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1411 reviews in total 
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Switch before Switch, 19 November 2017

Perhaps best known nowadays as the film that inspired Blake Edwards to write and direct the amusing 'Switch' with Ellen Barkin, this earlier comedy features the same idea of a shameless philanderer reincarnated in the body of a woman. Clocking in at close to two hours, 'Goodbye Charlie' takes an incredibly long time to warm up with over 25 minutes elapsing before the comedy really kicks in since the philanderer (in the woman's body) has amnesia at first. Once the film gets into the swing of things though, it is a decent ride. Debbie Reynolds does well acting tough and manly, casually ogling other women and so on. It is not as dynamic a performance as Barkin in 'Switch' (who nailed the mannerisms of her male self) as we never actually see much of Charlie before he is killed, but Reynolds is still dynamite. There are also several fascinating moments as he/she gets more used to being a woman, even allowing him/herself to be seduced. Additionally, in a daring move, he/she even tries to seduce his/her best friend, played by Tony Curtis. Speaking of which, Curtis does well with a tricky role here. At times, it seems like he is also about to fall for his macho best friend in a lady's body. The experience is let down by a tacked-on cop-out ending that fails to capitalise on all this sexual tension, but the film pokes enough at gender identity issues to remain interesting.

A reporter who is not just here to report, 19 November 2017

Sent to Bosnia to report on the war in the early 1990s, a British journalist finds it hard to stay neutral in the conflict in this war drama from Michael Winterbottom. The film is based on the true story of a journalist who adopted a girl orphaned in the war. "We're not here to help; we're here to report" he is reminded early on, but can he just stand by and watch so many children devastated by war? 'Welcome to Sarajevo' is a noble attempt to shed light on a sad chapter in history seldom portrayed on screen, but it is also admittedly a bit of a mess. The story is very unfocused as it tries to cram so much war horror into the plot. The protagonist does not even meet and think about adopting the girl until nearly halfway in and even then there are few scenes of them bonding. His affection for her is never well conveyed and we barely get a sense of her desire to leave the country. Winterbottom's inexplicable choice to only subtitle certain portions of Bosnian dialogue is awkward too and the blaring music soundtrack never quite feels right. Stephen Dillane makes for a decent lead and the film provides an admirable snapshot of 1990s Bosnia, but the overall film unfortunately leaves a bit to be desired.

Brother's Keeper, 18 November 2017

Employed as transit cops and unappreciated by their moody boss, two foster brothers contemplate hijacking a revenue train in this action comedy starring Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson. The chemistry between the leads is great as they share excellent banter as well as heartfelt moments together and one truly gets the sense of the pair having grown up with one another despite (of course) looking very different. The rest of the film though is far less remarkable. Chris Cooper has an excellent turn as a malevolent pyromaniac who constantly eludes the brothers, but he is oddly relegated to a mere subplot with the second half of the film powered by the ongoing question or whether they will or will not attempt to rob the train. A love triangle that develops with Jennifer Lopez as fellow cop does not really work either, though there is a curiously edited sequence that needs to be seen for itself in which one brother making love to her is cut against the other being beat up. If a mixed bag overall, 'Money Train' is at least an entertaining film while it lasts. The majority of action scenes are very well filmed and the two brothers remain very likable throughout, flaws and all.

Brian's Song, 18 November 2017

Mistaken for the messiah, a hapless a young man from Nazareth tries to avoid crucifixion in this controversial comedy that was banned in several countries upon initial release due to its religious irreverence. Written by the six members of the Monty Python troupe (who collectively play forty roles), the humour is hit-and-miss as per the troupe's norm. There is nothing especially funny about Terry Jones in drag, the lisping of Michael Palin as Pontius Pilate goes on for far too long and other parts are simply silly (mentally handicapped jailer). The jokes that do work are admittedly excellent though. A lesson on how to haggle is a particular highlight, same goes for a stoning scene in which all participants are actually women in disguise, plus the politics of the various rebel factions in Judea are great. The second half of the movie also works better than the buildup to it as the title character finds himself unable to rid himself of followers mistaking him for their saviour and no matter what he says, he cannot get them to change their view. The film is also topped off with the most memorable ending of all four Monty Python movies with its celebration of optimism in the face of adversity.

Runaway, 18 November 2017

After assaulting his wife's lover in a fit of rage, an evangelical preacher flees his state, changes his name and starts a new church in this drama written by, directed by and starring Robert Duvall. There is something appealing in the way he manages to start life anew with a new chance to make a difference and Duvall saddles himself with a complex character who knows that running away is not right and yet who cannot help but preserve his own freedom. Duvall also does well making his rants and raves feel like they come from the heart, including scenes with his hands in the air, passionately asking Jesus for guidance. Duvall is not, however, very convincing as a man in hiding. The film might have benefited from some scenes with him paranoid and nervous, but what really feels odd is his choice to become a radio preacher in his new state, allowing his distinctive voice on the airwaves to be heard by anyone wanting to find him. The film also runs a little long with far too many subplots (e.g. Billy Bob Thornton and his bulldozer) for its own good. Duvall is divine in the lead role though and as writer-director, he does a magnificent job drumming up sympathy for his deeply flawed but well-meaning character.

