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The Lone Ranger (2013)
skillfully executed leftist screed
I was intrigued by catching a few amusing glimpses as I channel surfed, so I recorded it and watched it later.
I was drawn in at first by the tongue-in-cheek tone of the film, which seemed to promise a lot of fun with the moth-eaten Lone Ranger / Tonto shtick. And fun there was, with so many over-the-top special effects and deus-ex-machinas as to provide a lot of amusement, along with lots of wittily snappy dialog.
However, as many, many viewers have said, the film can't make up its mind what it wants to be. We seesaw from moments of hilarious parody to scenes seemingly being played straight for suspense and terror. I would have opted for playing the humor flat out.
Also largely unmentioned in the reviews I have read is that the whole flick is a cleverly and amusingly packaged compendium of all the au courant leftist agenda items. Anti-capitalist: check. Anti-development: check. Evil white oppressors: check. Noble savage: check. Greedy railroad barons: check. The not very subtle giveaway to all this is when, at the prospective moment of victory of all the nasty, top-hatted industrialists, the Star-Spangled Banner is played.
I will give credit to the filmakers for, especially in the culminating scenes, coming up with a string of the funniest, most enjoyably ridiculous and over-the-top adventure sequences I gave seen on celluloid. But as a whole the movie is an incoherent grab bag of humor, suspense and progressive propoganda.
The Isle (2018)
I caught a moment of this flick on cable and was intrigued. After checking out the positive reviews here I recorded it on my DVR to watch in its entirety later.
The movie does draw you in at the beginning, with the standard "sailors beached on a desolate isle." They soon realize that strange things are afoot here, and we are given to understand that supernatural events are transpiring.
However, the movie then loses its forward motion. You can only have so many ghostly appearances, frightening nighttime walks in the woods, and otherworldy voices singing before your attention starts to flag. The movie lacks the arc of suspenseful tension that you find in Hitchcock's movies. By the long-hoped-for end one is yawning.
Skip it and watch reruns of Gilligan's Island.
These Wilder Years (1956)
surprisingly effective and touching
I was drawn to this, as I so often am with many TCM movies, by the cast, and was very impressed with the film as a whole. Dealing with the issue of adoption, it centers on an unmarried tycoon who seeks out his son, the daughter of the girl he abandoned in his youth. It is an intelligent script which deal sensitively with the competing rights and needs of adopted children and of biological parents. Cagney is wonderful as the tycoon, reminding us that he was a better actor than just his gangster roles would lead us to believe. Walter Pigeon is marvelous as the lawyer, and though I've never been a fan of Barbara Stanwyck, she and Cagney play beautifully against each other here. As some have said the plot is a bit contrived, but all stories are contrived to some extent. In this the relationships play out convincingly, and I found the ending genuinely touching. This overlooked gem is well worth watching.
The Cars That Ate Paris (1974)
great takeoff that crashes and burns
I saw this movie on TCM's monthly schedule and was intrigued, especially as it was directed by Peter Weir, who did "Witness" and so many other fine films. First of all it is highly misleading that IMDb has "comedy" as one of the film's categories. From TCM's description I was expecting comedy but rest assured that it is conspicuous by its complete absence here. I was drawn in by the movie at the start, as the picture gradually revealed the horrible secret of this backwoods Australian town, a secret all is citizens are complicit in. Also, the production values are very high. But the movie never resolves itself satisfactorily. The viewer wants to know the "why," the reason behind the town's secret, and it is never revealed. Also we are give no explanation for the rift between the town's two conflicting camps. The movie ends in a highly unsatisfactory battle scene that leaves the viewer hanging. Having been drawn in by the story I felt cheated. Also, as one reviewer noted, considering the town's treatment of other "accident" victims, there is no satisfactory explanation for why Arthur, the main character, is left conspicuously unhurt. The flick is a waste of time.
from a different era (sigh)
I've known of this film for years and finally decided to watch it, expecting the usual corny/glitzy rom-com. I was pleasantly surprised, and enthralled. Formulaic? Yes. Predictable? Certainly. Sentimental? Without doubt. But the story has a tenderness and charm that draws you in. Divorced-father-reconnects-with-kids a well-worn theme, but the script and acting here carry you along. The children are all good in their parts (despite the naysayers here) and of course Grant and Loren shine. The movie appeals to all the sadly outdated bourgeois values of postwar America, i.e. the era in which I grew up. And the cinematography and wide-screen aspect is wonderful. I feel a bit sad for the progressive Bolshies who find the movie offensive (check the one star reviews).
