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The Boxtrolls (2014)
This is very smart
Our group was comprised of two adults in their 40's and two children aged 9 and 13. We all liked it very much. This is a subversive little film that will probably offend some. The film tackles two problems with modern society. Firstly, it examines society's pride in gaining material wealth. It is amusingly represented in the movie by a lower class villain's need to join a group of wealthy cheese connoisseurs (even though he is allergic to cheese). The film's viewpoint is that your leopard Gucci handbag doesn't make the person, rather the things you do make the person.
Secondly, there is interesting theme found in how the people view the box trolls. The people have been manipulated into believing the box trolls are vicious killers when in fact they are gentle scroungers. How easy the people are manipulated and how they don't want to think for themselves is a criticism of modern society as well.
Does this all sound heavy handed? It's not really presented that way. The kids loved it and so did the adults. Although if you are a politician; or a member of the American Corporate world; or if you believe your Gucci bag makes you better than your neighbor, you probably won't like this.
13 Lead Soldiers (1948)
Good B Mystery
This film was believed lost by mystery film addicts when a 16mm print turned up on ebay in the early 2000's. The buyer kindly transferred the film to VHS so the rest of us could enjoy it. Now some people may complain about the lack of quality or production values but when your master is a beat up 16mm print I tend to be a little forgiving. Also the fact that it was long lost makes me grateful a print exists at all.
The film itself didn't disappoint this old mystery buff. Conway is great as the suave detective. The rest of the cast is very solid and the plot is a neat little twister about locating a hidden treasure. Not to be missed by mystery buffs and please forgive the quality as we are lucky to have it available to us.
I laughed I cried what more do you want.
This is the one film I pass along to my friends. Not because they are football/soccer fans. It doesn't matter if they are or not. Forget the synopsis. The central story is that of the England Manager. Let's admit it, he's a bit of a screw up. He picks the wrong players for his team, picks his assistants for the wrong reasons. He only gets the England job because the men the FA really want to give it to refuse to accept it. But there is something very very likable about him. He is in a way, an everyman. Someone who tries hard but life seems to give a few kicks to. Like most of us.
This is a comedy, make no mistake. But what separates it from average is it's heart. When England struggle game after game and the dream job turns to a nightmare for the manager we watch as the stress takes hold. It even starts to tear apart his personal life. It culminates at the media center just before England final group stage match and just after Mr. Bassett has been caught in a display of public drunkenness.
There, the men of the press, the self appointed voice of the public, demand his resignation. When he refuses, it causes a riot with cat calls from certain reporters. Quietly, while the reporters scream, Bassett reads the Kipling poem. A poem that has been his personal mantra through life. Which basically says stay true to your heart and do what you know is right. His poem silences his critics and upon completion he utters the now famous (for us Mike Bassett lovers) "England will be playing four, four, fu**ing two!" Which really is an exclamation mark for the poem. Stay true to your heart. And in this case, England do what you do best.
If I have made a mess of explaining why I love this film I only say this. Thank you to the filmmakers for this little bit of brilliance. It's hard enough to find a film that makes you laugh. But finding one that makes you laugh and touches your heart at the same time is indeed rare.
West Bound Limited (1937)
One of My Favorites
This is one film I go back to and enjoy every once in a while. Lyle Talbot has always been a likable mug for me. He is one of those old time professionals who I am always happy to see listed in a film's credits. The plot is simple but very good. Talbot works as a dispatcher at a small rural railway station. One rainy night, shortly after a company payroll has arrived at the station, a masked criminal arrives to steal it. Talbot intercepts the villain's plan and a struggle ensues. He manages to fight off the masked man and save the payroll. But during the fight he is away from his station and misses a call to change the tracks for an oncoming train. This causes a terrible train crash resulting in many lost lives.
Talbot is shocked when the police and railroad authorities don't believe his story. He is charged with negligence and sentenced to five years in prison. Yet fate intervenes and he escapes custody, going underground to live as a tramp in the country. One day he happens upon a rural station where his help is needed. An older dispatcher (Frank Reicher) falls ill and Talbot happens by just in time to save the station from another train wreck. Bitter from his experience with the railroad company and feeling betrayed by his fellow man, Talbot manages to put these feelings aside and agrees to cover for Reicher for a short time.
It just so happens that the masked villain responsible for Talbot's fall from grace also works at this station. Eventually all the plot threads come together in a most enjoyable way. The story is extremely well written, the performances are really good. Lastly, I'd like to counter the previous reviewers assessment that Talbot's performance as a bitter man is not very good. To me it is bang on. Talbot is basically a nice guy embittered by one event in his life. When the old man falls ill, his true nature comes forward and he no longer has time to feel sorry for himself.
Directed by Ford Bebee. Starring Lyle Talbot, Polly Rowles, Frank Reicher, Henry Brandon, William Lundigan.
Pier 23 (1951)
If you must
I like Edward Brophy. He was best playing a mug with a twinkle in his eye. But he is miscast here as the "intellectual who likes the sauce". He just can't make it work. He sounds cardboard trying to play the professor. Likewise, I enjoy Hugh Beaumont. To me Beaumont was similar to Alan Ladd, great in the right role, but with a rather cold screen persona.
Let's be honest, these were made on the cheap and relied heavily on the stars to bring life to very average scenarios. Personally, I think the Brophy/Beaumont team fails. I like them both, but it doesn't work here. Compared with the TV detectives series of the era the Dennis O'Brien mysteries are fine, but if you are looking for a lost gem from the detective genre you won't find it here.
