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Moby Dick (1956)
For those folks that want great literature without having to read a 500-page tome, then this Readers Digest like condensation might be the ticket. All the high points of Moby Dick are touched on starting with 'Call me Ishmael," and so on.
As all have already pointed out, Gregory Peck has nailed the Ahab character. You got me how he managed the whalebone peg leg. The obsessive rush to take vengeance on the great whale boils in crazed Ahab's head and certainly his crew one by one catch the fever for either greed or blind allegiance. Therefore, our allegorical story full of biblical references mete out large portions of philosophical sophisms, enough for the entire Humanities Departments at fifty Universities to burn the midnight whale oil; oh, the reams of paper written about poor Moby, we're talking deforestation here.
If ever there was a story to get young men to read Lit, Moby Dick is the one.
Sexy Beast (2000)
Not Believable but Posh
Yeah, Ben Kingsley is menacing, but personally, I'd have punched his muscled-up Gandhi face early on if I were Ray Winstone.
Winstone is a retired gangster living with his ex-porn star wife and a few ex-gangster friends in a villa in Spain. Life is good, but then the feared ex-partner, Kingsley shows up to insult everybody and generally ruffle feathers, the ultimate party pooper. Okay, okay, Winstone will help with the heist after a disagreement, a serious disagreement. Back in London, Teddy, played by Deadwood's leering Ian McShane has created a plan to steal from a high security vault a gazillion dollars. The team dives into the most unlikely underwater heist scheme ever devised.
It's all very posh and not very believable, but quite entertaining.
Hard to Swallow
Charlize Theron, a very beautiful woman plays the "John Killer" as a gawky, tall retard. She wins an academy award for being consistently foul, goofy, and murderous. I'm assuming there's a certain amount of sympathy here for an abused from cradle female, but her victims were run of the mill lonely-hearts except for an occasional sadist, but hell why get angry when occupational hazard strikes. Get yourself a lawyer like any worker's occupation case plaintiff Christina Ricci, not in Ghost World, but close, plays Charlize's lover. She's rather retarded too. I can't quite place the blue collar Florida malaise that the audience is supposed to understand instinctively. Well, ah, why didn't lonely Ricci go to beautician school and meet some gals of the same persuasion on line. The whole idea that a down-and-out boozer could even interest this young mixed up girl is hard to swallow. Oh, but this is a true-life story. Never mind.
City of Ghosts (2002)
Too Long, Needs Cutting
Cambodia and Thailand, the old colonial streets still give a foreigner a dread. As one of the characters in this monsoon thriller said, "the whole country could use a coat of paint." Matt Dillon is the insurance executive caught up in a scandal that he needs to rectify, maybe, if he can locate the company chief executive, the mysterious and shifty Marvin. On the way to rain forests, Dillon meets up with pretty Natacha McEthone, a member of group of antiquity restorers. Then the usual seedy characters show up at the rancid hotel. James Caan as Marvin and Gerard Deprardieu as the indo-chin innkeeper fill out the cast. Then Dillon's passport is stolen and on and on for two hours we take a tour of the countryside, the natives, and the brothels.
Dillon directed and co-wrote the script and I think that is a problem. City of Ghosts is too long and the Dillon-McElhone romance is forced. I mean if you're afraid for your life, are you going to take the time to ask a girl out on a date? Hmmm, maybe not, so Dillon loved his directorial takes so much, he could not cut them, and some studio guy insisted on a love interest. In addition, it's weird, but Dillon as an adventurer, Bogart type in Cambodia: he still delivers some lines as though he were still in a teen rumble.
Tender Mercies (1983)
Spawned Some Knockoffs
Tender Mercies from 1983 has spawned some knockoffs, made for TV films that you see on the Country Cable station. TM is still one of the best portrayals of poor Texas brush folks on flat, flat terrain. Sometimes tumbleweed tumbles by. Anyhow, one looks at that big sky and a country song comes to your lips. Robert Duvall plays Mac Sledge stoically in tight blue jeans and cowboy boots. Duvall slips off the Godfather set and takes that Texas accent where men sort of mumble homily's at a moments notice. Ah, he can't sing, but he gets a nice voice-over during a honky tonk gig.
So former Country star Duval has fallen hard and end drunkenly ends up at a rural Austin motel to take up with Tess Harper, a widow of the Vietnam War. Her young son needs a father. The ready made family makes do with gas station revenue while Duval dries out. Local citizens, boys in a garage band lure the has-been songwriter back into the music business. Former wife Trixie still hates his drunken ways and won't let Mac connect with his young daughter, teen Ellen Barker. After that, there's a tragedy.
I watched TM with a teen daughter and we enjoyed it. We're not talking Fellini or Welles here, but it kept me interested.
Blade Runner (1982)
After his Alien success and it was a 1979 revelation in movie special effects, Ridley Scott turns it up another notch to show us what 2019 LA might look like. The art direction is spectacular all right. The concept, which influenced every sci-fi after: mix futuristic fantasy with retro 1930's Fascist architecture, and turn on the strobe lights and fog machine. Give the actors a bag lady wardrobe and a flying car with DeLorean gull wing doors: That's the future kids, well, sort off. The 1979 take on future communications, a phone booth with a TV screen, ha ha no cell phones envisioned.
