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The November Man (2014)
Very fine - complex but not too much so - great performance by Brosnan
The first thought is "Another James Bond?" In physicality, yes, certainly. Brosnan is in amazing shape - and just as active, energetic, ferocious as in any Bond. In terms of special effects, no this is a more serious and grounded movie than any Bond. Unlike the James Bond films, this deals with quite serious real-world issues - loosely based on headlines from Bosnia-Hercegovina and Russia in recent decades.
The movie is deeply suspenseful, fast-paced, complicated (but you can follow), very well- acted - but most of all it's a superb Piece Brosnan as a truly world-weary, cynical, older, former secret agent - pulled back into the game. - and vicious antagonists. The Bond girl is an excellent co-star!
You'll like it! I hope there are more with Brosnan's character - remember the name, Devereux!
Midnight Lace (1960)
A good standard suspense-filled story of murder threats to an upper middle class matron in London
Doris Day is the reason to watch this - it's as if she truly became her character - and she IS terrified by the creepy threats made from disembodied strange voices when outside, from the telephone when inside ... and is being driven mad. The plot of this mystery is ... ok ... like the plot of most TV mysteries (say an average TV movie) but the difference is that Day IS this woman - and it's very unsettling - and worth seeing. Day in fact swore never again to take on a suspense movie - it almost gave her a nervous breakdown!
Other benefits from this movie - it's lavish - you're looking at a quite upper middle class English couple in late 1950s, early 1960s London - the clothes, the settings, the furniture and accents - are all appealing. Rex Harrison, Myrna Loy, Herbert Marshall, John Gavin, Roddy McDowall comprise a big and fine cast.
Day's character is NOT at home - but in London, a foreign land, she's relatively newly married to Rex Harrison, she's not feeling the utter security she might in other circumstances - and then awful things threaten.
It's easy to like the movie - if you start to watch it, you'll finish it. I enjoy Rex Harrison, Myrna Loy, Herbert Marshall and John Gavin in all they've done done You'll enjoy it - but don't expect something GREAT.
While You Were Sleeping (1995)
Very funny and heartfelt, utterly charming and sweepingly romantic
I love this movie - if you've ever wondered why comedies made in the 1930s or 1940s were far better than anything in more recent decades - it was really the writing. Well, this film is written as well or better than any comedy in the last half century - the overall plot is wonderful - the actors perfectly chosen - and all the small steps each character makes are entirely believable, consistent, revelatory of character, and gently leading - inevitably - to what a resolution viewer wants to see.
This will stay in your mind - you'll want to see it over and over - you'll want to tell your friends - you'll want a sequel and a prequel. You'll want to remember each line of dialogue, to replay scenes, to make sure you have the quotations you tell your friends exactly right. Seldom mentioned in these reviews is also the beauty and feel for Chicago. It's underplayed - but there throughout - the Els, Lake Michigan, the Chicago River, the bridges and the skyscrapers and the lovely houses in the residential neighborhoods. Nothing is said about them - they're the background - but so well chosen.
I would love to see a sequel - now 23 years after the film was made. Bullock and Pullman as a middle-aged married couple - Peter Gallagher's continued quest for the perfect woman, the sister Mary - and the reminiscence of the passing of the previous generation - of Boyle and Warden, Glynis Johns, and the others.
The strange thing is that the two brilliant writers of this film seem hardly to have written ANY other film before or since!! Is it possible they used pseudonyms for this one? I would beg them to write a sequel for these characters.
Don't doubt my review - this will become for you a beloved movie you'll never forget
Quite disliked it
I was bored so much of the film - the plethora of characters about whom one knows nothing - and thus cares little; the remarkably confusing story line (three story lines - which cover one week, one day and one hour - in which we are supposed to see one line's incident reflected in the other story line at an earlier or later time - but this means we wonder which of the 17 times we see a ship blown up is significant to which point in another story line at a different point in the movie? Which of the planes we see knocked down is one we saw at another point - or shall see at another point from a different perspective? We don't care); the indifferent film score - nothing too grand, no real crescendo, nothing that could be described as patriotic; long long stretches in which nothing happens; the deliberate undercutting of the idea of the people as having an idealism great than self-interest - and many of the principal characters deliberately sabotaging the overall effort - or deceiving others - or acting in a xenophobic way - or committing suicide out of fear ... anything to undermine a "spirit of Dunkirk" emotional feeling; All this is quite deliberate by the director - and to have just spent $50 ($23.50 for the IMAX seat, another $27 for a hot dog, soda and popcorn) - simply makes one far more reluctant to attend a movie - no matter the many (wrong-headed) plaudits.
