Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
The Interview (2014)
Hilarious. A classic political farce of our times. Brilliant script.
OK, this can be considered sophomoric and crass humor, but the fact is The Inteview is the funniest, bravest and most entertaining comedy I've seen in ages. It's up there with the darkest satires like Fail Safe and Doctor Strangelove. It has elements of National Lampoon's classics as well. I haven't laughed so much in a movie since South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut. That probably dismisses my opinion in the minds of many but I don't care. If you like to laugh and are tired of little creeps terrorizing our planets then this is the flick for you. The North Koreans played right in to the hands of the makers of this comedy. Brilliant. Don't miss it. This is academy award material, especially best supporting actress for Diana Bang who plays Sook. James Franco and especially Seth Rogan are a great team. A true Odd Couple.
So take off the pointy hats, order a pizza and have a pitcher of Margaritas (inside joke) and just laugh your butt holes off. President Kim has one!!
Dark Shadows (2012)
There is no where to go but up.
I love Tim Burton. Several of his movies rank in my top 100 of all time. Sadly his adaptation of a popular television cult series, Dark Shadows, skirts the borders of Amateur land.
There are numerous touches of the Burton dark humor, and his casting is, once again, beyond criticism, but they are ALL wasted on what has to be one of the worst scripted screenplays I've sat through since Ed Wood's (ironically enough) Plan 9 from Outer Space. The difference is that old classic of bad movie-making is funny and memorable, this hollow mess is instantly forgettable.
The cast is wasted. Johnny Depp does his best, which is very good, with very little. This man is funny, one of the great comedians, and his timing of lines is perfect, yet, he cannot save this movie all by himself, from being interminable at 113 minutes, and boring beyond belief. It took me 4 days to get through it, turning it on and off, finally forcing myself to watch the incredibly lame climactic battle and limp ending. It is as if the production team simply gave up after the death of Dr Julia Hoffman (the splendidly funny Helena Bonham-Carter).
Michelle Pfeiffer makes almost no impression at all as Elizabeth Collins. This isn't her fault, she has nothing much to work with as far as character development (as in ZERO) and the fabulously beautiful Eva Green looks absurd in a very bad blonde wig. Her American accent comes and goes as well.
The CGI effects are okay, nothing special. I realize this movie is a probably intended as a send- up of the original kitschy TV show, a program I watched religiously as a kid, but I was never certain, watching Burton's effort, whether it was meant to be this stupid or not.
The most interesting performance, and one of the funniest, is by the girl who plays Caroline Collins, (sorry I've forgotten her name). She has a future in Burton movies I hope.
The whole concept should have been chucked in the shredder on Day One of the initial pitch.
Even the mighty slip and fall on their faces once in awhile. I hope it never happens again to Tim Burton. I feel his pain.
Christopher and His Kind (2011)
Well done bio pic.
I don't know why people dislike Matt Smith so much. I thought he was a very creditable Christopher Isherwood. And Imogen Poots is a far more rounded-out 'Sally Bowles' aka Jean Ross, than Liza Minelli was in Cabaret. Though that was a very different genre altogether and Minelli was OK as far as it went.
Christopher and His Kind is a well-produced and acted BBC period piece that evokes Berlin of the 1930s vividly. The characterizations are appealing and often quite funny and the men are beautiful, with a far amount of nudity thrown in for diversion, but nothing vulgar or prurient.
Much of the story is quite moving, the plight of the impoverished Berliners is heart-rending but not depressing. This is not a depressing tale but a cautionary one. The Nazis are well in evidence but not obnoxiously thrust into the viewers' faces as is so often the case. By now we know about the atrocities and it's good to be reminded, especially in a more subtle manner than usual.
This is a fine BBC show and I recommend it strongly.
I am not a comic book fan, let alone an aficionado, so I have nothing to compare this adaptation of The Mighty Thor with, beyond all the literature and legend I am aware of from which this movie derives its characters. Derive is the operative word here in this entirely predictable, rather dull script.
There are some excellent things about Kenneth Branagh's movie Thor. The artistic vision and f/x for the 'gods' planet Asgard are evocative and beautiful, reminding me, however, of the computer game Diablo, Lord of Destruction and other computer art I've seen. Nothing wrong with that, this is just a movie for mindless entertainment and the more visual distractions the better. Especially since the script is so utterly banal and dully acted, for the most part.