Deconstructing Harry, 17 November 2017

Living with his two unmarried sisters in the family mansion, a cloth designer struggles to maintain a romance against the objections of his younger sister who is a little too worried in this unusual noir entry from Robert Siodmak. The narrative has several interesting dynamics with ambiguity as to whether the sister is more concerned about possibly losing the family home or simply jealous of their intimate relationship. Unanswered questions also abound in terms of how and why the brother has come to be so subservient, letting his sisters dominate his life. With so much left up in the air, the first hour of the film is an uneven ride, but the final twenty minutes are utterly gripping with a series of thought-provoking twists thrown into the mix. The very last twist admittedly does not quite work (apparently it was forced on by the censors), but the character dynamics are otherwise excellent in this final stretch of the movie. With good performances all round, this is an easy film to recommend for the bits and pieces that do work. The script may not be airtight, but this is still a solid portrait of guilt, rivalry and tension between grown siblings who are still as petty as children at times.

Coming Home, 17 November 2017

Readjusting to civilian life proves challenging for three World War II veterans in this sombre drama from William Wyler. Clocking in at close to three hours, the film has received some criticism about its length, but the ample runtime allows the film to properly flesh out all three protagonists and the camaraderie that develops between them as they meet while sharing a flight back to the same hometown. Fredric March won an Oscar for his portrayal of a banker unable to instantly return to being the shrewd businessman that his colleagues expect of him. Dana Andrews was not Oscar nominated but is equally as effective as a pilot haunted by nightmares of war and vexed by a selfish wife who believes that he could just "snap out of it" if he really wanted to. The best performance comes from Harold Russell though, a nonprofessional actor who really did lose his hands during the war. There is a truly heartfelt moment when he smashes a glass window and the film handles his uncertainty over whether his fiancée really still loves him very well. At times, the movie edges into melodramatic territory with Hugo Friedhofer's overbearing score no help, but it flows pretty smoothly in general. There also is a lot to like about how Wyler sets the film entirely in the aftermath of the war and yet manages to convey just how much each man is changed by his experiences.

Of a Dangerous Mind, 17 November 2017

Selected for an important contract killing due to his detached and unemotional approach towards murder, an arrogant young assassin questions his own skills after discovering that his next target is a woman in this slick thriller. Vince Edwards is excellent as the confident contract killer who simply sees murder as a great way to supplement his income. Along the lines of 'Strangers on a Train', he also professes that "the only type of safe killing is when a stranger kills a stranger" and the film has some fun comic relief moments as he often unsettles two goons sent to accompany him. Solid as Phillip Pine and Herschel Bernardi are as the goons though, their purpose is never clear and film veers close to being a comedy at times with the goons and his failed attempts to kill the woman from afar. Generally speaking though, this is an intense and riveting thriller. The film benefits from a catchy, taunting music score inspired by 'The Third Man' and Edwards has an undeniably fascinating character. Is he worried about killing her because he has more moral fibre than he would like to admit or is it genuinely harder to kill a woman? Whatever the case, this is a fascinating look into a dangerous mind.

War Secrets, 17 November 2017

Framed for the murder of a colleague, a reporter has to evade both the police and international criminals while trying to learn the truth about an album that contains "a fortune in blackmail" information in this noir thriller from 'Zulu' and 'Jet Storm' director Cy Endfield. Released shortly after the end of World War II, the film intimately ties itself to the aftermath of the war with the album featuring the names of those who profiteered from the war, those who were traitors and those who cut deals to advantage themselves no matter which side won. War connections aside though, this is a pretty typical noir entry with an unremarkable slate of shady supporting characters. The idea of having to elude police and antagonists alike is hardly fresh or original and as others have pointed out, the film is too reminiscent of 'The Maltese Falcon' for its own good at times. The movie has some pretty neat touches of its own though including hypnotic spiral effects and swirls after the protagonist is knocked unconscious. Leads William Gargan and Marjorie Lord also certainly try to get the most out of their characters and clocking in at just over an hour, the film at least avoids outstaying its welcome.

The Outlaw (1943)
Way Out West, 15 November 2017

Tensions between Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett and Doc Holliday reach boiling point as they vie for the affections of a voluptuous young woman in this western drama from Howard Hughes. The film is best known for being banned upon initial release due to the size of Jane Russell's bust, and many have denigrated it over the years, citing its historical inaccuracy, the admittedly poor music choices and Jack Buetel's bland performance as the Kid. All things considered though, 'The Outlaw' is a surprisingly decent motion picture. Russell brings a lot of zest and charisma to her role, cleavage aside, and the film is excellently visualised by the dynamite combination of Gregg Toland and Lucien Ballard. Interesting shots include Russell throwing a pitchfork towards the camera and gradual zooms in towards her eyes and lips at pivotal points. Academy Award winners Thomas Mitchell and Walter Huston also give it their all as Garrett and Holliday respectively, even if the script does not give them that much to do (it is more geared towards Buetel romancing Russell than Buetel squaring off with his co-stars). Whatever the case, this is a film worth a look for more than just Russell's bust.


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