Via Dolorosa (2000)
Articulate - even eloquent - but hopelessly wrong
I missed his performance of Via Dolorosa in New York but was intrigued by what he thought of Israeli/Palestinian issues and therefore rented the DVD of his performance.
Many of Hare's expressed assumptions are false. Thus, for example, though Hare may be nominally Christian, Hare believes that Christianity no longer has any essential meaning for Westerners; I don't know why - he seems only to speak for himself. And thus, the Jewish settlers' application of religious belief as a basis for anyone's "real present day world" belief about politics or morality is treated by Hare with "slap on the forehead" incredulity. It is offensive, and more indicative of Hare's absence of religious belief than of anything peculiar about the settlers, to hear Hare speak of religion as an absurd basis for action or belief.
Time and again, Hare states the central problem for Israel as the necessary primacy of a certain consciousness, set of attitudes or "thoughts" over mere "ownership" of "stones" (i.e., sovereignty over land). It is apparently this reluctance to cede ownership of territory that Hare believes is at the root of the mutual enmity of Palestinians and Israeli Jews. Hare assumes that the Palestinians' central desire is mere sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza Strip - and with these desires granted, all will be well: Arabs may want stones - Israel should not care about them.
Yet even by this double standard, Hare is mistaken. if the Arabs formed the PLO years before 1967 with the express intention of destroying any Jewish homeland in the Middle East - and in fact the vast majority of Arabs sought the eradication of Jews from Palestine before 1948 - then what does this say about Hare's assumption that somehow relinquishing control over particular land acquired in 1967 would end the enmity? But the desired conclusion of the Arab "struggle" is the termination of a Jewish state - check any opinion poll.
The majority of Jews in Israel have no descendants who ever lived in Europe - they or their parents or grandparents fled from elsewhere in North Africa or the Middle East. Hare gives no sign of understanding this - and sees Israel somehow as an offshoot of Europe. It was not the absorption of the West Bank that caused Jews to be persecuted and expelled from the rest of North Africa and the Middle East.
Thus, Hare's astonishment that some Israelis could disagree with the Oslo Accords in 1993 because those accords contemplate the emergence of a Palestinian state, is strange when the existence of such a state would constitute another step in the intended destruction of Israel.
Hare is also blind in his reference to the West Bank and Gaza Strip as "conquered territories". All inhabited territory on earth has been conquered from other peoples. E.g., England IS conquered territory - certainly from the time of the invasions by Jutes, Angles and Saxons through the Danes to the Normans. They didn't leave.
Following World War II, within a few years of the creation of Israel, there were expulsions of people from territories, and expropriation of property, on a vast scale around the globe - in Tibet, in Inner Mongolia, in Taiwan by the retreating Nationalists, in the Sudetenland by the Czech government. Such expansion and contraction, the emergence and disappearance of peoples and states are true throughout the world and throughout history.
Thus, even if Hare were correct in his assumption that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian enmity were the cession of the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- --why is Israel (a very small country) alone to be required to lose much if not most of its territory? Simply because they failed to force the Palestinians to emigrate to surrounding Arab countries? This makes little moral sense.
Hare also speaks of the terrible poverty in the Gaza Strip. There is poverty - but neighboring Egypt and Jordan are more impoverished. Indeed, the West Bank is the most affluent non-oil producing Arab majority area in the world. If the Arabs in the West Bank are indeed wealthier there than in neighboring countries - and continue to live there rather than emigrate - obviously the humiliation of checkpoint searches (and who can say THOSE are unnecessary given the horrors of the violence against civilians?), is insufficient to motivate people to improve their lives by moving. There's no Iron Curtain preventing emigration.
