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It's the earliest extant example of the Marx Brothers work on film,
made at the dawn of sound and while primitive still has the power to
amuse and entertain all these years later...if you want to let it. It
was originally a successful stage play and was filmed in New York
whilst the brothers were performing Animal Crackers in the evenings on
Broadway in 1929; it shows as being very stagey in acting and sets -
but I wouldn't want it any other way. As it is it has an unrivalled
historical authenticity and charm.
It concerns a hard up Florida hotel and its owner during a land grab. Groucho was as he always was, the main reason why people went to see this back then, or want to now his surreal zaniness transcends Time, whether or not he or George Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind wrote whichever side-splitting lines he spoke. His opening speech was meant to soothe his rebellious unpaid staff who eventually break up satisfied: wages means wageslaves and who wants to be a slave? The one-liners are thick and furious from him, very often with Margaret ("Ah you and the Moon - you wear a necktie so I'll know you") Dumont as the unwitting butt, and all impossible to humorously convey in print. Apart from Why A Duck, Chico's best gag was when he announced his first number, Harpo's was in continually pulling horror-struck faces at the dinner table. Zeppo Who? It was Kay Francis's first film, and very different from the elegant potboilers Paramount put her in during the next five years. On the other hand I thought the In and Out of the ladies' bedrooms routine palled after a bit but over time they adapted and perfected it. The points that Groucho, Chico and Harpo especially were sex-mad off and on set, and Groucho held director Robert Florey in low esteem don't detract from the overwhelming charm and other-worldliness of all of the proceedings.
Ultimately they made a tremendous little film, a record of a time which was fast disappearing, with primitive technology - the cameras were unwieldy monsters which left the cameramen gasping for air after a few shoots but with such a careless vivacity from all concerned to get the nonsense onto film. Irving Berlin's two songs When My Dreams Come True and Monkey Doodle Do weren't hits for him and also pall after many reprises during the film but are essential in the viewing and enjoyment of this historically important document.
Not only does the Mummy return but his friends and enemies and all the
romance and adventure they brought with them in the first film. Stephen
Sommers, Brendan Fraser, Rachael Weisz, Arnold Vosloo and John Hannah
were back to do the second part of the franchise, this time up against
an even more powerful adversary. Parts of the plot are amusingly
retrodden from the first part too; and again not much makes or is
expected to make sense.
The former servant of Anubis the Scorpion King and his vast army have lain dormant for nearly five thousand years biding their time. Young Imhotep would like to control this power, meanwhile the Fraser's are chasing after them all to get back their precocious eight year old son who has been kidnapped by Imhotep, and to fight Evil with Good too of course. It's a swift film with no messing about but favourite bits out of many include the London Bus ride, the boy's journey on the train, the barmy dirigible flight, the race to get to the pyramid before dawn. With this movie it's only the ride that matters - all the way from 3067 BC to AD 1933, not the reason for it. The cgi cartoonery was laid on with a trowel but usually complemented the action even if a bit brutal at times. Fraser and Weisz certainly had a delightful rapport.
It only worked because it was the same team on and off the screen - take one part of the jigsaw away and you don't have a jigsaw, witness the later disastrous part three. However I still wish it originally could've been a three-film franchise instead of two, simply because we would've had even more of this pleasantly nonsensical hokum to enjoy all these years later!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I grew up on a steady diet of science fiction stories, which is my
excuse for still watching science fiction movies good bad and
indifferent of any era. Star Wars, The Matrix and Cloud Atlas were all
reasonable science fiction films, not so this. It reminded me more of
Dune, but it had elements within of Terminator, Phantom Menace, even a
smattering of the Fifth Element and probably others too. And of course
strip it right down to reveal Buster Crabbe's non-pretentious Flash
Gordon. This was a film designed primarily to satisfy little girls'
little princess wish fulfilment with Mila Kunis playing Dale, Channing
Tatum as Pygar borrowed from Barbarella (cheating with rocket skates)
and Eddie Redmayne as Ming.
Fed up lady toilet cleaner suddenly discovers that many swift monstrous things from the universe are out to kill her, others to marry her and kill her. Why? Because her recurrent DNA apparently makes her Her Majesty the Queen of Something but also the rightful owner of Earth which is shortly going to be harvested of its human population to ensure the longevity of the current owners. The interesting hypothesis presents itself: will the capitalist owners of the universe of the future value Time more than Money, and will they still be called capitalists? There are other interesting plot possibilities during the film, all sadly thrown away in the drive for debatable spectacle. The cgi cartoon gamer sequences take up the majority of the film but fail to impress they're generally lame and taken at such a breakneck speed with conflagration in every pixel that it all ends up risibly incomprehensible. I couldn't laugh though in case I felt motion sick.