The Young Doctors (1961)
a fine, overlooked movie
I was drawn to this on TCM by the presence of Fredric March, Ben Gazzara and Eddie Albert, all among my favorite actors. I had expected a pro-forma medical flick but was surprised to find a movie with depth, grit, emotion and intellectual meat. As other reviewers have mentioned the title is misleading, and might more accurately have been called "The Old Pathologist," as Fredric March's role is central, and carries the movie. He plays a once-idealistic but now burnt out chief pathologist, who comes into conflict with a young tyro brought in by the hospital board to reinvigorate the pathology department. The conflict is handled intelligently with an excellent script. The romantic interest ties in smoothly with the medical issues. One is kept in thrall throughout, and March's performance is a stunner. Despite his crustiness in the end he is a sympathetic figure. As far as Dick Clark, after seeing this you'll know why he went with American Bandstand rather than pursue an acting career. The B&W cinematography to me enhances, rather than diminishes, the movie. An overlooked gem well worth a see.
Little Pink House (2017)
despotism right here in America
This is somewhat of a depressing film to watch, as we all know the ending, and it's not a happy one. The highest court in the land basically said it was fine for government to seize the private property of Party A and give it to Party B if the net result was more revenue for the government doing the seizing. Stalin, Mao, Mussollini and Hitler would have hailed the decision. The film itself is a bit understated and there are no top tier actors involved, but the story is told well and everyone acquits himself well here. It is worth noting that, in the final Supreme Court decision it was those nasty and mean-spirited right-wing conservatives - O'Connor, Rehnquist, Thomas and Scalia - who sided with Ms. Kelo, while all the liberal champions of the poor and downtrodden - Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer, Kennedy and Stevens - said it was fine for the government to seize working people's private property.
The North Star (1943)
unadulterated Communist propoganda
It's true that this movie was produced at a time when we were allied with the Soviet Union against Hitler. But, as Churchill said, when asked about the morality of allying with such a murderous, totalitarian regime, "I would have made a pact with the devil to defeat the Nazis." It was Hollywood's job to laud our allies, and to do so they enlisted Lillian Hellman, longtime Communist dupe and staunch defender of Stalin, right into the 50's. For the score they enlisted Aaron Copland, a fine composer whose Communist sympathies were none the less well known. The result is a love letter to the glories of the Worker's Paradise and the joys of life on the collective farm. No mention here of gulags, the KGB, political murders or food shortages. This film is Exhibit A in defense of those who were concerned about Communist propoganda in the film industry.
I know what you're thinking....
You're thinking something along the lines of "a schmaltzy movie about a talking parrot. Puh-leeeeeez!" I had somewhat the same reaction when I came across this on cable. Then I looked at the cast and said to myself, gee, how bad can a script be when Gena Rowlands and Tony Shaloub sign on? And my gosh, there's Buddy Hacket, in his last full length studio movie. To cut to the chase, this is the kind of movie the Disney Studios used to make; a charming, witty, sentimental movie with appeal for the whole family, and a few life lessons thrown in for good measure. I was totally enchanted (and I'm 72!) and the movie made me forget my cynicism. Is it a "feel good" movie? For sure. And can't we do with a few more feel-good movies, as opposed to movies that, after seeing them, you either feel like taking a shower or hanging yourself (or both, in that order)?
only the scenery is worth watching
I wonder if either Michael Caine or Harvey Keitel regrets having made this movie? One wonders what they thought of the project when proposed, and what they thought after seeing the result. I don't know about Keitel, but Caine certainly doesn't need the money, so one wonders why he signed on to such a pretentious, artsy-fartsy piece of balderdash. Unless, as I say, the project sounded different when presented. First of all, there is no coherent story line. Oh there' s plenty of family acrimony between father and daughter, and some confict between a pair of lovers splitting up, and a scenery-chewing scene between two elderly, separated show business types reaching the end sof their lives and careers. And of course the reference to homsexuality that is de rigeur nowadays. But they are presented as isolated threads with no unifying theme to draw them together. Then we have the pretentiousness. A plethora of cryptic and obscure scenes with weird stagings oddly shot, reminiscent of Fellini, are scattered throughout the film, like trash over a landscape, and make the viewer wonder just what the hell is going on at that particular moment. It wasn't quite bad enough to make me stop the film in the middle, but that is only because of the gorgeous cinematography of the Swiss landscape. Still, I wish, as they say, that I could have my two hours back.
better late than never....