It's all very professional and Hollywood, aimed at 13 year old boys. The love interest, for the 13 year old girls, in the body of Natalie Portman's Jane, is pretty much of a flop as she and Thor, Chris Hemsworth, have absolutely not a single shred of erotic chemistry between them. But then I've never understood the popularity and admiration for Natalie Portman who strikes me as a singularly mediocre talent.
Hemsworth is good, however, as Thor. He looks terrific and he's an effective actor, but lacks that last ounce of cosmic charisma that I expected to see in this role. He is completely overshadowed by Tom Hiddleston as his brother Loki. Hiddleston is also better looking in a very sensuous way and his scenes were by far the most interesting and well-acted. The other outstanding actor here, or character I should say, is that of the Gate Keeper on Asgard, played by Idris Elba. The ubiquitous and seemingly ageless Anthony Hopkins is also good as Odin, but he has too little to do, spending most of the movie in a coma. Renée Russo is wasted as Frigga, Odin's wife. None of the other gods are very interesting which was disappointing as I loved Ray Stevenson in Rome. He does not translate well to the big screen, and his character is anonymous, leaving him little to develop, and he IS a good actor, within his limits.
The music is nondescript action stuff, nothing memorable. The technical aspects are all first rate, but the entire effort is hobbled by the comic-book caliber script.
So if you are a fan of the comics you'll probably feel right at home here, but if you are more interested in the Norse legends from which these characters are mined I recommend you buy a set of Richard Wagner's Ring cycle and start listening to those. THEY are truly epic and deeply moving experiences. Thor isn't a major part in that, appearing only in Das Rheingold as Donner, the god of thunder, but Wotan (Odin) is there and those four operas are some of the towering masterpieces in human creativity. The ultimate comic book adventure.
The Day of the Locust (1975)
A memorable film from a Golden Age in Hollywood
John Schlesinger's film of Nathanial West's iconic novel Day of the Locust has been hanging in there with film buffs for so long I think it is about time it was acknowledged as the minor masterpiece that it is. Maybe not so minor in fact. When I watch it, which I've been doing since the day it was released, I find myself wishing Hitchcock or Welles had directed an adaptation of it, something that would have insured its arrival into the pantheon of masterpieces. This isn't to degrade Schlesinger's work at all but I think the Hitchock or Wellesian touch might have made it into a film as much talked about as Sunset Boulevard.
Day of the Locust is not simply another Hollywood exposé along the lines of Sunset Boulevard, A Star is Born and The Bad and the Beautiful, but it is every bit as fascinating and gut wrenching, perhaps more so, than those classics.
Nathanial West's tale is a full blown horror story. Hollywood itself is the inanimate monster that evokes the beast in the bedazzled humans that inhabit the landscape. ALL are victims of the mind numbing, soul evaporating environment.
The ironic and disheartening thing about this story is that West has used Love as the vehicle that speeds its passengers towards their melancholy doom.
The most sympathetic character is Homer Simpson, yes, Homer Simpson, played with a quiet and tortured passion by Donald Sutherland. Homer is a meek, virginal certified public account who fate has thrown in the path of Faye Greener (Karen Black) and her down-at-heel father Harry (Burgess Meredith in a terrifying performance of pathos and madness), an ex- vaudevillian who has ended up in Hollywood after arriving their years before for a small part in a B movie.
Tod (William Atherton) is a bright young man newly arrived from Yale. He is a gifted artist and spends his time recording in drawings the people and events he witnesses. He is rapidly sucked into the vortex of despair and barely escapes with his life in the end. Homer, on the other hand, is not so lucky.
The final scenes are harrowing. The most shocking effect it had on me is that I found myself rooting for the crazed Homer who does something I can't bring myself to reveal because the shock of it is worth discovering for oneself. It involves the comeuppance of a horrid child actor named Adore (its sex is ambiguous) played with infuriating moxie by the young Jackie Haley.
The cast is splendid. Geraldine Page makes an atomic blast of an appearance as the charlatan evangelist Aimee Sempel McPherson in a single scene of insane religious hysteria.
Day of the Locust is about our atavistic need for gods and the subsequent need to destroy them for not living up to our delusions of ourselves. It is a truly disturbing and fascinating film and should be seen by all lovers of great film adaptations of great books
The 1970s and early 1980s were a Golden Age in Hollywood that is just now being acknowledged as such. The Day of the Locust is one film from that era that rests comfortably near the top of the pyramid. Don't miss it.
Very highly recommended.