Hare strangely appears to assume that a nation's sovereignty should never cost the lives of those in its defense. At one point, he repeats the statement by an Israeli military officer that though Israel had lost 20,000 lives to violence since its creation, the loss had been justified by the creation of a sovereign country for the Jews. Hare sees this as somehow wrong - an improper elevation of "ownership" of land and of "stones" over human lives and "thoughts".
Would Hare say that the vastly greater losses by the USSR in World War II were not worth it to avoid the loss of "land" (i.e., the country) to Germany? How much of the USSR should have been given up to Nazi Germany to avoid those losses - because its "real value" lay in the performance of Tchaikovsky's symphonies or the reading of Turgenev, rather than there mere "stones" of Russia? The preservation of sovereignty always costs lives - many of them - and if successful, is deemed worthwhile by survivors.
Hare's assumptions that religion is a terrible basis for conduct and belief, that acquisition of the West Bank and Gaza Strip constitute the whole of Palestinian desires, that Israel's acquisition of these areas was somehow different from all nations' acquisition of their own lands, that defense of the homes of countrymen constitutes a wrongful elevation of mere stones above the "intellectual heritage" of the people - all strike me as very wrong-headed.
A Fever in the Blood (1961)
Bold, exciting, twists and turns - sometimes over the top
I watched this recently on TCM. I had always liked the actors - Jack Kelly (perhaps most famous for Maverick where he and James Garner shared the honors), Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Angie Dickinson, Don Ameche (and a host of character actors from Jesse White to Carroll O'Connor).
This is a movie about politics in a state in mid-20th century America. The ambitions of three men to become Governor: the current U.S. Senator, a prominent state court judge in the largest city in the state, and the famous District Attorney from that state. Their party lost the last election for Governor - they have reason to believe their party will succeed this time around. Each wants the job - very much.
Kelly plays (wonderfully) a man with a poor slum background - he's risen to be the D.A., he is aggressive, articulate, driven. His life has risen to this point - he wants the Governorship desperately - a loving wife, two happy children in his 1950s suburban home - he feels he's got to move up.
Zimbalist is the product of a wealthy background - he rose naturally to be a judge - his wife was an invalid a long time - then died. He has no children - no particular interest except fishing alone. He is lonely, and says repeatedly that he seeks the Governorship out of interest, to give his life more meaning. He lives year-round in the posh residential suite at the nicest hotel in the biggest city of the state.
Ameche is the current U.S. Senator - in middle age, he won the love of a beautiful blonde woman (Dickinson) who had been in love with Zimbalist (who was married to his invalid wife). Ameche is insecure, childless, deeply cynical, fast thinking, and far older than his wife. He suffered a heart attack the previous year - and wants desperately to win the adoring love of his wife - feeling that if he defeats her former love (Zimbalist), he'll have proved something.
Three smart men - all in the same party - and one job they seek. The screenwriters do a wonderful job of focusing this ambition upon a murder trial - over which Zimbalist presides - and Kelly is the prosecutor. And the defendant in that murder trial is ... the nephew of the former Governor of their party.
Possible - and actual - deals of alliance - offers, rejections, reneging on those deals - create the twists and turns of this political drama.
The movie is deeply cynical - sometimes I felt too much so. (I was sometimes out of sync with the movie - and felt that the characters' actions were not so unjust - or unfair - than the movie wants us to think).
It's a film about character, about ambition, about modern politics - in the last 1/4 of the movie, it goes off the rails repeatedly - with crazy turns and twists that seem implausible and wild - and yet the movie is BIG, the twists and turns remarkable - its ambition to show America the world of modern politics very admirable - even if sometimes too moralistic.
I loved watching it - it's exciting, fresh, the performances are just great (not only by Zimbalist, Kelly, Ameche and Dickinson - but by all the actors).
I suspect if you get the chance, you'll really like it - and remember it.
Performance: After the Dance (1992)
Fine, very moving, quite witty
I've seen this three times now - as a DVD included among the Rattigan box set. I'd read a collection of Rattigan's plays - but this wasn't among them. As the director of the recent Olivier award winning National Theater production of "After the Dance" has stated, the failure of the play to run a long time in 1939 caused Rattigan to exclude it from his "Best Plays" collections. The play had received great acclaim by critics when it opened - and was doing fine business for two months - but then the War began - and the emotional ends of theater-going changed rather dramatically. The play closed soon afterward.
