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1. West Side Story
2. The Apartment
3. Midnight Cowboy
4. La dolce vita
5. Asphalt Jungle, The
6. Eclisse, L'
7. Mulholland Dr.
8. The Last Picture Show
9. Born to Kill
10. Kiss Me Deadly
14. The thin Red Line
15. Nightmare Alley
16. Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, The
17. L' Avventura
18. Servant, The
19. Billy Liar
20. Winchester '73
Feud: More, or Less (2017)
Best Episode So Far
The preview and success of "BABY JANE" is enjoyable done, capturing an authentic feel of early 60s Hollywood and movie audiences. Both Lange and Sarandon are at their best, delivering sharp dialog with lots of conviction.
What makes this a great episode is the development of director Robert Aldrich's story line, along with that of Pauline Jameson, his assistant. Both actors (Molina and Wright) are excellent (a highlight is the office scene where Aldrich encourages Jameson about a possible directing career. Aldrich is played as a complex character, a director of talent (belatedly recognized), while Jameson never went very far, her character adds a lot of interest in this program. Then there is Stanley Tucci as hard-headed, plain-speaking Jack Warner who won't give Aldrich a break. Last but not least there is Toby Huss as a despicable Frank Sinatra. Along the way there are re-creations of TV appearances by Davis
The Crown: Smoke and Mirrors (2016)
A "Crowning" Episode
One of the greatest episodes in this magnificent series. It fully lives up to expectations in its treatment of the ceremony itself. The solemnity of the occasion is particularly well realized. The writing is brilliant in the way it incorporates the queen's conflict with her husband, leading into the preparations, and especially moving in the way that conflict is seen to resolve (at least for that occasion). Claire Foy is deserving of any award she can be given, but Matt Smith also deserves recognition for his nuanced playing of Philip.
And not to be forgotten is Alex Jennings's performance as the Duke of Windsor, whose abdication years earlier and "scandalous" marriage had led to his virtual banishment from the royal family. He adds unexpected depth to our perception of the ceremony.
"Smoke and Mirrors" might be seen as the first climactic episode of the series. While many great moments have preceded it, this one can stand alone as a fine achievement of writing, production and acting.
Private Property (1960)
A Psycho-Sexual Thrill Ride from 1960
This legendary, presumed lost film is now available is very good print on blu-ray and DVD. Was it worth the wait? I'd say yes. PRIVATE PROPERTY is artfully photographed and has a very capable cast who give convincing performances. The film is short and to the point: a crime thriller with some subtext, that holds a viewer's interest and sustains plenty of tension. It's not some lost masterpiece, but an accomplished minor film that is somewhat ahead of its time in frankness about some sexual matters.
Corey Allen (Duke), Warren Oates (Boots) play drifters who have apparently just met. Duke is the stronger personality and clearly a manipulating sociopath. He dominates Boots, promising a sexual initiation with a beautiful suburban housewife Ann (Kate Manx). The men have followed Ann to her home by way of nearly car-jacking another driver (Hollywood veteran Jerome Cowan). They hole up in an unoccupied house next door and watch Ann as she swims and sunbathes. All the while, Duke stokes Boots' sexual frustration. It's never clear just how much Boots actually wants Ann. He's clearly under Duke's spell, and soon Ann will be as well. Once Ann's husband leaves on a business trip the film kicks into high gear. There is a nice, moody, late-50s feeling to much of this film, especially in the scenes set inside Ann's home. But unlike most films of the era, PRIVATE PROPERTY has a frankness about sexual matters and sociopathy. Possibly only PSYCHO or PEEPING TOM (both also released in 1960) dared to openly portray violent sexual deviancy in similar ways. PRIVATE PROPERTY is nowhere near those films, artistically speaking, but it's still pretty strong stuff to watch. Leslie Steven's direction is economical and well paced. Thanks to Ted D. McCord, the film has an attractive look, occasionally resembling TV drama from the period. Pete Rugolo's score adds a lot to the atmosphere. Best of all are the actors. Manx is very affecting and it's too bad she did not appear in more films. Corey Allen (always underrated, even after a well- remembered sequence in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE) gives the strongest performance. He's very adept at playing on the other characters' weaknesses to achieve his own ends. And Warren Oates at the beginning of his career is a standout as the weak-willed, sexually conflicted Boots. It's great to finally have this film in such a terrific edition.