The Hunger (1983)
Beautiful, elegiac vampire story
I have admired Tony Scott's The Hunger since the day it was released when many others thought it a pretentious bore, not quite horror, not quite thriller and certainly not kitsch. This film came out of the golden age of London/Hollywood films that began in the 1970s and ended at the end of the 1980s. It was a long run a fine, unusual films coming from a studio system that was just coming out of the long period of 1960s technicolor, star-studded movies that were more often than not fake and boring.
The f/x of the day were nothing like the CGI overkill we have to endure now, though The Hunger would have benefited from some computer generated bodily decomposition in the final scenes. People used to the current ultra-realism, that seems to have circled back to the fakeness of the 1960s, will think The Hunger about as believable as an earlier generation found the classic sci-fi flicks from the 1950s to be. But with a little forbearance and tolerance and an open mind and open eyes the viewer will discover a very beautifully filmed, scripted and scored film about vampires which steps out of the usual blood-sucking envelope and tells a sad, tragic story of love betrayed.
The betrayer is Miriam Blaylock, played exquisitely by the unbelievably beautiful Catherine Deneuve. She was always a treat to behold in all of her films, notably Indochine, but here she surpasses herself in elegance and bewitching savoir faire. She is partnered by David Bowie, as John her 300 year old boy toy she picked up in the 18th century. John's time has run out, contrary to what Miriam tells her lovers before she changes them into 'eternal' vampires, which is a lie she tells to get the object of her desire and to keep her company on her long lonely voyage through time.
Susan Sarandon has also never been filmed to more beautiful effect, and she is a brilliant actress and puts Deneuve slightly in the shade because of the latter's more subtle acting style. Sarandon smacks the screen with those Bette Davis eyes of hers where Deneuve caresses and almost disappears before your eyes in a mist of golden beauty.
This is poetic language but The Hunger is a poetic film and, as far as artistic creations on celluloid goes, is one of the most beautiful things to behold I've ever seen.
The supporting cast is excellent, everyone acting in natural and understated manner, none of them being clichéd in any way. And there are some interesting cameos from actors who went on to bigger things, in the case of Willem Dafoe who doesn't speak a single line, and Sophie Ward, the exquisite English rose who went on to do fine work mostly in British television. You will also see Ann Magnusson who was an icon of the 1970/80s alternative theater scene.
There is not much action which eliminates this from the thriller category I think, and the horror is not so much in scary rotting corpses rising from their coffins to wreck revenge upon their duplicitous lover, Miriam, but in the terrible fate of these poor creatures who are not allowed to die but forced to lie in their coffins, slowly rotting but still living, until, that is, their maker dies.
The Hunger, for all its shocking killing, is a classic romantic tragedy, but the lovers are gorgeous bloodsucking vampires. This is a perfect film to watch at home on a rainy autumn afternoon.
Senso is intense.
For some reason Visconti's early film Senso (1954) eluded me until recently. I had heard of it before but it wasn't until I fell under the spell of Visconti's later masterpiece Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) that I became interested Senso.
It's an odd film but not lightweight by any means. The basic story is a tortured potboiler about a passionate, affection-starved Countess, Livia played brilliantly by Alida Valli, and her completely delusional infatuation with a first class cad, a Lieutenant in the Austiran army occupying Venice in the 19th century. This nightmare lover is convincingly done by Farley Granger early in his film career. He had a fascinating face, much more versatile than I remember from his famous Hitchcock performances where he was limited to a naughty baby- face or two. In Senso he looks truly sinister and rapacious.
Granger was fortunate in his leading lady because she wrenches a great performance from him in their intense and heart-rending scenes together. Valli was a volcanic actress in her prime. Very beautiful and clearly the fore-runner to Claudia Cardinale, only a much finer actress.
The camera work of G. R. Aldo and Robert Krasker is gloriously beautiful and natural. It is in early technicolor and not as vividly retina burning as some of the widescreen epics that were to follow.
The only major mistake in Senso is the decision to use Anton Bruckner's 7th Symphony (themes there from) as the ubiquitous melodramatic background. It's not that grand themes aren't apt for this tragic story it's just that grand high classical music (and Bruckner is THE grandest and highest of 19th century romantic composers) doesn't sound right in this film. No expense was spared the sets and costumes so skimping on the all-important, nay, vital musical side seems a little misguided to say the least. Visconti had learned his lesson in this regard by the time he made Il Gattopardo in the early 1960s. Still the same over-heated music but original, well, at least is wasn't Bruckner lifted in chunks from one of his monumental symphonies.
