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calvinnme

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902 reviews in total 
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Watch it for Constance Bennett and early Joel McCrea ..., 5 July 2015
6/10

... because there is nothing at all remarkable about the plot. At the beginning of the film Valerie West (Constance Bennett) is seen packing a bag, ending a "common law" relationship with Dick Carmedon (Lew Cody) as he tells her she will have only prostitution to fall back on if she leaves him. Nothing keeps a gal from leaving you like telling her you have such a high opinion of her! Valerie's reply is "That gives me an idea". (HOW???) and she takes a job as a model for an artist, John Neville (Joel McCrea). It's a nude modeling job, and Valerie is shy about this. Probably the highlight of the film at that time (heck, now, too!) is a long shot that follows in which it appears you have a full nude side view of Constance Bennett, but it is far enough and blurry enough that she must have had some kind of skin tight outfit on. The precode days had their limits you know! This has all the earmarks of any number of films in which rich guy (McCrea) falls for poor girl (Bennett) with shady past but good character while others (his sister, her old lover) try to undermine the situation and break them up. There are some things that distinguish it. One is Joel McCrea as an American in Paris who is not even trying to hide his natural western twang, which really comes out whenever he is playing the part angry It does get funny at times, especially when you meet the rest of his family - understanding dad and plotting sister - and realize that they don't sound western at all! Where on earth did this accent come from? I fault the director here, because McCrea had modern dress parts before and after this and was able to sound not so Western when the role required it.

Let me also commend Hedda Hopper here. She was great as McCrea's snobby sister who is smiling the whole time she is trying to manipulate Valerie out of her brother's life. She almost steals the show, but then nobody steals a show from Joel McCrea in my humble opinion!

An odd and mesmerizing entry among Lean's films, and his last, 4 July 2015
8/10

I've always loved this film.This film has a lot of truly fascinating character development. Dr. Aziz goes from the kind of easily intimidated and emotionally battered employee that the British must have loved to have as a compliant colonial subject, to a frightened defendant who has had injustice snatch him from his lonely but well-ordered life, to a bitter and empowered man who thinks identifying with the plight of his fellow Indians means he must abandon all friendships with westerners, in particular that of the compassionate Richard Fielding. Sir Alec Guiness plays the minor but important role of Professor Godbole, a man whose beliefs puzzle Fielding. When Aziz has been unjustly accused of raping Adela Quested, a British woman, Fielding wants to mount some kind of campaign, to perform some kind of action on Aziz' behalf. Godbole calmly insists that although he cares about Aziz very much, nothing he or anyone does will matter - the whole thing has been predetermined. This is one of the issues that plays like background music in the film - that of Western views of human action and divine purpose working synergistically versus Eastern views on the same themes - karma versus Christian endeavor. I truly believe 1984 was a year in which the Academy got it right - Amadeus was indeed the best picture. However, this film is a photo-finish second and I highly recommend it.

What if someone made a western 20 years ahead of its time and nobody came?,, 4 July 2015
8/10

By 1930, Fox had already conquered making sound movies outdoors due to being an early adopter of sound on film versus sound on disc. Next they tried their hand at widescreen films. Known as 70mm Grandeur, Fox shot three films in this process, this film and two musicals - The Fox Movietone Follies of 1929 and Happy Days (1929). The process was successful, the business end of their widescreen process was not. Due to the Great Depression, theaters could not afford to install the equipment necessary to show films in the Grandeur process. It's interesting to note that if sound itself had come into feature films in 1929 rather than 1927, that silent films would probably have been the majority of films made until 1940 for this same reason.

The Big Trail itself is a wonderfully modern-seeming western compared to other entries of the early sound era. It has an air of authenticity about it, as there is almost a documentary feel of the film in its depiction of harsh life on the Oregon Trail. Finally, there is the reason most people view this film - the birth of John Wayne's cowboy persona, not a cartoon character with either a black or white hat as many actors in the early westerns were, but a character of flesh and blood whose motivations you could understand and empathize with. Also note the presence of Ward Bond in a supporting role who, along with John Wayne, was a staple of the later John Ford westerns.

Despite its technical beauty and the presence of John Wayne, this film flopped at the box office. John Wayne went back into obscurity and did not emerge again until nine years later in "Stagecoach", where he played a part very similar to the one he plays here.