Gunsmoke: Quint-Cident (1963)
Cleverly titled as it is, this is one of those Gunsmokes that feels like a feature film. The plot is so eventful, with detailed character arcs, yet never seems forced and should satisfy any viewer.
Quint, Willa Devlin and Ben Crown are the three main protagonists whose plot lines intersect believably. Willa, a desperately lonely woman offers herself to Quint after he and Matt help her one day. He refuses and, later when she is raped (a word never uttered in Dodge) by Ben, she accuses Quint, who is also tormented by a racist rancher.
The story is a commentary on racism, loneliness and criminality, all in 50-odd minutes. It's also beautifully shot, using great locations, and extremely well-acted, in particular by movie great Ben Johnson and the underrated Mary LaRoche A top episode of the superb Season 8
47 Meters Down (2017)
Terrifying Shark movie
"In the Deep" is just simply a terrifying shark movie. It spends very little time on character development early on, and gets to its point quickly. This is a shark attack movie that really delivers. Not so much in terms of gore or violence, but at the level of stark fear and dread.
Actors all do fine jobs, with no real standouts, and the main players convey a very believable feeling of terror. We feel we are underwater, very deep underwater, in a terrifying world where sharks rule the day.
Among recent serious shark shockers, I'd rate "In the Deep" just below "The Reef" (simply horrifying) for sheer shark terror, and a little above "The Shallows" (a good film, but this one out-scares it)
"Of Past Regret and Future Fear", a memorable episode
I had only seen this episode once, in first broadcast and had always remembered it, and seeing it again has not diminished its strength. A young security guard is accidentally doused with a highly toxic substance (hydrochloric acid). He is rushed to the ER, and soon told by Dr. Greene that he will die in a matter of hours. The actor Michael Rapaport gives an award-worthy performance, as he slowly realizes and begins to accept his fate. It's a powerful moment in a series full of powerful moments, but one that can really stick with you. A moment's mistake or carelessness can mean the end of everything, in very little time. Carol's efforts to bring the man's ex-wife and daughter in to see him are in vain, as grudges and anger won't loosen their grip. So the man dies while Carol reads back the letter he writes to his daughter. The rest of the plot lines, interesting though they are, pale in comparison to this small unforgettable story.
Io la conoscevo bene (1965)
No One Really Knew Her
Ironically titled, beautifully shot and well-acted, this is a real 'sleeper' from late in the Golden Age of Italian cinema. Stefania Sandrelli perfectly embodies the naive girl from the provinces who wants to be a star. We never know what she can do well, apart from be charming and look terrific. But she believes there is a place for her in the firmament of the entertainment industry. Adriana gets to live only on the edge of the life she thinks she wants (nice apartment, clothes, wigs, parties, making money from sexual favors or modeling). From the start, she is taken advantage of by 'agents' or others who claim to be helping her. The numerous men she encounters are mostly ciphers themselves. Their only advantage is that they understand the ruthless nature of their world. Adriana is just their latest victim. One charmer skips out in the early morning from a hotel encounter, leaving Adriana stuck with the bill. Another, after a sexual episode, asks her to call another girl for him. In a brilliantly cringing scene, poor Adriana is humiliated in front of friends, as her long-awaited 'film debut' only serves to use her for comic fodder.
The film uses flashback to fill in Adriana's past: she was a normal, if very pretty, girl whose family has already nearly forgotten her. Like many of her kind, she craves the "love" that stardom should bring. As often with serious Italian film, the outcome is pessimistic.
Director Pietrangeli paces the film well and integrates the brief flashbacks to telling effect. Locations are well-used and often beautifully photographed. The film can occasionally remind a viewer of Robert Bresson's work: much faster paced, and with a higher energy level, but with a similar outlook on youth and the harshness of contemporary life. I'd go as far to say if this film had been directed by Bresson, it would be far better known. The international view of Italian cinema at the time was dominated by Fellini, Antonioni and a few others, while Pietrangeli, Monicelli and many fine film makers remain to be re-discovered. Here is a great place to start that re- discovery.