Perhaps the high mark of this excellent series and certainly one of my favourites. The episodes starts with the three men searching under bushes in the countryside for a treacle can Compo buried years before. Compo isn't sure just what he put in the can but it must contain some valuable antiques. After a long search, the men take a break at a local pub where Compo & Clegg decide they should find a woman for Foggy. They tell a tall tale to the waitress, saying Foggy is an eccentric millionaire who made his fortune in frozen turkeys. The waitress is not impressed with the poor Foggy, but a wealthy Foggy impresses her a great deal.
After a wonderful scene where the waitress shows her interest to the bewildered Foggy, the three men return to the countryside to find the buried treacle can. Foggy comes up with a suggestion as to why their previous search failed and a new search is initiated. The finale features one of the funniest sequences in the entire series.
Miss Rutherford's Show
The version I have is from a 16mm print for a US TV station, although I suspect this played on British TV first. The premise is simplicity itself. Rutherford and Stringer Davis travel around England by horse and carriage visiting three estates where ghosts have supposed (and famously) appeared.
If this sounds like a bit of nonsense, it is. If it sounds boring and stupid, it is not. The three stories are played out with deadly seriousness, as Miss Rutherford, in a hushed whisper, enquires of the ghostly sightings. The host of the home then tells a tale from long ago. Some the tales are better than others, but Margaret never misses a step. Her seriousness and great acting ability draw the viewer in and make this a totally enjoyable experience. It would be great fun to play this at Halloween for visiting friends. But perhaps this is more for an older crowd who can appreciate the subtleties of the show.
Likable B Drama
An entertaining little B' drama. Victor McLaglen stars as a retired boxer who now works as a doorman. He is a well liked mug who has a devoted daughter, Joan (Nan Grey) and a snobbish son, Jeff (Donald Briggs). Even though Jeff is soft and looking for the easy life, his father stays loyal. Jeff works as a broker for a big firm and is set to marry the boss' daughter. One problem. The family is high society and Jeff fears his dad's low social standing would nix the marriage. So he pretends he has no family. McLaglen is hurt but sees Jeff's point and lets Jeff have it his way.
Jeff is married but soon he makes a very serious mistake. He "borrows" money from a client and invests in a "sure thing" stock. The "sure thing" loses big and Jeff is short his client's cash and looking at a jail term. His father quickly steps in and decides the only way to make the money Jeff needs is to train a young boxer, Bob Hill (Tom Brown) for a bout against the local champ.
McLaglen's plan is have his boy lose by drugging his fighter's drinking water. He will before hand place a big bet on his opponent to win. It's the only crooked thing he's ever done in his boxing career but his son's needs come first.
McLaglen's pal, Mushy (William Frawley) places the bet, but mistakenly places the bet on Bob Hill to win. Of course, everything works out in the end. Mushy drinks the tainted water meant for Bob. Bob knocks out the champ. And the prize money and gambling money help Jeff from serving a jail term. Jeff, feeling guilty over his treatment of his father, confesses to his wife and her family about his humble upbringing and they prove they aren't so bad by gladly excepting the good hearted McLaglen into the clan.
No Place for a Lady (1943)
Good B Mystery from Columbia
The film starts with a scam. A truck load of new rubber tires is switched for a load of worthless used tires. The crooks plan is to deliver the worthless tires at night to the retailer and then set them on fire before they can be identified as junk. The viewer isn't sure who is behind the crime, but it is evident a number of people who work at the tire manufacturer are aware of the switch.
The scene shifts to private detective Jess Arno (William Gargan) who is driving to a beach house with a client (Phyllis Brooks) who is involved in a blockbuster murder case. Upon entering the beach house, Arno finds the corpse of a woman. Since there is no working phone at the beach house, Arno drives to a nearby club and phones the police. The police arrive and as they enter the beach house they find the corpse has vanished. The police doubt Arno's story but Arno had previously made an important discovery. He identified the designer of the dress on the corpse.
Of course the two subplots come together and soon Arno is tracking the killer. Production values are pretty good for a Columbia B. The cast is filled with veterans of such material and they do an excellent job as expected. Margaret Lindsay plays a real estate agent who is also Arno's fiancée. She is determined to make sure Arno's interest in his client stay professional. Also on hand are James Burke as the slightly dense local detective and Thomas Jackson playing his usual cynical Police Captain. Top suspects include a nosey reporter played by Dick Purcell; an oily crook, played by Jerome Cowan; and a nightclub owner, played by Edward Norris.
High Powered (1945)
Pine Thomas Adventure film
Lowery plays Tim Scott, a man running from his past. Previously, he was working as a "high man" when an accident occurred resulting in a terrible fall and the death of a co-worker. Now Lowery drifts from small job to small job. By chance he meets two women (Phyllis Brooks & Mary Treen) who are setting up a lunch bar at a big building project. The three have a minor brush with the law which results in all of them spending the night behind bars. All three are rescued from the hoosegow by Lowery's former boss (Roger Pryor), who just happens to be a foreman on the building project where Brooks & Treen are setting up their business.
Pryor convinces Lowery to return to work for him, but not at his old job, this time working on the ground. The rest of the film deals with the romance between Lowery and Brooks, and Lowery facing his demons and returning to his old job as a "high man".
If you have watched and enjoyed other Pine Thomas films, I'm sure this one will be no different. It's a little slow in spots. The romantic subplot wasn't interesting to me and took up far too much time. Typical for the Pine Thomas films is that they lack a little flare and zest. And although there is actually location shooting this film has a ton of rear screen projection shots. In fact it may set some sort of record for rear screen projection shots used.
Ultimately, a fine cast has trouble overcoming a so-so script and low production values.