Better late than never that the true story of the Chappaquidick coverup gets major attention. For the Kennedys, laws and rules were always for the little people. I'm of a generation old enough to remember Chappaquidick. It's good that the younger crowd gets to see how the Kennedys operate. Disgusting how Ted, backed by his army of fixers and p.r. hacks, portrays himself and his family as victims, when he was responsible for a young girl's death. My only complaint about the movie is that it's too kind to him, leaning on the "dad made me do it" and the myth of Kennedy family devotion to "public service." As a resident of Massachusetts I am ashamed that after this miscarriage of justice the voters of this state re-elected this execrable miscreant. By the way it's been reported that "powerful people" tried to stop the release of this movie.
Man Without a Star (1955)
excellent, little-known western
I found this one on TCM. I had never heard of this particular western, but because of the presence of Kirk Douglas, put it on my DVR, not expecting anything more than a run-of-the-mill western. What a surprise! This is simply top-notch in all respects, acting, writing, direction, cinemaography. The main asset is Kirk Douglas, whose tour-de-force performance here reminds us of just what a truly great actor he was. He plays the role for drama, but there ae touches of comedy as well. The theme of the movie - the conflict between open-range grazing and fenced spreads - is historically significant and well realized here. At no point does the dramatic tension lag; the movie keeps you involved from beginning to end. My only complaint is the execrable habit of westerns of this period incorporating the infamous solo song over the opening and closing credits. If you can make it through listening to Frankie Valli, the movie is well worth watching.
The Man from Laramie (1955)
I came across this recently on TCM and watched it, soon realizing that I had seen it before previously. It definitely sustained a repeat viewing. For some reason, only with the second viewing did I realize what a superb movie this is, ranking right up there with "My Darling Clementine," "Red River," "The Shootist," and others. Anthony Mann of course had a great reputation as a director of Westerns and this is Exhibit A. Part of it is the superb screenplay, a richly textured, multi-levelled story involving family tension, jealousy, revenge, and rivalry. And of course the casting; anything with Jimmy Stewart, Donald Crisp, and Arthur Kennedy can't be bad. Then there is the superb cinematography of the Western expanses, among the best in any western I've seen. Altogether a richly gripping, expansive story.
The Nanny Diaries (2007)
phony ending ruins a decent movie
I watched this on my DVR because, while channel surfing I had caught a scene with Paul Giammati and Laura Linney, two performers known for being fussy about what they choose to appear in. Also the scene was interesting. Upon viewing the whole thing I was put off at first by some of the fantasy effects at the start, but was then drawn into the story, which is essentially a withering, acid commentary on the lifestyles of the crass, materialistic, upward-striving Manhattan elite, with their conspicuous consumption and their empty lives. Giamatti's and Linney's couple is a painfully authentic portrayal of this type, and they play it to the hilt. Their neglect of their child, and their exploitation of the nanny is like watching a train wreck - awful but you can't take your eyes away. All this however is ruined by the tacky and unbelievable phony ending stitched on at the end. Johannsen's nanny manages, in a highly contrived fashion, to convince the mother of the error of her ways. But people this crass and callous don't change at the drop of a hat. Also the father is omitted entirely from this phony redemption. So we have here an interesting flick ruined by a phony happy ending.
Force of Evil (1948)
an overlooked gem
I caught this on Turner, drawn by the presence of John Garfield, a fine actor. I expected a run of the mill film noir but was surprised to find that the flick exceeded expectations. The script is extremely well-written, without the purple prose one often finds in this genre. The acting is excellent all around. The direction keeps the story line going. Also worth mentioning is the excellent score, a bit reminiscent of Copland, by one David Raksin. The dialogue contains a few bits of populist and anti-capitalist bluster, but considering the director and writer was a Commie, I suppose it's to be expected. This one keeps your attention throughout, and is well worth watching.
Thank You for Your Service (2017)
a must-see for the gung-ho crowd
All those who whoop for "sending in the troops" for every crisis should see this movie. Also all the skeptics who doubt the reality of PTSD. I'm no pacifist, but those who make decisions involving our troops should know not only about the lives that will be lost and the bodies maimed, but - as shown here - the minds that will be irreparably damaged.
It's a grim movie and hard to get through because it doesn't flinch from showing us the traumatic events that can cause PTSD, but also the grim effects on the lives of both the troops and their loved ones.
