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Robert Mitchum is Jeff Bailey, a man with a mysterious past. He owns a small gas station in the middle of nowhere. Along comes a guy who has an offer he can't refuse. Thus begins a series of twists and turns that will hold your attention for the entire movie. A few years earlier, Bailey was a private eye hired to track down Kathie (Jane Greer), the main squeeze of a mobster, Whit (Kirk Douglas). She wounded Whit with a gunshot and took off with $40,000. Bailey tracks Kathie in Mexico and she turns out to be a femme fatale. The cast is tremendous and I do not wish to spoil the plot and so I will just recommend this great 1947 film and hope that twenty first century viewers can overlook the fact that this is an old fashioned black and white classic.
Margaret Atwood's future is bleak. The world has deteriorated into a Combination of poisoned air and water and women are 99% infertile. The men in charge have developed an elaborate system for selecting those still able to produce children. Kate (Natasha Richardson) is captured attempting to escape to Canada and is forced to become a handmaiden, as in the Old Testament. The commander (Robert Duvall), is married to Serena (Faye Dunaway), who is too old to have children, and so Kate becomes a surrogate. A bizarre ritual follows, with the commander doing the deed with the handmaid resting between Serena's legs. The government has a school of sorts, where the women are brainwashed with constant religious and patriotic messages. The story is strongly influenced by both Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World. 1984 was written in 1948, and Atwood's book in 1985. Even though they have similar themes, Handmaid stands out as an accurate look at our current situation. The right to privacy has become a sick joke and we are sedated by reality television, with its mastermind now in charge. A truly frightening movie , one perfectly appropriate for our current times.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Howard Stern once said that Halle Berry is physically perfect. I agree, and the proof is Monster's Ball and Swordfish where her assets are on display for all to admire. Unfortunately, Ms. Berry is fully clothed throughout Kidnap, and there is no good reason to watch this terrible movie. It opens with a series of home videos of a baby crawling and the sequence follows the tyke until he reaches his present age of seven. In the next scene a frantic Berry is working as a waitress at a diner; same as Monster's Ball, by the way. I have seen many former Miss Universe runner ups working as waitresses. Mother and child arrive at an amusement park for a day of fun; I am so excited. Mommy gets a phone call and must walk away from her child for the urgent conversation with the ex. This is not a spoiler, as the title gives away the plot, and the little one is abducted by a couple from a trailer park somewhere in America. Next up is an endless chase scene with Halle behind the wheel of a mini van with the skill of an Indy 500 race car driver. The bad people have a Mustang GT, but for some reason, they cannot shake the determined mother. I only stayed with the hope that my heroine would somehow lose her clothing at some point on her adventurous journey. She doesn't, and the stupidity of the story is beyond description. An absolutely preposterous ending does not help matters. The only saving grace is the 95 minute running time. A few more minutes and I might have executed my television.
A married couple who happen to be serial killers is the basis for this very dark and depressing film. Evelyn and John White drive throughout their suburb picking up young women dumb enough to accept a ride from the smiling pair. The audio is terrible, and when the Aussie accents are added to the mix, be sure to use the available subtitles in order to understand the dialogue. Into the picture enters a troubled college student, Ashleigh, and her mum (Aussie slang) and dad have separated, causing the girl great distress. She winds up chained to a bed while the happy couple abuse her both physically and mentally. The film drags on for almost two hours and I could not wait for it to end. The story is silly and the acting only adequate. I can recommend two far superior movies with similar themes. "Room," which earned Brie Larson an Academy Award is one and "10 Cloverfield Lane" with John Goodman as a survivalist is the other. The scripts and acting in both are a good lesson in filmmaking done right.
I am thirty years late on this film as I am reading a biography of Tom Waits by a British music journalist, Barney Hoskyns, "Low Side of the Road." Writer-director Jim Jarmusch is well known for low budget, oddball movies, and this one surely fits the bill. Zack (Tom Waits} is a wandering DJ who by a bad decision winds up in jail. Jack (John Lurie) is a small time pimp who also ends up in the clink with Zack. Inmate number three is Roberto (Roberto Benigni) who is there under mysterious circumstances. The black and white imagery provides the feel of a Tom Waits song, and Jarmusch uses two of Wait's tunes, one at the opening credits and the second at the closing credits. In between, the three prisoners plot an escape and from jail then the adventures begin. The chemistry between the boys is magical and I believe that the Coen brothers were heavily influenced by this film when making "O Brother, Where Art Thou? with George Clooney. Benigni later won an Oscar for "Life is Beautiful" and I recommend "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" where Waits plays the devil and he is cast perfectly. It is amazing what a good filmmaker can do with a low budget, and Jarmusch certainly succeeded with Down by Law.
