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Two Against the World (1936)
Fast-moving and incisive comic-tragedy
I saw this last night on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). I had never heard of it before, and was quite surprised to find it so engrossing.
Bogart does a star turn as a city-wise cynical editor who reluctantly goes along with his greedy radio-network boss in this incisive "B" programmer. About 12 years before he played similar city-wise cynics to perfection in movies like Deadline USA, Knock On Any Door, The Barefoot Contessa, and The Harder They Fall, Bogie already had the star qualities down pat.
In order to boost ratings, and bring their somewhat high-brow programming to a more popular level, WUBC, "the Voice of America", pushes a tell-all radio mini-series about a woman who was acquitted 20 years ago by a plea of self-defense of killing her husband. Not willing to be discreet in order to save the woman's and her husband's reputations, the station uses underhanded methods to reveal all to all listeners, and as luridly as possible.
As a time capsule, I also found it very illuminating of male-female mores in the workplace in the mid-1930's. Although beyond Henry O'Neill, I'm unfamiliar with the supporting cast, the players were uniformly excellent, and the direction was taut.
If you like this kind of movie at all (e.g., A Face In The Crowd, An Inspector Calls, etc.), don't miss the opportunity to see this one.
Butch & Sundance Meet "Take The Money And Run"
This is wild, and lots of fun. Terry and Joe, escape from prison in dramatic fashion, rob banks in one-horse towns, laugh together, drive each other crazy, fall in love with their depressed housewife-hostage, and amuse the audience while building up to the big finish. We are escorted into this chaos in flashback by the raspy-voiced host of an America's-Most-Wanted-type show called "Criminals-at-Large" in quasi-documentary fashion.
A revelation: neurotic, paranoid, but brilliantly clever Terry is played magnificently by Billy Bob Thornton, showing range and a sense of humor I never knew he possessed. Picture a southern-fried Virgil Starkwell (Woody Allen's character in TTMAR) embodied in Thornton. Bruce Willis is ideally cast as Joe, the beastly suave and erratically tempered natural leader of the cellblock.
Creator Barry Levinson and Willis has fun paying homage not only to Butch Cassidy, but in slyly combining elements of other vintage Paul Newman movies/characters, including (I believe): Cool Hand Luke, The Sting, Where The Money Is, Hombre, Harper, Hud, Lady L, and Sometimes A Great Notion. Cate Blanchett, who showed similarly indelible wildness in The Shipping News, scores big-time as a modern-day Etta Place mixed with the Susan-wannabe in Desperately Seeking Susan and a dash of Estelle Parsons from Bonnie and Clyde. The chemistry and repartee between the trio are unforgettable. Other characters pay homage to Bonnie and Clyde, Take The Money and Run, Pocket Money, and others.
This movie is a lot of fun. Enjoy it.
They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (1970)
Routine police detective movie despite Poitier repeating role of Virgil Tibbs
This Virgil Tibbs is closer to the California-based detective essayed by John Ball in his books. The mystery is worthwhile, and Poitier's performance is masterful. But the writing is pedestrian, the pacing too slow, and the resolution ultimately unsatisfactory. I can give this no better than a 6 out of 10.
Monster's Ball (2001)
Slow beginning, but stick with it for fascinating love story!
Monster's Ball is a very classy independent film. The love that all involved in the production comes through loud and clear. The beginning of the movie dwells on giving us so much details and brutality that it challenges the viewer to stick with it. Some of the violence is presented more graphically and angrily than necessary IMHO. Peter Boyle does a marvelous job as Thornton's miserable, sadistic, and thoroughly bigoted father. Overcoming the hatred and intolerance that he learned from his father supplies the essence of Thornton's character transition. I had not been a fan of Thornton's work prior to Monster's Ball, and in the first 40 minutes, I figured, "Same old Billy Bob." His completely believable and palpable growth, inspired by his wish that his son not die in vain, made me eat my words. He gives a marvelous performance in this movie -- on a par with Berry's magnificent work in letting us feel the pain she feels under the skin, and barely resisting the urge to surrender to the fates.
The last hour of this film is very heartfelt and special. It is loving and romantic without ever being sentimental. The chemistry between Thornton and Berry is truly special, and their inherent abilities to communicate and fight to learn to love and trust each other are amazing to behold without ever striking a false note. The climactic scene after she moves into his house is poignant, brilliant, and memorable.
So, although you might have the urge to give up on Monsters' Ball during its hard-to-take set-up sequence, stick with it and you shall be amply rewarded. Overall, I give it 8/10.
This is a musical with some marvelous Rogers & Hammerstein songs, but they are mere accoutrements for Agnes DeMille's sagebrush ballets. Every step is artistically perfect. The result is magnificent for choreography students and dance afficienados but tremendously slow for the rest of us. Rod Steiger is much too affected in his role. Gordon McRae is adequate,, but Shirley Jones and Eddie Albert come off as most memorable in an impressive, albeit overstuffed, cast. Altogether, this is great art, dance, and music, but a so-so movie.
Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970)
Cambridge and St. Jacques are one of all time best buddy cop duos. They are hip, sexy, and funny. The mystery is intriguing, and the uncomfortable situations keep the viewer's attention throughout. This is one to be seen uncut, because a lot of the humor is quite racy. It's a time capsule in a way also since the Harlem depicted here no longer exists.
Turk 182! (1985)
Zimmerman Flew and Tyler Knew
Terry Lynch gets a raw deal by on-the-take Mayor Tyler (Robert Culp). Only one of his fellow officers believes in him and it is up to his brother (Timothy Hutton) to shed light upon the city's mistreatment of his brother. Graffiti artist extraordinaire Timothy Hutton is magnificent in this fast-paced action-adventure yarn about one man's pursuit of justice for his brother. Expertly directed by Bob Clark, this one's unexpectedly delicious. Be ready to root hard for the hero.
The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
Billy Bob Thornton Ruins Movie
This film noir imitation never seems to figure out whether its a homage, a spoof, slapstick, or a mystery. The result is a confused script, a confused cast, and a confused audience. And the pacing is outlandishly slow. The always-reliable Tony Shalhoub moves proceedings when he's on screen, and Frances McDormand does what she can with a stereotyped and lifeless character. This is definitely one to avoid.