Kunis's character was named Jupiter Jones - which only made me wish Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews of the Three Investigators could've made an appearance to find out what was going on here. As usual the good point is that it kept a lot of people in a job but what a wasted opportunity to make something entertaining and worthy of its own longevity! At the end of the movie the owner of planet Earth is back to toilet cleaning, almost Whistling While She Worked and surely about to say There's No Place Like Home! I could've forgiven the waste of time if the end credits had rolled to Chicago My Kind Of Town. Colourful but utterly confusing and non-engaging.
Every generation sees or thinks it sees things differently from
previous generations; this film shows yet again that bohemian
boorishness and temperamental talent is and was nothing new. If you're
seen to be an Artist also being a fascinating penniless perpetual drunk
yob can be acceptable, that troubled spirit is sometimes the price of
Genius. Amedeo Modigliani was an Italian artist who died at 36 of TB in
France, the almost impossibly handsome Gerard Philipe who played him
here died the year after the film also at 36 of cancer, and director
Max Ophuls died before production started it makes this
French-Italian co-production especially poignant.
The story follows the last period of Modigliani's life about 1919, after he met and fell madly in love with fellow artist Jeanne Hebuterne, their trials, tribulations and tragedy. It's all done very well, definitely not as the elegant Ophuls would have done it (witness those clumsy tracking dancing scenes) with good black and white photography and great acting: basically no problems with any of it. However the end of the film was very different to the reality and bearing in mind it was fairly frank anyway I can't understand why the truth was jettisoned at the climax. Did Modigliani's daughter object? What actually happened was incredibly sad, brutal and even incomprehensible but still would have made more sense than the end to the film did. It turned a study in romance into a lesson in sordidness.
But never mind, it was still an interesting journey into an Artist's troubled mind and life and the joy and pain he brought to those around him. I wouldn't hang one of Modigliani's hideous paintings up in my house unless I was paid a lot to; I prefer the film because Beauty is either in the eye of the beholder or the owner.
Third time I've seen this racist film in forty years; that's probably
mysteriously enough to make me a racist to people in the antiracist
industry. That's also probably enough times for me to see it too
never again! A century on and this film still has the power to divide
opinion and even shock some sensitive souls and I even guarantee that
less people in this lovely world have been shocked by Salo or A Serbian
Film than by this. Those two examples of vile obscenity are probably
blithely watched by the world's antiracists without any qualms, and
they would likely defend to the death the rights of the violent
perverts who made them, but not this one. The Prophet may be fervently
insulted by present-day other-believers in the Name of Free Speech, but
a silent film made by racists in a previous civilisation almost has the
power to send millions of selective-egalitarians into paroxysms. Where
are all the antiracists whenever there's a genocide going off, too busy
complaining about images and words which don't suit them?
We all know what this is about: The American Civil War is fought at first for the Union then for Emancipation, the North wins, the South loses; Southern Negroes are turned from being absolute slaves fighting for freedom to being US wage-slaves fighting for jobs, which is a much cheaper option for colour-blind capitalism. The film itself is competent and cogent with excellent direction and photography for the time, and the first part is fairly straightforward. The contentious part is the Reconstruction, in which several Liberties were taken by the author and acquiesced to by the producers. All very unnecessary and nasty! The message appealed to a vast white market at the time, a market that still exists - although I very much doubt any of those many supremacist Chelsea fans on the French train barring entrance to a single black man recently had even heard of this film or the Ku Klux Klan! The actual reconstruction was a gruesomely complicated affair and not easy to glamourise by Hollywood, although its overall image of the South certainly was I always found the apparently acceptable Gone With The Wind just as racist as this only glossier. But as for that so-called wonderful comedy Blazing Saddles, which black people tend to appreciate more than white - so much for Time healing all wounds!
I'm sure there were many vindictive Northerners and ex-slaves back then just as I'm sure there are many vindictive present-day antiracists; not only racists have agendas. Griffiths "may not have feared censorship" and lamely disclaimed on the intertitles that the picture was "not meant to reflect on any race or people of today" and afterwards came up with a movie with the scope of Intolerance as a possible atonement but will this continue to be remembered by the current crop of egalitarians. Will copies of this nasty yet revered fiction film be allowed to exist outside of the Library Of Congress in another century's time? It's interesting tripe - I simply don't see it as either enriching or enhancing in any way but refuse to worry about it or advise anyone else to be worried by it.