Hindsight is 20/20..., 4 July 2015
8/10

... and thus so is this review about a film focusing on what were seen as the effects of the second Iraq war. Let's face it. Chances are you either loved or hated this film before you even saw it. Personally, I liked it a great deal. I liked the fact that Michael Moore uses the politicians' own videotaped words to indict them, but I also disliked the insinuation in the film that American soldiers were jar-heads who enjoyed or were callous about the killing and suffering of ordinary Iraqis as a result of the war. His final thought in the film is an important one - after all the lies told about why we went to Iraq, why would anybody ever trust us again? This lack of trust was important in the context of the 2008 Presidential election cycle. It caused an unusually high level of participation of young people and saw voters of all ages largely rejecting potential nominees perceived as Washington insiders, and besides Sarah Palin, helped elect Barak Obama to the presidency. Much of this can be traced back to the level of cynicism Moore displays in this film.

Also, and somewhat off-topic, I have to wonder how it is that Michael Moore was able to see the damage that such quotable quotes from conservative politicians could do, and yet then-presidential candidate John Kerry could not in 2004? If I had been running Mr. Kerry's campaign I would have been constantly rewinding and replaying the moment when President Bush is speaking at a fundraiser talking about "his base - also known as the haves and the have mores". What could have done more damage to the President's faux image as some average Joe who enjoys clearing brush on his ranch in Texas? At any rate, I think that although it is very dated at this point, it is still an important film and is worth viewing as a moment frozen in time. Just realize that this IS Michael Moore we are talking about and that he does like to go over the top quite a bit.

The blooming of a comic genius, 4 July 2015
8/10

The High Sign" was Buster Keaton's first two-reeler after he went solo after leaving his partnership with Roscoe Arbuckle in 1920, but it was not the first film he released. Here he plays a drifter who gets hired by a member of the gang "The Blinking Blizzards" to run a shooting gallery. In a turn of events that can happen only in a Keaton film, Buster winds up being hired to both kill the father of the girl he loves and also to protect him. The film ends with a funny chase sequence through a house that has a series of trick doors, false walls, and traps that could only be designed by the mind of Keaton. Keaton disliked "The High Sign" and delayed its release. Instead, his premiere release was "One Week". Both films show a genius in bloom.

Keaton's first feature film, 4 July 2015
7/10

The Saphead" does not showcase Keaton the filmmaker, but rather Keaton the actor. The script is from a play, the directors are individuals Keaton never worked with before or hence, and the studio was Metro, predecessor of MGM. Keaton plays Bertie the Lamb, mild-mannered and spoiled son of Nick Van Alstyne, "the Wolf of Wall Street". In spite of the fact that Keaton had no creative input to the film and isn't actually its centerpiece, there is much to like about this film and much that is so Keatonesque. Keaton plays an old-fashioned romantic and someone that is thrust into the role of the fall guy by the actual bad guy - a theme he repeats in his own features. He also has down pat the part of being the well-dressed dapper man of the 1920's, which he repeats with more comic effect in "The Battling Butler", where he did have creative control.

What do you do with someone who cannot be reformed?, 4 July 2015
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

And who makes that decision? Here ADA Jack McCoy doggedly pursues an ex-con rapist, played by Bert Young. McCoy is sure the guy is guilty of the rape and murder of a little girl, but he cannot prove it. McCoy is sure that the fellow is a repeat offender and will strike again. He brings him in for questioning, has him physically examined, and it is noticed that he shaves his entire body. I guess this was before DNA was prevalently used in such cases. McCoy has the police follow him at work, has posters put up around where he lives notifying the neighbors of his past crimes, and promises to hound him indefinitely unless he voluntarily commits himself under the Mental Hygiene Statute. Eventually, the man does indeed attack again - this time literally stopped dead in his tracks by his biggest advocate up to that point. The question is left open, however, - did the ex-con rapist actually kill the little girl, or did he attack this final time because McCoy's constant harassment sent him over the edge?

Love and evasion of risk are incompatible it seems, 4 July 2015
7/10

Today, most women initiate divorces. But there was a time when it was the other way around since women had few options outside of the home. If you were a woman, you'd just better hope that as the bloom fell off of your rose that your husband did not get the 7, 17, or 27 year itch. This is about the impact of one of those marriages with an itchy husband, an unlikely cad, Lewis Stone as Marlett.