It's a superb play. I'm delighted that it's been revived to such a heralded response in London. It conveys a specific set of people - London based, upper class, only just too young for the First World War -who partied through the 1920s and the 1930s - ostensibly occupied with something, but not with true dedication. Eccentricity, a studied nonchalance, an affected boredom with the serious are the style of conversation - and gossip the substance. They now face a Second World War, a new generation - and themselves. There is considerable self-blame for their indulgence, wistfulness over age, self-questioning whether they can revivify, and wonder whether their characters are sufficiently supple or strong to start anew - as a new generation grinds alongside.
The play is quite realistic - and sad - and funny. The performances here are fine - you may, as I, wish to see it time and again. It's that fine a play.
The Boys Are Back (2009)
How not to raise children
This is one of the poorest movies I've seen - I'd no idea what it was about, but generally liked Clive Owen, so thought I'd rent it. It's the only film I can remember in which I actually yelled two or three times at the TV screen "End. END!" Owen plays the most Uriah Heepish parent I've ever seen. Extraordinarily passive - yet deceitful in many ways (Not least, as a top newspaper's sports editor who lies to all at work, and to the nation about covering the biggest international sporting event held in Australia each year - one can only hope he was fired, though there's an odd failure to mention the consequence).
I've never seen a parent apologize each time his child deserves punishment. Child throwing things? Apologize. Child hits him repeatedly in the head? Apologize. Child refuses to get in the car to go somewhere? Apologize. Child won't get up from having a tantrum on the floor in public? Apologize. Child wants to throw things in the house? Apologize. Child cries because he wants to swim instead of be in school? Apologize.
Say that you're deeply deeply sorry for every breath you take, every move you make - you get the idea.
This is a creepy movie - the parent abandoned his vows to God, his son and his spouse to be true until death - and is somehow not made to feel the terrible consequences of his abject despicable treatment of his spouse. Why did he leave her? "I got (this sexy babe) pregnant".
I constantly wished the worst for the protagonist - which I don't think the film intends.
I loathe this movie.
A wonderful surprise - clear, poetic, moving, quite lovely
I've seen so many French films in the last 15 years in which the female protagonist is as hard as nails, rebellious but impenetrable, scornful of intimate society or society at large - and we're meant to like her. I feared the same from the simple description I had of this film. (And after all, Scott-Thomas does not, after all, seem to seek out cuddly characters).
But her character is played perfectly - and that woman is one you come to quite like - sympathetic and understandable and human. (The actress playing her sister is also perfectly chosen- as sweet and winning as you could possibly find).
For all the darkness off-screen before the film begins, this is really a happy and heart-warming film - stay with it, it gets better and better. I particularly love the happiness the director makes us feel in social groupings - the celebration of someone's birthday, friends just dropping in, a dinner party.
**** SPOILERS### My one misgving with the film is that I do NOT share the director's apparent sympathy with euthanasia - no illness ever justifies taking another's life. Were I the judge sentencing her, and knowing all the facts, I'd have sentenced her to at least 15 years, and thought myself being very just. So her failure to defend herself in prison does not seem to me to have influenced her just sentence - though is strongly sense the movie means one to think otherwise - to feel that slaying a terribly ill child is somehow OK.
*** SPOILERS END **** I'd strongly recommend the film.
To my surprise, a great subtle and rather sad movie
This movie by Carol Reed (director of such great movies as The Third Man, Odd Man Out, The Key, and The Fallen Idol, who finally won the Oscar for Best Director for his musical, "Oliver!"(a musical adaptation of Oliver Twist) is simply superb.
Although this shares the circus setting as some others of the time, it's not primarily "about" the circus. It's a profound look at age, comeback, love (whether wanted or not), ambition. It's set in a dark and almost tawdry Paris of the mid-1950s, one that seems still tired and rather poor a dozen years after liberation.
The whole setting - and the love triangle - are fabulous yet realistic. This is a great bookend for An American in Paris - two entirely different images of Paris and France at the time.