Senso is a winner. It seems a bit long about 90 minutes in with 30 minutes to go but it picks up as Alida Valli's character slowly shreds in the final scenes.
If you're longing to start a love affair with someone you just met I cannot recommend this film. Otherwise do not hesitate to see this.
Granger's voice is dubbed over by the usual Italian voice actor who sounds like a spokesman for detergent. The subtitles seem sensibly translated. But the script is not the main reason to watch this excellent, beautifully filmed minor masterpiece. The photography and Alida Valli's magnificent performance are reasons enough to see this important Italian film.
I deduct one star for the Bruckner and another for the homogenized Farley Granger voice- over.
The entire series is outstanding
The Body in the Library is one of the most satisfying of the twelve Marples starring Joan Hickson as a not-really-very-sweet little old lady who possesses "a mind more cynical... than any barrister you'll ever encounter.." as one older copper tells a young and ambitious inspector in this episode. Gwen Watford plays Miss Marple's batty chum from Saint Mary Meade (their home village). She is Dolly Bantry and is married to Moray Watson's daft and courtly Col. Arthur Bantry.
If Hickson's Marple displays momentary hints of menace it is only that. Hers is a very subtle and dry performance, crammed with sparkling humor that shoots out from her beady little blue eyes. Hickson was a formidable comedian and she is very much one in these shows, powdered over with politeness and modesty. She is never annoying, like Geraldine McEwen's Marple is from time to time with that Old Mother Hubbard portrayal of hers; not her fault really as the producers of that later series had a political agenda which ruined the stories and scripts and any chance of McEwen's being as good as Hickson.
With the cast alone you have one of the classics of British television from the mid-to-late 20th century. It isn't only that Joan Hickson is nigh perfect for the role of Miss Jane Marple, it is also that the supporting actors, direction, locations, props, everything are splendidly done. It took me awhile to accept the musical score because I had been watching the pretty awful Marple series with Geraldine McEwen and the score to those productions was very 20th century sounding, like the music of Prokofiev or Britten. In the Hickson series the music is disarmingly charming and almost sounds trite at first. Now it is one of the highlights in an already brilliant achievement. It is catchy and sticks in the mind, it is also frequently very funny. The ballet music in They Do It With Mirrors is hilarious.
Some of the highlights of the supporting cast are Jean Simmons, Renée Asherson, Joyce Carey, Claire Bloom and greatest of all joys, Joan Greenwood who plays Selina Hazy in At Bertram's Hotel. After this film Greenwood went on to play a brilliantly macabre Mrs Clenham in Little Dorrit, dying young at 65 and still much missed.
The vital secondary roles, inspectors, murderers, victims, chambermaids, cooks, butlers, young lovers and vicars are all appealingly cast by actors familiar to fans of British television. There are no misfires in the casting, which is very rare.
The directors take a lot of time surveying the English countryside and the sea. The series, in general, is extremely atmospheric and has just enough sinister shots to prevent the story from becoming merely light entertainment.
This Hickson Marple is the one to have in your collection if you need a Marple series to watch on demand, as I do. The Margaret Rutherford movies were bogus but entertaining, and Rutherford is her usual bumbling, hilarious self, but these Hickson shows are the real Marple as Mrs Christie intended her to be.
I rate this series a 9 because I still think there is room for something even greater and more like the original stories. Some of the Hickson stories are updated to the 1950s when the entire series takes place. It works fine, but still....
The Belles of St. Trinian's (1954)
A classic British comedy from the golden age.
It is too bad that the two sequels to this little gem were ever attempted. They tarnished what is one of the funniest movies to come out of England during the hey-day of British film comedies, a circumstance that has also blunted the appeal of The Belles of St Trinian's because of the very high level of excellence of the competition. Movies like The Man in the White Suit, The Ladykillers, Passport to Pimlico, The Lavender Hill Mob, Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Importance of Being Earnest, Whisky Galore, The Happiest Days of Your LIfe and Father Brown, among others.
This sort of humor is out of vogue due to the low level of vulgarity passing as humor in the entertainment industry at present. You will probably have to (and want to) watch these movies again and again to fully grasp their dry subtlety. The Belles of St Trinian's is a great place to start if you have not seen any of the movies mentioned. It is more slapstick and camp than cleverly dry, but there is that element too.