It is course is an updated version of the classic "The Best Years of Our Lives," right down to following three soldiers returning to their home town. But while the earlier movie dealt with injury and re-assimilation issues, it didn't deal with PTSD, which was know then as "shell shock" or "combat fatigue." This movie does, brutally.
The acting is superb, the script grimly realistic and the direction tight. This is a timely movie that should be watched by all those who claim to support our troops.
The Astonished Heart (1950)
lifestyles of the silly and fatuous
"Don't ridicule this film," says 'ptb-8 from Australia.' Sorry, but there's not much else to do with this film except to ridicule it. Absolutely everything about it is false, starting with Dr. Faber's infatuation with Leonora. What this intelligent, sophisticated man sees in such as a ditz is not explained. Then we have the wife Barbara's, stiff-upper-lip savoir faire about the whole thing. I don't know of many deceived wives who would suggest to their philandering hubby that he go away for a while with the other woman. Next we have Faber's jealousy, which is frankly inexplicable. This sophisticated man, who counsels others for a living, becomes so obsessed with his paramour's past loves that we begin to feel he belongs on the couch himself. And the movie never portrays the affair between them as so intense as to cause him to become suicidal when it's over. His high dive from the roof is quite unbelievable. And by the way, just how does a man who has been picked up off the sidewalk after a suicide attempt wind up in his own bedroom instead of being taken to a hospital??? And, not to be cruel, but Noel Coward, brilliant as he was, just does not make for a convincing romantic lead. His homosexuality was an open secret even back then. File this one under "phony."
Top Secret Affair (1957)
stinks big time
Imagine if an undertaker, or a Methodist parson, or the head of the local chapter of the DAR decided, on a whim, to sit down and write a comedy script. This movie would be something like what they would come up with. I cannot understand a 6.3 rating for a movie whose supposed humor is so forced, so wooden, so brittle. Comedies must have some credibility in their comic premises but everything here is so preposterous that one simply can't buy it. The head-spinning gyrations in the relationship between Douglas and Haywood's characters simply destroys the movie's comic premises. And since neither Douglas nor Haywood excelled at comedy, one wonders just who decided to cast them here. Both actors were sufficiently in demand that they could be choosy with their material, so one wonders what prompted to sign on to this dreck. Jim Backus excelled at comedy but even he can't do anything with what he is given here. I suffered through to the end just to see how it would turn out; because I suffered, you don't have to.
Dead Man (1995)
In choosing between two words - "perplexing" or "pretentious" - to describe this flick, I'm unsure which is more appropriate. I was drawn to it by the presence of Johnny Depp and of Robert Mitchum, despite the flurry of negative reviews. Now I understand those reviews. I almost stopped watching after the first ten minutes, which are wordless, and do nothing but show - in successive takes of no more than a minute or so each - the changing ridership of a train car in which Depp's character, William Blake, is traveling. This sets the tone for most of the movie, which will be presented, annoyingly, in brief clips, some no longer than twenty seconds. The first words spoken, addressed to Blake, are cryptic and opaque, again setting the tone for the movie. If you wonder about the reference to William Blake, the British poet and painter, you would be on point, although the nature of the relationship of Depp's character to the real Blake is still unclear at the end. The film looks like some sort of metaphor for the passage from life (gee, might that river being crossed be the Styx?), but as soon as it seems to fix on this idea a scene of knee-slapping humor will intrude (these humorous bits are actually the most appealing parts of the movie). The actor chosen to play the Indian spiritual guide looks as much like an Indian as I do an alpaca, but that might be part of the humorous angle. The second most annoying aspect of the movie after the short takes is the musical score, for distorted acoustic guitar, which is obviously a reference to Western oaters of yore and is very soon grating. Having said all that the movie is like a train wreck - you can't take your eyes off it, even though you want to.The movie succeeds in making you want to see how it all turns out, and I watched to the end, which is, alas, as cryptic as most of what preceded it.
insulting and demeaning
I happened to catch an episode of this execrable show while stuck in a motel in western Massachusetts, and I was appalled. It's hard to believe that a show that was written so recently, when the gay rights movement had reached a stage of widespread public acceptance, could indulge in the worst type of lisping, swishing, hand-on-hip stereotyping. It rivals the terrible work of Michael Douglas and the others involved in the atrocious "Behind the Candelabra." What is even more astonishing is that Ian McKellan is himself an uncloseted gay man. That he could participate in a project so demeaning to gays is just astonishing.