I'm never too fussed with realism or realistic special effects in
movies after all, similar to millions of other people I only watched
a two-dimensional series of images under Persistence Of Vision on a
flat screen telly in a corner of my front room tonight. I wasn't
actually "there" or wanted to be either and I have no intention of
reading Einstein or praising or dissing him afterwards either. I
wouldn't even bother to create a loop by promising not to denigrate
with a So What that this apparently was a film produced and finished on
It's a 21st century cgi cartoon update on When Worlds Collide which was a much artier and worthier film than 2001, with a nod to Close Encounters and its breathtaking nonsense taken for sage symbolism again. Convoluted plans coalesce to populate foreign countries, sorry, galaxies as the Earth or at least the American Midwest is slowly dying. It involves going through a Saturnian wormhole in much the same style as a Cosmic Pinball Wizard picking from a list of possible habitations given to "Us" by "Them", whoever that lot were. Oodles of human schmaltz is ladled on the concoction for good measure as a counterpoint to inter-dimensional gobbledygook to ensure some people's eyes don't glaze over. A few points: Playing Love Is All Around instead may save a lot of time for impatient people; director Christopher Nolan used grizzled Michael Caine yet again, he must be a really big pal; Robbie the Robot from Forbidden Planet seemed incredibly dexterous and more anthropomorphic in comparison to the clunky TARS & Co. on display as AI in here; on that bloody icy planet cool customer Matt Damon certainly had his plans well laid for saying he didn't expect to be ever opened up again; I ask again why is it so fashionable to growl and grunt colloquial dialogue in guttural whispers I don't expect everyone, or anyone for that matter to be up to Laurence Olivier's standard of diction but we're not all Kings Of Leon fans; somewhat flat when it finally came the long expected but still creepy farewell between father and daughter! The money shots for me were the emotional and fraught Lander craft re-docking with the Endurance scenes, however it was taken so slowly I thought for a while Anne Hathaway had fainted. The cartoonery is routinely spectacular, at eye-cutting edge.
Basically: as with Inception this involves a huge leap of faith from the er well-grounded but unwary viewer; get over it and it's entertaining hokum to be watched with a tesseract of salt I switched on, switched off and enjoyed it. Way too long though, it seemed to last decades.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this many years ago but was too young or slow to know if it meant
anything or was worth re-watching sometime; the answer a few decades
later imho is No on both counts. It's classically pointless, coldly
stylised and as arch as the lie that the flatlining plot depends on. I
admit it was certainly good to look at and dreamily contemplate upon
over the top of a glass! But, this is a motion picture not a tone poem,
After a stylish opening credit sequence it all begins with a rather corny "It all began a month ago" to flashback back to the beginning at the end. Unseen old grandmother dies, (some) of her relatives 2 men 2 women gather at a fantastic looking château in the Pyrenees for the reading of the Will and then indulge themselves languorously in humourless routine sexual horseplay in her memory. Although they then thought it was 1960 and frank and free there were only a few arty nude scenes; thankfully a full-frontal four-way was then out of the question for all of the libertines associated in the production of this - other masterpieces from the era such as L'Avventura, La Dolce Vita and Bout Le Soufflé were similarly hidebound by such convention too. The splendid château and the atmospheric black and white photography of it are the only things I can recommend the unwary to watch this particular film for. The naughty shenanigans and sly frisson continually going on are utterly childish and are pointless diversions - from a purely artistic study of all the eye-watering architecture and all those paintings and statues of naked women! Milena says goodbye twice to Robert but then they get it on; Miguel has it bad for Milena but services Fifine who has it bad for Robert; dear Prudence has it away with Cesar, a man she thought a pig a few hours previously; yawwwwn. And as for the Lie itself: what was the point in it, in revealing it, in ignoring it? It was extremely well-made and got the languid ambiance over perfectly but apart from that the only point I could see in it was that I was watching six sex-mad human animals in a precise arty romp for precisely no reason at all.
Francoise Arnoul plays a French resistance heroine with bewitching sexy
eyes just about says it all. The flimsy story hangs limply around her
performance, which managed to update the War to include a feisty
Bardot-like character for a new generation.
An alluring and compact young patriot Cora is used by the Resistance to steal the Nazis plans for a new rocket but she unwittingly falls in love with a tall German spy Bernard, and vice versa; somewhat as a slinky Cat and a faithful Dog. Will Love conquer All or be conquered by War? It's all done nicely and cheaply and the grimy monochrome photography, sets and acting are passable, the music sounds like sci-fi FX only because there was no budget and not to lend period atmosphere it's just the plot was rather feeble. If it was meant for a deep probing of relative human moral values under internal and external stress then it was far too superficial and almost as if they were making it up as they went along.