The Burt Lancaster characterization is simply great - understated, powerful, moving - a man looking for a comeback, a last chance. Tony Curtis is also fine (I think Curtis has long been terribly underrated - he's a very good actor, wonderful in all kinds of parts from The Boston Strangler to Boeing, Boeing, from Sweet Smell of Success (with Lancaster again) to Some Like it Hot). Lollobrigida is great - a fine actress, yes unbelievably sexy but also just excellent at making us feel what her (desperate and cunning) character feels.
This is a great movie - amazingly set with a circus backdrop. I loved it. It's as good a depiction of post-war western Europe as can be imagined - in music, in light/shadow, in the fatigue you feel throughout. Watch it! You won't be disappointed.
The Lady and the Highwayman (1989)
Good pure old-fashioned romance
If you like your romance VERY traditional with damsels in distress, evil nobles, dashing villains who are REALLY ... Men, beware! This is the world of Barbara Cartland.
Nevertheless, I must admit that it held my interest throughout - and I was VERY struck by: the beauty of the sets/castles/scenery/furniture - they were spectacular.
and struck by the fine acting by such great stars. What a cast!!!
John Mills (the great one)
Oliver Reed (nominated for an Oscar in his last role - in The Gladiator, as the trainer of gladiators)
Michael York (Reed and York were two of the fine Three Musketeers the previous decade),
Emma Samms (star of all those Dynasty series)
Christopher Cazenove (many movies including the villain of 3 Men and a Baby, etc.),
Claire Bloom (the greatness of Claire Bloom since the 1950s -- starring in a Barbara Cartland!! Amazing!),
Hugh Grant and Lysette Anthony.
I know Anthony from a great Woody Allen movie and from a superb Inspector Poirot TV movie - she's so different in each that she doesn't even seem the same actress -very pretty, very fine actress).
Hugh Grant - charming, self-deprecatory, bookish, Hugh Grant, the kind of man made to play in Born Yesterday as the professor - is wildly miscast. The rough highwayman contemptuous of authority, rather a tough Robin Hood character is meant to be a type like Colin Farrell or young Oliver Reed -- alternatively an Errol Flynn or Douglas Fairbanks would be fine. But Grant really did his best - generally remaining silent.
The plot is what surprised me - what a good pot - straightforward, enough intrigue, good pace.
This is a well put together movie - IF you want to see a true prototype of the romance circa 17th century. I'd recommend it to anyone in that mood.
Wings of the Morning (1937)
A VERY appealing jumble of a movie
This movie sets out to have much for many - and succeeds in a wacky, just relax and enjoy the utterly mixed bag way:
the first Technicolor movie made in Britain (well, Ireland actually) a tale of gypsies and their generations-long curses all the sentiment and memories of the Auld Sod in Ireland three songs sung complete by John McCormack, the great Irish tenor horse racing tale - mixing in news footage of Derby Day in England love story between Henry Fonda and beautiful French sensation Annabella
There are odd moments - e.g., Henry Fonda forcefully removing all Annabella's clothes (behind a willow tree) until apparently repulsed, he realizes she's a girl and tosses her undergarments back to her - disgusted
Strange scenes of "is she alive or is she dead" about an ancient gypsy woman.
We're asked to accept that a living woman may easily life to see a fourth generation of her family -- in 50 years. In this movie, they apparently have an entirely new generation of gypsy children every sixteen years! (In contrast, I hope to marry next year and have children in future - yet my own grandparents were born in the 1890s, 110-120 years ago - without a fourth generation yet!).
It's fun - and light, and romantic (annabella is really cute!) and it IS interesting to see John McCormack and the spectacular/sentimental scenes of Killarney - and to see a horse race at Ascot.
Don't expect a classic - but it's a big fun jumble of stuff designed to appeal to many. Often a quite beautiful movie visually too.
The Starter Wife (2007)
Funny very modern comedy about life in L.A. among the "in crowd"
I've only seen two episodes - and hadn't seen any that aired last summer - but this is really a charming, funny series. Messing and Davis are the reasons to watch - and they really get to show a stunning variety of emotions. The plot is clear, fast-moving, and great fun. I've mixed feelings about the use of the dream sequences to indicate how she feels at particular moments - but I'm sure there are many who love them.
This is really a fine series - it seems the female counterpart to the male-oriented Californication - the quality is similar - and they're very much the same kind of series - very modern, witty, well-designed continuing comedy (each program's dilemmas, new characters, very much lead into the next). They're both programs about very superficial, selfish and materialistic people, set in contemporary Los Angeles obsessed with fame and fleeting success.