Fourth Man Out (2015)
A Better, though imperfect gay-themed film
4th Man Out has a lot going for it. Well-written dialog, with a real sense of humor. Good acting from an appealing and attractive cast. An unusual and effective location. It's definitely worth a look for anyone interested in the so-called 'sub genre' of gay-themed movies. And for these reasons, it's far superior to many of its predecessors.
Evan Todd as "Adam", the main character, does a fine job of conveying the anxiety of someone in his position. It's a situation many of us can identify with. And it's treated in way consistent with the time period (current) and location (upstate NY, i.e. not San Francisco, NYC or Boston). Adam and his friends are in their late 20s and all have (or think they have) pretty open-minded views about homosexuality, but when Adam announces he's gay it still creates some ripples in their little network. Because the characters are pretty well drawn -- Adam and best friend Chris (played by Parker Young) in particular-- it's hard to condemn any of them for not immediately and fully embracing their friend's news. It takes them a while. Yes, this is not taking place 30 years ago, so we can think they should have no problems. But they do love Adam as a friend and eventually they all come around. The film balances the awkwardness and initial homophobia pretty well, with no really mean-spirited humor. Adam's parents are also well presented, with expected surprise (or lack of it) and acceptance through love.
The single big drawback in 4th Man Out is a dating montage sequence for Adam. He signs on to a gay dating site, or phone app and is quickly barraged with interested parties (he's very good-looking and charming). The problem with the sequence is that it trades in too many stereotypes. The one likely candidate gets as far as a pretty hot make-out session with Adam, but it's ruined by a crass event that seems out of place and unnecessary. Too bad, but this does not spoil the entire film.
See it for the attractive (yet realistic) cast, genuine humor and an engaging story mostly well-told
The Invaders: Panic (1967)
Tense Chapter of "The Invaders"
Beautiful locations and a score that sometimes resembles music of Bernard Herrmann bring distinction to this tense, exciting episode. Guest star Robert Walker, Jr is an alien with a difference. When mysterious deaths attract his attention to the area, David Vincent arrives to investigate and finds Walker responsible. He manages to take the alien prisoner, but a gullible woman (future Mrs. Thinnes, Lynn Loring) helps him escape while Vincent sleeps. There are a few disturbing scenes and a fair amount of excitement in this episode and the locations, meant to be West Virginia, are often striking.
Besides Walker and Loring, who are very good, we have R.G. Armstrong and a few other TV stalwarts of the period in the cast. Frontiere's score is noteworthy and effective and director Robert Butler generates plenty of action and tense drama. A top notch chapter.
Two Hours in Hell
Calling this film 'two hours in hell' is not meant as a put down. This is an accomplished film in most ways. The actors are good, even excellent at times and the director captures a sure sense of place and knows how to depict situations with great realism.
This is the type of film that pulls the viewer into its world, using a semi-documentary style. Filmed in a frigid, grey Montreal, it's an unpleasant world, with no humor or true pleasure. The inhabitants are desperate drug addicts who continually pay for their next fix by selling their bodies or stealing. The title is ironic: there does not seem to be any love in this world either. There is sex, but it's rough and without tenderness. We only glimpse the possibility of love between Alex and Bruno at the start, when the film looks like it might be going to tell their story as a desperate couple. But the real focus of the film is Alex. We spend a few days with him, watching him waste time with demanding abusive friends, or selling himself, or stealing. The film works because Alex is played by a handsome and charismatic actor, Alexandre Landry. Throughout, we feel that Alex is a good kid who has gone terribly wrong somehow, and has wound up in a treacherous, possibly deadly downward spiral. The film is a series of realistically presented scenes, showing Alex's world. It's a world we are probably very happy not to inhabit ourselves. The film isn't perfect--the final section, with Bruno, is somewhat confusing to follow--but it works because of Mr. Landry and a cinematically effective style.