Alastair Sim is hilarious as Miss Fritton, the headmistress of a horrifying girls school called St Trinian's. You quickly forget he is a man in drag and see him as a highly plausible, if over the top, Victorian lady who has had to turn her family home into a school in order to stay in the house.
Her staff of teachers is equally funny. There is Joyce Grenfel as the horsey games mistress (who is also an undercover policewoman for the local constabulary investigating a crime wave), Beryl Reid as the county spinster golfer, Hermione Baddeley's drunken French teacher who spends class time sipping claret and having the girls recite the locations of the best vineyards in France and what varietal is grown on them. Joan Sims isMiss June Dawn, the sex education and hygiene instructor who also does fan dances upon request, and Rose Waters, played by Betty Ann Davies resembling Morticia Addams. She teaches scriptures and needle work. The staff is rounded off by the ever-raucous Irene Handl.
The school is really a front for money laundering, bootlegging and racketeering, all managed by Miss Fritton's shady brother, also played by Alastair Sim. George Cole is the oily front man who is the go-between for St Trinian's and the local horse-betting circuit.
The schoolgirls are all marvels of degradation and craftiness. This movie, like all British comedy after the war, contain not a shred of profanity, sexual graphics or violence. It's just very funny and is recommended highly to all lovers of intelligent and farcical humor.
Reilly: Ace of Spies (1983)
Disappointing and dull
Reilly, Ace of Spies is widely considered to be one of the great British television mini-series ever made. I can't agree with that but it has many excellence aspects that make it worth viewing, once or twice, but I can't imagine wanting to view it more than that simply because it is often tedious and slow-moving.
The first problem is with Sam Neill's two-dimensional Sidney Reilly. This character never comes alive for me. I think this production got hung up on his being the prototype for Ian Fleming's James Bond, who is a much more fleshed-out and interesting character than Neill's take on the real master spy who flourished, if you can call it that, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Reilly was in all the hot spots, Port Arthur, Moscow, St Petersburg, just when the muck was hitting the fan. So the potential for a rattling good tale is there in the original material but it doesn't have much dramatic impact here. The script is good, within the limitations of the vision of the production team. The studio-bound sets and London-bound locations, with a few shots of Malta thrown in to represent Manchuria, are well handled but as the series progresses the same buildings keep reappearing with the same boarded up windows, this after some number of years have passed in the action. Continuity and editing are not two of the strong points of this show.
The first episodes are the most successful, though even then the action moves along very slowly and becomes tedious and sigh-making. Too much of the script is spent on reading letters out loud as they are being typed, and long soulful looks from distressed women who Reilly treats like throw away dolls. He jumps in and out of beds a great deal, which is always boring. When will film makers figure that out?
Reilly's behavior confirms my suspicion that most gigolos who enjoy great sexual conquests are really the most misogynistic of men. Sam Neill captures that reptilian side of Reilly's nature but displays absolutely not a shred of a sense of humor or irony. His facial expressions barely cover the gamut from A to B and all the many blank moments of supposed meaningly looks are simply vacuums of time, as if he's trying to remember his lines without appearing to be thinking about it.
The cast is chock-a-block with famous faces but none of them really shines very brightly. The most successful is the less well-known Norman Rodway as Commander Cummings, head of the British secret service. He is the only member of the cast, that I can think of off hand, who displays any grit and passion about his character.
Kenneth Cranham is unrecognizable as Lenin, with his head shaved. His portrayal is oddly muted, as is that of David Burke's Stalin, in a ridiculous wig that looks like it's about to fall off the top of his head. It is refreshing to have these two tyrants portrayed in something other than the usual ranting maniacs, but they are simply too passive here. Stalin made Hitler look like Pollyanna when it came to genocide but in this series one doesn't really get the sense that THIS Stalin was all that blood-thirsty.
The music by Harry Rabinowitz isn't very good either. It is insipid and gutless and extremely repetitive. On top of which it is recorded in a giant bathroom acoustic rather like those technicolor extravaganzas, like Nicholas and Alexandra, of the 1960s and 1970s. The score reflects the over-all flaccidity of this series.
I'm sure the story of Sidney Reilly could be told in a much more exciting and forward moving way. Reilly, Ace of Spies seems to be one of those po-faced 'teaching' mini-series that fall fatally between the two stools of fiction and non-fiction.
If you are interested in this period of European history I recommend acquiring Fall of Eagles. It's less cinematic, which is good I think, and more along the lines of The Pallisers in style. Not the pot-boiler melodrama we have with Reilly, Ace of Spies.