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Love & Mercy (2014)
Beach Boys Movie (minus the songs)
I've been a big Beach Boys fan since the 60's. Love their sound and the energy in their music, so I can tell you how disappointed I was to find out someone made a BB movie and didn't put any songs in. Oh there were a few snippets here and there and several shots of their music in the making with studio scenes, but what a missed opportunity.
I know, I know. It was supposed to be about Brian Wilson's struggle with mental disorder and drugs, etc., but let's face it - he wrote all those songs about cars, surfing and beach parties that captured the imagination of a young guy from New York and I was waiting to hear some of them. What saved the movie for me was John Cusack, who played the older Brian and who I enjoy very much. He did his best as did Paul Giamatti as his mentor/bully. Elizabeth Banks was great eye candy.
Director Pohlad did further damage in my estimation by cutting back and forth between Early Years Brian and Older Brian too frequently. Just as you would get absorbed in one episode he would cut to the other one, and did it over and over. Ultimately it didn't matter, though. I was waiting for a song or two anyway.
Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)
Very Good Indie
This is a remake of a 1967 film and no apologies are necessary. Normally, remakes are inferior to the originals and I did not see the original. I am certain, however, that this picture can stand on its own merits - and they are numerous. condensing my comments, you can begin with the principal actors; you can watch until your eyes and ears bleed and you won't find a bad performance in the film, beginning with Bathsheba (Carey Mulligan) down to Fanny (Juno Temple). The three suitors are superb (Schoenaerts, Sturridge, Sheen) and couldn't be improved upon. The scenery and photography are breathtaking as is the background music. Had not heard of director Vinterberg but he was on top of his subject and extracted just the right performances from his cast.
It is becoming obvious to me that the future of motion pictures lies in independent productions like this one. Top Ten movies are becoming like animated films with real actors - that is, juvenile attempts that are very popular with unsophisticated audiences but do not advance the art form. Just weigh this film vs, say, "Fast and Furious 7". "Far From The Madding Crowd" is another classic which will be ignored at Oscar time, underexposed in movie theaters and under-appreciated by uninformed audiences. Try and see this one if you yearn for something of substance.
Gimme A Break
Liam Neeson is one of my favorites. I like almost any picture he is in. He's believable and has an expressive face that makes you root for him no matter what the circumstance. But "Non-Stop" must be his weakest and most preposterous feature and it makes you wonder what was he thinking to accept a part in this crappy movie.
The premise is extremely far-fetched and as the picture progresses so do the ridiculous plot devices, until the lame and surreal ending - but that was just the icing on the cake for me. Not for one second could any movie fan who had finished third grade swallow any of this drivel. I think this comprises enough lines to stop typing, as this wretched film has already wasted too much of my time.
She Done Him Wrong (1933)
Readers might wonder what I'm referring to - the movie or Mae West. "She Done Him Wrong" is a Mae West product from start to finish, as she has all the best lines and steals every scene she's in. Plus, she's here recreating her Broadway stage success and even gets a writing credit on the picture.
As everyone has noted, this was the movie that made Cary Grant a star, and the scenes where the two are on screen together are the best in the picture. On hand are several familiar old faces, including Noah Beery, Sr. and David Landau. The picture won an AA nomination for Best Picture, remarkable in itself as this is an audacious movie for its time.
I thought that some of the acting was forced and unnatural, whether by accident or on purpose. The most egregious overactor was Owen Moore, who plays Mae's old flame who has 'taken the rap' for her and wants her to wait for him to be released. But Mae is the whole show and does some scenery-chewing herself. Her act is dated and exaggerated but is fascinating to watch.
Murder on a Honeymoon (1935)
The Odd Couple
Interesting casting; a dowdy British matron teams up with a wisecracking New York City detective to solve a mystery. Turns out it was a great idea, and you wish they could have made a whole series, like the Charlie Chans, instead of just three of them. And that is our loss.
Edna May Oliver is entertaining in anything she appeared in and the same goes for James Gleason. Together they are great fun and play well off each other, with neither giving any ground and holding their own as verbal sparring partners. "Murder On A Honeymoon" was even co-scripted by Robert Benchley and directed by Lloyd Corrigan - not too shabby on the credits.
The plot is a good one and you will be hard-put to guess the murderer. There is some plot contrivance toward the end of the picture, but if you're like me you'll just go with it. It's like that with many good movies that hold your interest throughout, a trademark of the way Hollywood used to make movies.