To whom would this film appeal to in the main? As still being a red-blooded male I have to admit that if it hadn't been for Arnoul I probably wouldn't have bothered with it at all and I almost switched it off after a few doses of director Henri Decoin's personal perversions sledgehammered out by Gestapo and Resistance alike. He made quite a few good films in the discipline of the Golden Age, especially a handful starring his then wife Danielle Darrieux - with this though he gave me the overwhelming impression of a dirty old man director and Arnoul apparently only too eager as usual to co-operate. But again I regret to admit I was extremely interested to know where she was supposed to be hiding the flashlight radio! Sadly the only things the film has left me wondering is can a tub of alcohol really burn with vim for hours on end and how on Earth does the sequel pick it all up again? Overall though, an interesting time-passer.
This was the first Ealing film I saw, knowing it was an Ealing film,
because it was shown as part of a long Ealing film series on UK BBC2
from May 1977. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although then at 18 years old
the wartime propaganda element of it paradoxically irritated much more
than it does forty years later. Is it blood running cooler or a more
resigned luxury of perspective in operation? I feel I have to
repeatedly point out with British films made in wartime that present
day allowances must be made: if the people in this movie had lost the
war they were fighting I wouldn't be here writing this nor you reading
it. But if the people who made the film could come back would they
think their efforts then were worthwhile is another matter though
Every week during that TV series my admiration and awe grew until I
realised that British cinema would never again match the art and craft
displayed by Ealing at their peak in the '40's and '50's; and by now
I've watched some of their classics over a dozen times. However I find
that I've seen The Halfway House for only the fourth time - maybe it
was meant to be revisited only once in a while, like the ghostly inn
A group of relatively unhappy temporal travellers find themselves drawn to and ensconced in a weird country inn in Wales complete with an unsettling landlord and his daughter who cast no shadows but end up casting large ones over the guests (and us), and for their own good. They were all fighting their own battles and problems but I admit! the biggest problem was that mine host Mervyn Johns was so firmly robotic in his anti-Nazi propaganda and posturing that his imperiousness ultimately became unconvincing and tiresome. It's a very gentle ghost story but at least it wasn't a musical like Brigadoon. Rather moralistic too and there's an array of familiar faces in here to back it all up: Tom Walls, more taciturn now; Alfred Drayton, Joss Ambler and rakish Guy Middleton, all as sharp as ever; Esmond Knight, in rural Wales one year before he memorably played a village idiot and a psycho in rural England; Sally Ann Howes, so posh you realise what today's inclusive society has lost or gained depending on your own prejudices. Sure that's not Wylie Watson playing one of the Welsh porters? There's plenty of beautiful atmospheric photography amid some lovely country and excellent sets. Favourite bits: Johns in a remarkably underplayed scene of mirror-trickery and his daughter Glynnis like Peter Pan, in a clever for the time scene of shadow-trickery; the extended dinner conversation.
There's a few trite moments mainly involving the belief in the afterlife and the acting is rather stagey at the best of times but all in all it's still great escapist entertainment, which has imho er withstood the test of Time. And to hopefully echo back to the cast Glynnis's gentle farewell: good night to you all, see you in the morning.
Not knowing the minutiae of the Vlad The Bad history I can only guess
the truth has been falsified for the sole purpose of creating a fantasy
fiction film with the ultimate aim of financial gain. I've never heard
of such a thing before - I've just been watching a film with the main
character morphing into thousands of bats and vice versa and I thought
this was all well detailed as solid fact in the history books. What a
Medieval Prince Vlad - played by Luke Evans fresh from Hobbit 3 - who is self-styled The Impaler, thinks up a novel way to try to save his family and his people from the onslaught of the naughty Turks by well, selling his soul to the Devilish. A lot of people nowadays probably would do that for a pack of cigarettes or a good mobile connection. Evans is OK even if on the insipid side for such a virulent character, but Charles Dance has found his most unlife-like role to date; roll on Drac's Back! Maybe the biggest preloaded spoiler possible with this movie: whatever they do in here everyone knows that in our Universe Vlad becomes a vampire, so his "survival" is guaranteed, come what cgi cartoon mayhem is thrown at him and the rest of us. I idly wondered if the millions of bats conjured up by Vlad would kill the millions of attacking Turks by dropping millions of tons of guano onto their hapless heads after all, isn't that what happened in reality? There were a few gruesome cgi bits dreamed up by the usual movie psychos, none of which were a big problem to me (and little kids will probably erm lap it all up) I had more of a problem with the sound quality, or lack of. I hope all of the actors had a good supply of Strepsils handy to be able to gutturally whisper for so long - maybe it would've been better titled as Dracula Ungrowled.
So just between us, bat to man, it's all nonsense, like all Dracula films have always been and always will be. It was a well-made and enjoyable, concise and imaginative romp and if there's a new rebooting of the franchise by Universal I only hope erm it carries on in this vein.
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