I like how this movie takes the time to build up the characters, always a trademark of screenwriter Frances Marion. A great deal of time is spent in the beginning to show the respect and friendship wealthy author Marlett has with his only child, Lally (Norma Shearer). Then a tell - she asks her dad as they walk up the drive, what book he is working on. He says it is a romance involving a 45 year old man. She, about 20, laughs at the idea. Marlett says that the middle aged are made of flesh and bone too. That life is not over at 30 as youngsters think, and that they thirst for romance, that "last" romance, indicating that dad might be thirsty. When they get to the top of the drive, the slender and glamorous Mrs. Chevers is talking to Lally's mom about her son, Doug, who is away at Princeton. Lally's mom is graying, a bit overweight, a bit sedentary, and Marlett calls her affectionately "mama". Indicating that he thinks of her as first Lally's mom - and a good one - and then a wife.

A year passes and Marlett and his wife are planning to divorce, as is Mrs. Chevers from her husband, but Lally yet knows none of this. She walks into her dad's study and catches Mrs. Chevers and her father in a passionate embrace, talking of marriage. Then her dad tries to justify it. He says that he and her mother are not the same boy and girl who made all of those promises 23 years before. I like Lally's translations - that perhaps he sees her mom as a fat and a bit boring "unlike the slick Mrs. Chevers". He says he intends to keep the house. She reminds him that doesn't matter to her since her mom is being bundled out of that house and Mrs. Cheever is being brought in to replace her. Lally says her final goodbye to him and plans to never marry because she will not be made a fool of as her mother has been, and the male sex has fallen mightily in her esteem because of her father's fall, which he won't even acknowledge as a misdeed.

So off go mother and daughter for a summer vacation before mom goes to France for a divorce, which was the custom in that day. When Lally reiterates her vow to never marry, her mom is happy, which seems odd. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Marlett is not succeeding at hanging out at his old haunts with his new mistress. They both get the cold shoulder from everyone. I'm not sure why this scene was in here other than to show that people did pass moral judgment on affairs and homewreckers at that time, and that a smooth transition did not await them both if they proceed.

On vacation, Lally meets a guy (Robert Montgomery) who really fancies her. They dance, they enjoy each other's company, and maybe Lally is softening on men just a bit until she discovers his full name - Jack "Doug" Chevers - son of the woman who has ousted her mother, a symbol of why she decided to not take men seriously in the first place.

So Lally is one confused girl. She has a mom who encourages her to play the field due to her own bad experience with marriage. She has a dad who thinks "until death do we part" is just a phrase people like to kick around at weddings, and she has a beau who is insisting on marriage now - as in right this minute. How will this all work out? Watch and find out.

This is very good writing by Frances Marion who had already had a couple of short lived marriages that did not work out and one that did that ended in her husband's sudden death just the year before. Thus she could approach this subject of love from the viewpoint of someone who had seen all of the angles. I'd highly recommend it.

Forgiving rapists is for sissies...., 4 July 2015
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...that is, if you KNOW you have the right rapist, and Jennifer knows she does. In fact there are five of them. She's out in the middle of the woods, helpless, and assaulted by four brutes and one mentally challenged guy, Matthew, that I don't think would have even been there if not taunted by the other four. One of the five is a sheriff, possibly making him the worst, because he knows how to simulate being a decent man, but at his core he is a brute beast. Things escalate past the point of where these five initially intended things to go with the girl, turning into torture and gang rape, and they feel they must kill Jennifer or they will all go to jail. However Jennifer falls into the river before they can. The sheriff, the default lead because of his triple digit I.Q., tells another to destroy the videotape they made of the whole thing (Did these guys never hear of Watergate?). But he doesn't. He loads a blank tape and keeps the tape of the entire assault as a souvenir. Crime lesson #1 - Don't ally yourself with stupid people.

The sheriff has a plan of doubling back along the river until the body is found or surfaces. But it never does. So first these guys turn on each other as their panic level steadily increases. Then as souvenirs from the rape appear - one of Jennifer's sandals, the rope they used, the (a copy of???) the videotape of the rape mailed to the sheriff's house, their panic turns to paranoia. All along four of the five show no remorse, just fear of being caught. They collectively turn on Matthew thinking he must be doing all of this because he is the only one not concerned with being caught and full of remorse.