Harrison Ford could give a Sam Spade Futurama performance back then. Today he sleepwalks through his lines. I have never seen a cocky actor disintegrate over time as Ford has declined. After all, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, or Jimmy Stewart played all their parts with gusto into their 70's. Ford was good in one decade.
What ever happened to Sean Young? What a knock-out with a sultry voice!
Boksuneun naui geot (2002)
Splatting a bunch of heads like a coconut was a bit queasy. Stabbings, drownings, and electrocutions were bad; yet, I handled it okay. After a while, Chan Wook Park made me feel as if I was reading an action comic book full of strange twists of fate and blood curdling gore. Our hero is a deaf mute and his girlfriend is a waif-sized revolutionary. She does him "on top" wailing in sign language. The little kidnapped girl should bring a nice ransom to get sis a new kidney, but alas, cruel Asian Fate, what horrors await.
Park holds scenes too long. He needs more discipline in the editing room. Green hair playing with the little girl for ten minutes or burying a body for another ten minutes while a very annoying device character, a retard of some sort wanders about causing mayhem, I started to look at my watch. It all comes together in a blood bath of revenge. Sympathy is a very interesting take on Korean revenge mythology and modern society. But what that take is I'm not sure. This one is necessary for film aficionados, just for the camera set-ups and stunning color.
Dirt and Crime Infested
Last of the James Dean style actors, Mickey Rourke has a star turn as the likable, well-dressed, New York City hipster. Cool Hand Luke director, Stewart Rosenberg moves Cool Hand's story north, but this one is more for laughs than drama. Despite the fact that there is a dead detective and a missing appendage in the script, there's very little blood or violence. Mostly we watch Rourke mug for the camera.
I wonder if the thin, tall Ms. Hannah is doing any work lately. She sure can't act, but she does have a good boxing jab. She leaves the story with Rourke's stolen money. Then Rourke punches out his apartment. Then he smacks around his cousin, the good-for-nothing, Paulie. The loser always gets Rourke fired or in trouble with the local crime boss. Rourke's character prefers the wacky cousin to his model girlfriend. Go figure. That never added up. Being cool, stealing, and winning a horse race is more important than sack time for eternity with the blonde. It doesn't figure.
Geraldine Page won an Oscar, which was well deserved as the tough talking, cigarette smoking, mom of a crooked cop. New York City, circa the early 80's, before Mayor Giuliani, it's dirty and crime infested. Rourke sort of likes it that way.
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
An Excellent Murderer
Teresa Wright, innocent young woman, lives with her Betty Crocker, mom, Patricia Collinge and her bank clerk dad. He's a detective murder enthusiast, Henry Travers. Then there's Dad's creepy pal, Hume Cronvn, with various recipes for poison. A young bespectacled sister and goofy little brother complete the family circle. Indeed, Wright is just off the set from her Mrs. Miniver performance. The virginal attitudes, the very real naiveté of 1940's small town, middle class girlhood never to be seen again, contrasts with the, ah, insertion of evil.
Uncle Charlie shows up, the beloved, world traveling, younger brother of weepy mom. Actually, he's on the lamb because his apparent wealth is accumulated after affairs with wealthy widows. Since these women had ended up in the morgue, the young detective, Macdonald Carey is on Joseph Cotton's trail. To get information, Carey woes Wright to get the goods on the Uncle. Hence, a confusing romance ensues, but can she give the detective information on her mother's favorite. It gets easier as Wright starts to get the picture.
This is Hitch's first American production and he certainly seems to enjoy the more expensive production values. The town of Santa Rosa literally pulls all the stops for the fat man. In those days, folks lived a block from the town business center. This is the same area where today there are crumbling buildings and high crime rates. In the forties, the middle class lived there, wandering the streets, walking to the library, strolling to the bank, or the local bar without a look over their shoulders. But watch out! Joseph Cotton, an excellent strangler, may be behind you.
Les invasions barbares (2003)
Who is the Barbarian?
The European style Medicare system, the fair medical practice, free for all good Canadians fostered upon liberal society, it kills patients' everyday. If you learn nothing else from The Invasion of Barbarians, you will learn that Liberalism, Socialism, and Communism in every form destroy society, killing the innocent, transforming the naive into the corrupt. Am I wrong? Isn't this the lesson we learn from our dying Liberal Social Studies Professor, Remy.
Poor Remy, he's as liberal as his young piers at Berkley; yet they have won the Socialist beauty prize, The Pulitzer. He's a Canadian, so no wonder those statues go to Americans. Those ugly Americans down there take everything from the poor French speaking Quebecians. Nevertheless, if you want a brain scan on demand, cross the St Lawrence because it ain't gonna happen in the new Canada of diversity.
Remy is a child of the 60's and as an academic propagandizing to empty-headed freshmen, he like his piers hate George Bush. That is to easy to exploit for a Righty like myself. I have always understood the Liberal Elite to be contemptuous of anyone that disagrees with the geniuses of Socialism. And Remy's Liberal pals rain down Al Gore platitudes and disdain for America, those pesky, over-fed capitalists. Remy's elitist pals tell randy stories of ribald action amidst their class, the class of divorce and infidelity. They offer lovely bromides right out of a swanky yuppie magazine. Their children, well, they could turn out as genius commodity millionaires like Remy's son Sebastian, or they could be heroin addicts like cropped-hair Natalie.
I can't help but wonder if the Barbarians the director lambastes may be his own political cast.