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Race to Witch Mountain (2009)
much better than I anticipated
My daughters (11 and 5) wanted to see this film WITH me. Not caring for action films and not at all impressed with Dwayne Johnson, I was really reluctant, but acquiesced on account of the girls' persistence. This turned out to be a big surprise for me. Not only did I enjoy the story, but I was impressed with Dwayne Johnson's performance.
No, he is not an Academy Award actor. What the "the Rock" does convey is an involvement with the characters around him. Until I saw this film, I had this picture of him as a real blow-hard. Not only is Johnson a pleasing actor, but he is funny while playing the tough guy. I have yet to see his other pictures, but I do hope he does more films along the lines of ETWM. He is perfect for what I call family adventure films.
Searching for the historical Jesus
Any documentary on a religious subject is bound to stir feelings and misgivings,and The Search For Jesus is no exception. This film does not seek to prove nor disprove the existence of Jesus nor to prove his deity. It does present a fair picture of the historical Jesus and what some people think of him. I did not get the impression that Jennings was biased against Jesus of Galilee. If anything, he struck me as being subtly favourable to the Man. Jennings does not present Jesus as the Messiah nor Savior of the World. He leaves that open to the viewer, which is appropriate for a documentary, especially of this nature. I found The Search For Jesus to be one of the better documentaries on the subject in that it was very informative and did not disrespect nor grossly misrepresent Jesus' mission on Earth. I will venture to say that Christians could be well rewarded for watching TSFJ, and non-believers could very well find as much to savor.
Daddy's little girl
I only caught the last third of this film the other morning, but it was enough to show me what a wonderful job Jack Holt does as a little girl's father. Because even at twenty-one, she is still his little girl. It makes everything that follows worth it. I have two (eleven and five), and the end of the film breaks my heart. Some other films that feature moments of paternal love include: China Doll (Victor Mature); Desperate Hours (Fredrick March); Kramer vs. Kramer (Dustin Hoffman); The Taking of Peggy Ann (look for David Soul on this one); The Green Berets (Jim Hutton); True Grit (the other Duke saying goodbye to Mattie Ross); It's a Wonderful Life (George Bailey with Zsu Zsu's petals); Man on Fire (Denzel Washington parleying for the life of his ward); Twilight Zone - Episode: Little Girl Lost;
Way to go, Duke.
The Outsider (1961)
I must agree with several others in saying that this is Tony Curtis' finest performance on film. He brings Ira Hayes to life and generates much pathos for the plight of the character. Another really good performance is Gregory Walcott's portrayal of the Marine drill sergeant. He was the exact duplicate of my drill sergeant from Ft. Leonardwood many years ago. I have seen Walcott in other roles, all forgettable, but this one is outstanding. At the start of boot camp, I am roaring with laughter at the anecdotes customary to military life, especially in basic training. Later, when we see Hayes quacking like a duck (as a civilian) it is almost pathetic. My favorite scene is the one where Hayes is riding out the string on another bond tour appearance nursing a hangover when he catches the attention of Sorenson's mother. What follows is enough to break any man's heart. It is the only solace Hayes will find for many years to come.
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
Enjoy the film
The first time I saw TTT I was a twelve-year old at Lackland Air Force base in the early '70's. The film did well at the base theatre, but bombed at the box office elsewhere. Those of you my age and older will nod knowingly at what you are about to read. I offer no apology for what follows - this is simply the way it was.....
When my fellows and I would play war, EVERY kid wanted to be the American GI's. We drew lots for those playing the Germans (we called them krauts) and argued the next day on whose turn came next. No one even deigned to play the Japanese (a word unknown to us). One boy said his father would beat him if that ever happened. Our fathers and uncles talked about Jap cars being junk and Jap tools breaking in half. Your older brother mentioned a boy getting jap-slapped in gym class. We complained about Jap toys not being as good as American-made ones. We even thought there was something wrong with their (the Japanese) eyesight because their eyes were shaped differently (we called them slanted). This was my generation, and it was more so for the previous one. That is why TTT did so poorly when it premiered across America. There were still a lot of hard feelings abounding (watching the film as a child, the audience around me roared every time a Japanese aeroplane was shot down). As I got older, I learned the inappropriateness of certain words, but thirty-five years ago, we saw history differently. Watch this film for what it is and enjoy it.
Piece of Cake (1988)
What an aeroplane!
