lower forms, and you are down in the slime."

You gotta know 'bout somethin' before you can dream about it, 4 September 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"The Defiant Ones" gave me a whole lot more than I had expected. I always had thought this was a semi-sensational action film that exploited racism to attract notoriety. It actually is a poignant story of two men on the run who must cooperate in spite of their mutual animosity. The original screenplay by Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith won the Oscar for 1958, and I am hard-pressed to think of a script more deserving of every accolade possible. Joker Jackson (Tony Curtis, a revelation) and Noah Cullen (Sidney Poitier, fierce and fatalistic) are chained together and are in flight from a posse of local deputies led by Sheriff Max Muller (Theodore Bikel) and State Trooper Capt. Frank Gibbons (Charles McGraw). The ongoing quarrels between the two pairs of mismatched partners throughout the film paints a vivid picture of life in the rural South of the 1950s. Bikel is simply stunning in his offhand performance as the humanitarian leader of the manhunt, and McGraw is unyielding in his determination to bring in the escapees swiftly and by any means necessary. Claude Akins is intimidating in a small role as the inhabitant of a work camp the prisoners stumble across. Lon Chaney Jr. dominates the screen during this passage, as we learn that he has good reason to empathize with Joker and Cullen (as Curtis calls Poitier). The duo ultimately seek refuge at the modest farm of an unnamed and abandoned single mother and her child. This portion of the film becomes a vignette straight out of a Tennessee Williams play, and the heat radiating from Cara Williams could warm an entire Arctic outpost.

I cannot stress enough how fine the acting is by the entire cast. I have never seen Tony Curtis do such good work, and Poitier is excellent as always, with a a haunting mix of melancholy and mirth that is best displayed by his boisterous rendition of William C. Handy folk song "Long Gone" at key points in the movie. Cara Williams is riveting every second she is on screen, and Lon Chaney Jr. acts as a counterbalance to the casual prejudice of the other Caucasian characters. The various Southern accents are underplayed but lend authenticity to the dialogue, as do sundry colloquialisms they use. Stanley Kramer, a well-known social activist, directs the film without judgement, as the actions of the players speak for themselves. I cannot find a single flaw in "The Defiant Ones", and I have no choice but to give it the Highest Recommendation possible.

"I fill it up wit' dreams."

Maleficent (2014)
Maleficent is Magic, 1 September 2015

I was thoroughly impressed with this movie. The magical worlds of the Moor and the Castle were stunning, and the effects were seamless. The rich colors and fantastic creatures made the entire viewing a joy to experience. I was knocked silly by Maleficent's character design, and I was entranced by Elle Fanning's smile. The quiet power of this film builds slowly, as the various events unfold at a regal pace. The filmmakers eschew the usual bombast and frenetic overkill so common in effects-driven blockbusters. The music plays softly in the background, nudging rather than bludgeoning. Children of any age can embrace this wonderful tale of betrayal, vengeance, and redemption. I look forward to watching it again and again in years to come. Magnifique!

Memorable and Funny Portrait of Best Friends Bumbling into Adulthood, 25 August 2015

Heartbreakers (1984) Bobby Roth wrote and directed this humorous yet poignant depiction of a male friendship that is tested by a femme fatale art dealer. Peter Coyote is Blue, talented LA painter who has been scraping by with the help of best buddy Eli (Nick Mancuso), heir to a struggling garment business. Carol Wayne, Kathryn Harrold, Jamie Rose, and Carole Laure are the women they spar and sometimes sleep with. The friendship between the two men is one of the most authentic and affecting I have seen on film. They complement each other well, and their loyalty to each other is expressed in quiet ways. Look for the scene about 38 minutes in, when Eli comes over and finds Blue sleeping on his layout table. Cinematography by Michael Ballhaus, with a score by Tangerine Dream. A perceptive observation of young singles resisting the demands of full adulthood, and my choice as the best movie out there about modern day painters. Highly Recommended.

"Well, Syd told me, that you think abstractionists should be executed."

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The Haunting Lingers in Memory Eternally, 25 August 2015

The Haunting (1963). Adapted from "The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson. Hollywood legend Robert Wise directs this disturbing tale of a fragile spinster who joins a paranormal researcher's on-site investigation of a notoriously haunted house. Julie Harris radiates naivete and terror in equal measure. 60s stalwarts Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn, and Claire Bloom are her de facto family in a harrowing weekend of closing doors and phantom noises. This film is extremely unsettling and brilliantly filmed.

The relationship between Eleanor (Harris) and Theo (Bloom) in The Haunting provides an opportunity for camp to leak in, but Wise keeps everything strictly business. There is not a single frame in The Haunting that does not somehow either enhance the atmosphere or advance the plot. If you watch closely, you will see that they inverted some of the exterior shots from B&W to W&B just to create a more alien feel. The movie is rife with innuendo, but never crosses the line to self-parody.