And now for something completely different, Terry Gilliam is the one American member of the British comedy troupe, Monty Python's Flying Circus. He seems to have absorbed his wicked sense of humor from those days. Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) is a magician who is possibly 2,000 years old. He leads a carnival with Anton (Andrew Garfield), a midget, Percy, (Verne Troyer) and a daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole). He owns a magic mirror which sends its passengers into the imaginarium of the good doctor. The encounters of the netherworld are a feast for the eyes. The animation is combined with live action and it is breathtaking. A man of mystery appears, Tony, Heath Ledger who died during the filming and created a major dilemma for Gilliam. By using a creative script the director later cast Jude Law, Johnny Depp, and Colin Farrell as alternate Tony's. It somehow works well as all three are excellent actors. The ultimate casting choice was Tom Waits (my favorite singer- songwriter) as Mr. Nick, who is most likely the devil incarnate. He growls through his lines and his voice was the main reason that Gilliam chose him for the role. The reviews are mixed and I was absolutely mesmerized by this film and give it an 8+.
My only previous experience with Michael Cimino was the overrated and interminable "The Deer Hunter" which contained a wedding scene which lasted longer than some marriages. The director did not seem to understand the meaning of the word edit. The Sicilian tells the story of Salvatore Giuliano, a post WWII Robin Hood like figure who committed bold robberies and tried to initiate land reform with a small scale redistribution of wealth to the starving peasant farmers of Sicily. He battled the government, the church and the mafia, the holy trinity of Italy. Giuliano is played by Christopher Lambert, and the actor has a disconcerting cross-eyed look which made me wonder how the hell Cimino chose him for the lead role. He looks lost and is if he somehow landed on the set from his Tarzan role from his earlier work in "Greystoke". I did see the longer uncut version and the script is decent, probably due to the fact that a co-writer was Gore Vidal, one of my favorite chroniclers of history. His sarcastic wit is evident throughout the film and make it passable entertainment.
As I write this in April of 2017, "Get Out" is the best movie I have seen so far this year. First time writer-director Jordan Peele shows a talent for dialogue similar to Quentin Tarantino for using language which sounds like the way real people speak to one another. Rose(Allison Williams) is a twenty something white girl with a black boyfriend, Chris(Daniel Kaluula). The happy couple travel from NYC to a lily white suburban community north of the big city. The good liberal(we voted for Obama twice, ha ha) parents welcome Chris into the family with big goofy grins. Something isn't quite right in Mayberry, as the story unfolds into an almost "Stepford Wives" tone. Peeles's script is smart, funny and strikes a perfect balance between comedy and horror. I do not want to give away too much and so I will only advise my fellow movie lovers to sit back and enjoy Peele's excellent rookie effort into the film business.
I don't know what the filmmakers were thinking with this convoluted mess. Emilia(Amanda Todisco) is sitting in a van with her boyfriend at the start of the film, asking him what does he think happens to us when we die. Such a deep thinker, Emilia. Oh well, the young lady winds up duct taped, sitting in a car and chewing on the tape in an attempt to escape a bad man. The ditch in the title, is indeed, in a valley. Emilia lands up in a ditch with her boyfriend and what follows, with many flashbacks to a mean daddy and an unexplained fantasy sequence with the victim tied at the wrists and feet and blood dripping from her mouth. Mercifully, this tedious work of amateurs is only eighty minutes. I would suggest that viewers dig up an old DVD of the "Twilight Zone" or "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" to see how to handle suspense properly.
This is, of course, is an Americanized version of "The Seven Samurai" from Japan. Yul Brynner is a gunfighter looking for work who encounters a pair of poor Mexican farmers who have had their village attacked and pillaged by a bad guy played by Eli Wallach. In a strange bit of casting, the native New Yorker is the Mexican bandit. Brynner gathers a crew including Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Steve McQueen and Robert Vaughn to help him in his quest to defend the village. The scenery of Mexico is beautiful and the cast is excellent. The remake stars Denzel Washington as the leader and the story is moved to the United States. I prefer the clearer story in the original version, although both are very good movies. I write this in 2017 and all the stars are now dead. I watched the new version first and the 1960 version a day later. I can highly recommend both.
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