Watching this television mini-series for the second time, I am enjoying Piece of Cake very much. Yes, the aircraft are not Hurricanes as they should be, possibly because they were unavailable. Maybe the production people used Spitfires because they were the only things on the shelf. I was relieved to find that after several minutes this technical defect did not detract from the film. It helps that the Spitfire is such a beautiful aeroplane (and I love the Hurricane) and is arguably as photogenic as Lana Turner. As mentioned elsewhere, the characters have their foibles, which make them that much more impressive to the audience. While Flying Officer Cattermole is given to deliberate cruelty, Pilot Officer Hart is no less (albeit unintentionally)so with his ill-advised intercourse with the enlisted person. Having been there myself, it is quite unpleasant. I had my druthers about the inclusion of an American in the story (many a good British film lost something by including an American not originally part of the book), but this one works. It does this by allowing Officer Hart to behave socially on a par with his Empire flying mates, although he botches it badly in the aforementioned incident. Yes, we Americans are naive. While it takes me awhile to warm to Officer Cattermole, he is easily the most reliable combat flier of the squadron. He seems to unreservedly accept the American (on equal terms) more than he does his peers. Not having read the book, I can only leave the detractors of this work to their own devices, but I will continue to enjoy this entertaining piece of cinematic work.
The Sniper (1952)
Franz's return of the invisible man (w/out the laughs)
I was fortunate enough to not only find this on e-bay, but secure a viewable copy. Finally got around to watching it last night. I did not connect the actor Arthur Franz (in the credits) with the face until the opening scenes in the film, but immediately made a connection. This is the same guy from Abbott & Costello Meet the Invisible Man. And he was just a little creepy in that comedy (which I like a lot). With that, I knew Franz was going to be excellently cast as the sick young man(I got the film to get another look at Marie Windsor). This is a very well done story and the violent scenes are not dated (you try making an effective film with the production codes and social conventions from 1952, Mr. Know-it-all), but detached and cold. This one drives the point home. And while Arthur Franz did not get an Oscar nomination (maybe he did not deserve one), he could have the satisfaction of knowing he turned in a solid performance.
The Dark Corner (1946)
she's a looker
Having read some excellent books on Film Noir recently, and having collected some titles of the same, it was difficult for me to understand why these crime dramas are FN "art" and style , but not a genre. In other words, do not look for straight logic or realism. This is the film that made me see that difference. If you do not get what I am talking about, try watching some Alain Delon. And whoever thought Lucille Ball could look so good. In Dark Corner, she's got lips and she's got hips and big blue eyes and she just plain knocks my teeth out. In this movie, she makes us guys go ape. Take a look in the dictionary for the word dish and whose picture are you going to see? Phhhewwww....... Some laid mention that this film would have been better with Bogey and Bacall. That's like asking professional athletes into the Olympics. It's not the same. And that is part of the appeal of this film. Look for the part where our hero enters the art gallery; in the background you will see a painting of the the girl with the pearl earring.
Pilot #5 (1943)
Nice look at a rare fighter plane
Knowing this to be a propaganda film, I knew to be forgiving. With that, I was able to enjoy this 2-star B production. The real treat (for me) in this film was the chance to see a rare fighter plane. It was thrilling to see a P-35 Seversky pursuit ship as one of the stars in this little film. By the time of Pearl Harbor, this airplane was considered obsolete by the pilots who flew it and the opponents that fought against it. It was the type of aircraft available to our aviators in the Pacific Command. To better appreciate those pilots and what this film tried to say, read Martin Caiden's "the Ragged, Rugged Warriors". This film is not a bad attempt at capturing on film the kind of guys Caiden writes so well about.
Sole Survivor (1970)
a great made-for-television movie
I saw this premier back in the early 70's and like the rest of the critics, it stayed with me. And like the rest, it took me years to secure the title to this film. I missed winning an auction bid by a handful of seconds, but was able to buy it on e-bay a year later. Attached to the VHS copy is the Twilight Zone episode mentioned earlier. Most made-for-television movies are garbage, but back in the days before cable television most were not bad. Some were actually quite good. Sole Survivor was one of the really good ones. Another was The Jericho Mile. Of all my sub-four star (out of five) movies, this is my favorite. Unlike the rest of you fellow Sole Survivor fraternity brothers [and sisters, I hope], I sincerely hope they do not remake this movie, it would be a disaster. Like Elvis' corpse, leave it alone.