The Velvet Touch (1948)
Great story, great script, great cast. Until it appeared on TCM the other day I had never heard of "The Velvet Touch". It was released through RKO and was produced by comparatively unknown Independent Artists, and then presumably dropped out of sight - you can't find this picture in any format nowadays, but it deserves to be seen.
The script is the thing here, reminiscent of 'All About Eve" with the same type of crackling dialogue and one-line zingers. Can't find any fault with the cast as all fit perfectly into their parts, especially Rosalind Russell in the lead role and Leon Ames as her Svengali-like producer/nemesis. I thought Sidney Greenstreet as the Police Captain was a neat bit of off-beat casting and I hardly noticed his upper class British accent. Saving the best for last, as Claire Trevor put out another outstanding performance as 'the other woman'. She was one of our most underrated actresses and I can't think of one bad job ever turned in by this Westchester,NY native.
Can't think of a single flaw in 'The Velvet Touch". Nearly perfect filmmaking, which hardly ever happens anymore. This sort of Hollywood product was once the norm and is now the exception, in a medium which, sadly, has become form over substance.
Secrets of an Actress (1938)
"Secrets Of An Actress" is pretty much a routine soaper without much to recommend it - except that this one has a stellar cast trying bravely to put it over. The odds are stacked against them as the plot is hackneyed and predictable right up to the ending. There is nothing exceptional to the story, no real highs or lows and the best part of this trudge through the landscape is the background music.
In a review above, blanche-2 explains why Kay Francis, one of Hollywood's more glamorous and sophisticated 30's stars, found herself in this exercise in tedium. Ian Hunter and George Brent also must have been at loose ends and looking for something to do, but between the two of them and Kay Francis they are able to keep the lightweight story afloat. For my money the website has this picture very overrated.
Tugboat Annie (1933)
Stand By Your Man
I thought Marie Dressler was great and died too soon, and that's the main reason for my rating on "Tugboat Annie". She carries the picture and was better than she was in "Min and Bill", the one she won an AA for three years before. The narrative here is more a series of vignettes on the life of a tugboat skipper, strung together and concerning the same group of people. The plot seems disjointed and each episode is an end in itself.
What is really annoying is the presence, or rather the character played by Wallace Beery. He was adept at playing a big slob but he overdoes it in 'Tugboat Annie", so much so that you wish he would get washed overboard or that she would leave him ashore, preferably on foreign soil. There is no way anyone could put up with incompetence and irresponsibility of this kind. He plays an unabashed drunk who nearly ruins her financially, and the ending barely justifies his behavior to that point.
Robert Young and Maureen O'Sullivan are along for appearances but with little to do. But it is a chance to see one of the best comediennes ever to grace the Silver Screen and Hollywood was poorer for it when she passed on.
Three Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
Thought "Gilda" was fascinating, and I'm glad I finally caught it. I like Film Noir and this was a good one, but I had some reservations. The plot was good and centers on the three principals in as tense a menage a trois as you will find on the screen. They tread a fine line between mutual jealousy and hatred and almost all of it centered around Rita Hayworth, who is breathtakingly beautiful in this movie. Having said that...
I thought the three principals were presented as neurotic bordering on psychopathic as they try to one-up each other in incivility, glowering at one another and hurling veiled insults. The script fairly crackles with nearly-overdone noir dialogue, as snappy repartee and epigrammatic one-liners abound giving several scenes an artificial feel. The storyline reveals itself as the movie goes along, giving a little away at intervals until by the end of the picture it all comes together, which I thought was very effective storytelling. Some reviewers objected to the ending, which I didn't mind so much given all that had taken place up to that point. I just thought it added another surreal touch, in a movie that may be as far from reality as a movie can get.
Still, if you are a noir fan or just a movie fan, "Gilda" is not to be missed. It is not in a class with "Out Of The Past", perhaps the best of the noir genre, but is an example of what studio heads would consider superior noir. But studio heads are not earthbound like the rest of us.
Falls Apart At The End
I thought "Backfire" was an engrossing story, a noir told in flashbacks. The script was literate and had some snappy repartee customary of the genre. It was genuinely mysterious as injured war vet Gordon MacCrae searches all over Los Angeles for his missing buddy Edmond O'Brien. He comes across several dead ends and there seems to be no apparent answer for his predicament, or for a lead on the whereabouts of O'Brien.
Then came the ending. As so often happens in many movies, the screenwriters seemed stumped for a way to end their story, and resort to unsatisfactory circumstances that do not fit the rest of the plot and spring a ridiculous final scene on us that leaves us slack-jawed. They also leave us with unanswered questions and give us a chance at revenge via the IMDb website by awarding a lower rating than it was originally destined for.