I have fallen in love with this show by way of the cable reruns. It's wonderful in every way. The concept of the show is brilliant; a detective show in which the detective, although brilliant, is neither suave, brave, not debonair. He is truly a psychologically damaged person. And although his foibles and phobias are often played for laughs, the fact of his being destroyed by his wife's death is always a serious element of the show. The supporting players are excellent, particularly Ted Levine as Cpt. Stottlemeyer. The character of Randy is a bit gratuitously annoying but you can't have everything. The scriptwriting is some of the best around, with many subtle witticisms and some great cultural parody. And it is never straight out comedy; the tragic nature of Monk's mental affliction is always present, and the endings always have a gentle touch. The crime mysteries themselves are most often not the point of the show. They are merely the McGuffin - in Hitchcocks's phrase - on which to hang a drama about character relationships. Just a great, great show.
a great film
No question this film will endure as one of the great historical/biographical cinematic masterpieces, right up there with "Lawrence of Arabia," "Becket," and "A Man for all Seasons" (the version with Paul Scofield). First off, Daniel Day Lewis' performance as Lincoln is stunning, fully demonstrating Lincoln's indomitable will, his political cunning, and both his humor and his melancholy. Sally Field as Mary Lincoln shows she is a great actress. Tommy Lee Jones shines as Thaddeus Stevens. The host of great supporting actors is too long to enumerate. Then there is the script, a slap in the face to the mindless pablum so common to movies nowadays. Tony Kushner has written an extremely intelligent, historically informed script about Lincoln's struggle to pass the 13th amendment, and all the legal and moral complexities involved in that struggle. It is truly aimed at thoughtful, intelligent adults. This is simply a must-see film.
When in Rome (1952)
charming, delightful, touching
I was drawn to the film by TCM's summary and by the presence of two estimable actors. Van Johnson and Paul Douglas never quite made Hollywood's A-list but for my money they are two very accomplished practitioners of the thespian art.
Johnson, as Father Halloran, shares a ship cabin with Joe Brewster (Douglas) who, unbeknownst to Halloran, is on the lam from San Quentin. Halloran is on his way to Rome for Holy Year, and his and Brewster's paths become intertwined.
The movie seems to want to be a lighthearted comedy but in the end becomes quite touching, as Halloran becomes Brewster's confessor. The script is excellent and the action moves along well.
In addition the movie is a wonderful travelogue of pre-Vatican II Rome, in stunning black and white.
Be sure not to miss this overlooked little gem.
Perfect Strangers (1945)
a delightful surprise
What a wonderful movie!
As is often the case I was drawn to it by the names - Robert Donat, Deborah Kerr, Glynis Johns and Alexander Korda. How can you go wrong? I learned later that this was the flick that made Kerr a star, and understandably so. Glynis Johns is always a delight to the eye.
The story line - a humdrum couple separated and transformed by the war - sounds like the makings for a pretty humdrum soap opera, but the script is very well done and involves us in the stories of these two people as they drift away from each other (or so they think).
The great Alexander Korda's direction is spot on and masterful. Particularly impressive are the cutaway shots from husband to wife as each of them travels home to meet each other on leave after 3 years apart from each other, he in the Navy, she in the Wrens (Britain's naval corps for women). We learn from their conversations with their traveling companions about their apprehensions about reuniting. The scene where they face each other with their doubts is shot completely in the dark, a master stroke, reflecting the fact that they really don't know each other anymore.
It's also a very good snapshot of wartime life in Britain.
Altogether a wonderful find. Thank you Turner Classic Movies.
The Scarf (1951)
flawed but intriguing
I liked this movie.
Having seen my share of hogwash from this period of American filmmaking, I can say that the movie kept me interested, which I can't say for a lot of the dreck from this period.
We are constantly kept wondering who this escaped, supposedly insane, criminal is, and that question is what sustains our curiosity throughout the movie.
There is a certain amount of philosophizing in the script, but it never rises to an arcane level, nor does it interfere with plot development.
Casting is excellent. John Ireland is a very capable and underrated character actor. The star of the show is definitely James Barton as the hermit turkey farmer. You can't take your eyes of him, and he is the linchpin. Mercedes McCambridge shines as the loose woman with a heart of gold, and she is an excellent singer.
My caveat is with the convoluted finish, with too many plot threads wrapped up in an unconvincing and contrived manner. However, the first three quarters of the movie is good enough to carry us through to the weak ending.
It's worth a watch.