Eleanor is a very tragic figure. Her lone attempt to control her own destiny results in unexpected acceptance and kinship that slowly gives way to fear. Julie Harris plays her as if she stopped maturing at age 10, when the poltergeist experience occurred. Her celibate status is due more to her childish attitude that sex is 'icky' (inferred from her relationships with Theo and Luke), than any lack of sex appeal.

The Haunting is set in the early 1960s, but the picture is timeless. The cinematography by Davis Boulton, editing by Ernest Walter, production design by Elliot Scott, and especially the music by Humphrey Searle are all top-quality. Its treatment of ghostly goings-on may not be to everyone's liking, but its synergy of technical elements with casting and script creates a thrilling, memorable experience for the audience.

"Whose hand was I holding?"

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A Trip to the Moon put me into a Delightful Swoon, 25 August 2015

French silent classic. Produced, written, and directed by Georges Méliès, who took inspiration from Jules Verne's "From the Earth to the Moon" (1865) and H. G. Wells' "First Men in the Moon" (1901). The first science fiction film ever made was very expensive to produce for films of its time, and it was a huge success worldwide.

The fully restored 14-minute silent is posted to YouTube. The hand-painted cels have been restored and re-assembled digitally. There are no interstitial titles or dialogue. Everything is communicated via pantomime and music cues. The music recorded with this release is a great asset to the visuals, and is not a conventional silent film score. The joy I experienced while watching this I usually associate with The Wizard of Oz (1939) and such films. The movie is a continuous 14 minutes of sheer visual delight. Note especially the way women are featured.

One truly amazing aspect is the actual capsule that travels to the Moon. Just compare the ship featured in "Le voyage dans la lune" with the Service & Command Modules which actually orbited the Moon during the Apollo missions.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
First Experiment bringing Shelley's Materials to Cinematic Life succeeds admirably, 25 August 2015

I recently found the Restored version of this silent homage to the Mary Shelley classic tale on YouTube. All quoted passages are taken verbatim from the novel.

The animating of the Creature sequence (3:00 - 6:45) in this short film is unique, I believe. Note the human skeleton prominently displayed therein. I never understood how Frankenstein could make a vigorous eight-foot-tall humanoid from the rotting corpses of normal-sized 19th Century men.

"When I found so astonishing a power placed within my hands, I hesitated a long time concerning the manner in which I should employ it. Although I possessed the capacity of bestowing animation, yet to prepare a frame for the reception of it, with all its intricacies of fibres, muscles, and veins, still remained a work of inconceivable difficulty and labour. I doubted at first whether I should attempt the creation of a being like myself, or one of simpler organisation; but my imagination was too much exalted by my first success to permit me to doubt of my ability to give life to an animal as complex and wonderful as man. The materials at present within my command hardly appeared adequate to so arduous an undertaking; but I doubted not that I should ultimately succeed....It was with these feelings that I began the creation of a human being. As the minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of a gigantic stature; that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionably large. After having formed this determination, and having spent some months in successfully collecting and arranging my materials, I began....These thoughts supported my spirits, while I pursued my undertaking with unremitting ardour. My cheek had grown pale with study, and my person had become emaciated with confinement. Sometimes, on the very brink of certainty, I failed; yet still I clung to the hope which the next day or the next hour might realise. One secret which I alone possessed was the hope to which I had dedicated myself; and the moon gazed on my midnight labours, while, with unrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding-places. Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil, as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave, or tortured the living animal, to animate the lifeless clay? My limbs now tremble and my eyes swim with the remembrance; but then a resistless, and almost frantic, impulse urged me forward; I seemed to have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit. It was indeed but a passing trance that only made me feel with renewed acuteness so soon as, the unnatural stimulus ceasing to operate, I had returned to my old habits. I collected bones from charnel-houses; and disturbed, with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame. In a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house, and separated from all the other apartments by a gallery and staircase, I kept my workshop of filthy creation: my eye-balls were starting from their sockets in attending to the details of my employment. The dissecting room and the slaughter-house furnished many of my materials; and often did my human nature turn with loathing from my occupation, whilst, still urged on by an eagerness which perpetually increased, I brought my work near to a conclusion."

Shelley specifically states that intact re-animation of the already-dead would be the second phase of the experiments.

"Pursuing these reflections, I thought, that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might in process of time (although I now found it impossible) renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption."

This 14-minute piece is a grand early work, and the accompanying music sets the tone brilliantly. The way J. Searle Dawley ends the story is unique and surprisingly poetic.

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