The four go looking for him, probably to kill him, but they find something else. Watch and find out what they find. Caution if you have hypertension or a bad heart because this film is intense.

There is lots of debate as to whether this is a waste of celluloid or not. I certainly believe the second half of the film is just gore without the first half, and unfortunately incidents like the first half of the film happen all of the time. Google "home invasion rape" and see what floats to the surface. The thing is we the people are tired of this sort of thing. We are tired of rapists being treated with kid gloves. Tired of rape victims being told they need to forgive, go to therapy, write feminist poetry and behave like good little victims. Many people, including me, believe rape is worse than murder because there can be a million explanations - not necessarily excuses - for murder, but there is none for rape other than the rapist being a base brute who wants to take the supreme act of intimacy between two human beings and twist it into an act of cruelty. Almost like murdering someone and then magically bringing them back to life to forever remember their own violent death. Since rape is worse than murder, murder is the least rapists should receive in return.

As long as the U.S. continues to go down the failed path of Europe of believing everybody is redeemable, expect to see more of these films. I think that is why The Walking Dead is so popular. In a world without law, sure, there would be more lawlessness, but at least we would know who the bad guys are and be able to dispense with them quickly. And let me tell you quick justice like in the days of the old west, does give criminals pause. What does not give them pause is the system we have now.

Too late to make a long review short, this movie touches on a couple of interesting ideas. The first is not an idea, it's a reality. Crimes involving multiple offenders are usually much more violent than those involving one because multiple people will meld into one violent whole...until the crime is over and then they turn on each other almost invariably. The second is the idea that what if what/who returns is not Jennifer, but some "angel of revenge" that just takes her physical form since some of the things she does involve almost super human strength or speed? The third idea is...did the last half of the movie happen at all? Maybe it is Jennifer's hallucination as she lays dying on the river bank. There is lots to explore here if you have the stomach for it.

Mainly watch it to see that John Gilbert really GOT acting in the talkies..., 3 July 2015
5/10

...but let me warn you that the first half hour of this 85 minute film is a long hard slog. Gilbert plays "Jack", a sailor on a commercial line, who seems to have some kind of beef with fellow sailor "Tripod" (Wallace Beery), although the origin of this rift is never revealed. The boat lands, the sailors are on leave, and there is drunken brawl after drunken brawl for no reason. Someone will just insult someone else or break a bottle over someone's head for apparently no reason. Then everybody starts fighting. This got repetitive, plus the dawn of sound soundtrack is so bad that trying to hear these players speak, during storms, out of doors, in crowded bars, is nearly impossible. I had to rewind several times to get what was even going on. The bright spot in this part of the film - Polly Moran showing up all disheveled in a bar carrying a mallet of all things. Considering how rowdy things got and how quickly they got rowdy, maybe she was smart to be carrying a mallet after all.

During the next hour things improve considerably as the ship lands in London and we meet the object of Jack's affection, Joan (Leila Hyams), a clerk in the shipping company office. She wants nothing to do with him because he is a sailor. Hyams could have come off as snooty in this role, but she doesn't, even without an exact explanation of her rejection. I felt that she might have been hurt or lied to by a sailor before, or she might have seen that happen, enough that she is simply not going to consider a sailor as a suitor. The point is, she plays the part vulnerable and it works. Likewise, Gilbert's character, though rough around the edges, is actually likable. He wants to marry the girl, so his intentions are honorable. He just thinks that lying is OK in the pursuit of this honorable intention. It's at this point the first half hour of the film - which has seemed pointless up to now - begins to make sense. It shows the rough and tumble kind of temporary port to port life Jack is accustomed to and helps explain his actions. He borrows money from the other sailors, buys a suit, and gives Joan a total lie of a story about him quitting the sea and getting a job in the shipping office. Now on the surface this seems despicable, but then you think back to the first half hour and remember in Jack's world the end justifies the means. How does this work out? Watch and find out.

I'd say it is worth it to see that John Gilbert did understand how to act and project a character in the talkies, and also this film gives a supporting role to Wallace Beery that he was just made to play before MGM pretty much promoted him to leading man status after Min and Bill came out later in 1930.


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