I'm a conservative Catholic man living in the East, clearly not the intended audience for the series - but I enjoy it. And I'm surprised there aren't more comments. (The series was heavily promoted in New York City -- and Messing and Davis are both famously talented).
It's hard to imagine that people who decide to tune in - won't be caught up in it.
Stealing Home (1988)
Really fine - very moving,
This is a fictional character study, nostalgia piece, and inspirational story. The reason it works is not so much the novelty of the plot or situations, but the actors and the physical settings.
Rarely has a film been cast so very well.
Mark Harmon, fine actor and former star USC quarterback plays a baseball player.
One of America's very best actresses, Jodie Foster plays his older friend.
Another of the top American actresses, Blair Brown plays his mother (when he was small).
The very appealing John A. Shea (think of his portrayal of Robert F. Kennedy or his co-star part on the Spuerman series) is his father.
The really lovely, Southern seductress Beth Broderick (former co-star of Sabrina and so often well-cast as the beauty on series such as From the earth to the Moon) is perfectly cast - as is Jonathan Silverman in a Summer of '42 part.
Harmon and Foster are opposites in so many ways - in life as well as their characters - yet they're both so unselfish, so singular as personalities - Mark Hamill was born to play the taciturn disciplinarian General Black Jack Pershing leader of America's military in our first World War, and Jodie Foster was born to play a very pretty poetry editor of a literary quarterly in the Village in the 1950s - and I don't think they share a scene together here (he plays the boy as a 38 year old - and we don't see her after she's in her mid-20s) yet we feel them together throughout the film - they dominate the film.
Such is the appeal of Harmon that we can see his character wholly irresponsible and really wanting to dump the business of his boyhood mentor's urn of ashes upon his mother - and yet like him very much.
Such is the appeal of Foster that we can hear her utter every silly clichéd sentiment of a girl of that age and that time - and yet think she's really worth caring for - we can fall in love with this young woman whom we might really think an idiot in real life.
But Foster is so obviosly NOT an idiot, that she lends intelligence to a cliché - and Harmon is so obviously a responsible sober responsible man that he lends this to his often drunken, prostitute-visiting character.
They lift this movie to something special and really worth watching.
I'd love to see Harmon and Foster share the same movie again. They're so different, both highly appealing, both very distinctive.
You'll like this movie.
Fauteuils d'orchestre (2006)
Inoffensive, uninteresting, well-acted
What is marketed in the U.S. as "Avenue Montaigne", is a gentle, and entirely unoriginal, story of several people in the same film only because they go to the same restaurant and become acquainted with the same waitress.
Is this as original or interesting as the normal Friends episode? No, but the characters are friendly, dealing with difficulties in their lives, and all have rather happy endings - so one is meant not to begrudge the film. But in truth it's not very good.
Two characters stand out: the grandmother played by Suzanne Flon (whose name you will probably recognize) who died just after making the film, and the woman playing an actress who must display a great variety of moods, styles as we see her as a character in a staged Feydeau farce (and in rehearsals for that farce), as "herself" in the midst of "real life" career desperation, and again playing a different character in her popular television soap opera. Her range is impressive.
The waitress tying the characters together is pleasant, has a pleasing figure - but in this role is rather forgettable. (Oh, there's also rather a surprise to see
*** SPOILERS ****
her character leap into bed with someone she's just met - the American audience is likely to be amazed since she's presented as this sweet character from the provinces - yet as she kisses this man, a man she just met, she simply begins removing her clothes for sex! Your mouth will drop open!).
**** Spoilers END ****
The film won't irritate - but it's unlikely to entertain either. See something else.
The Very Thought of You (1944)
What a surprise - a great movie
I had very low expectations when I saw this yesterday. "Nothing else on" television was the excuse I made myself for watching it. I had no particular interest in the leads (though Eleanor Parker was good as the baroness in Sound of Music, I didn't really know her otherwise) and Morgan had generally left me flat (though I did like him in Christmas in Connecticut).
And then I saw this quite realistic dialog about picking up two girls on a bus - and following them - and their reactions! And then a very strange bickering family - unlike any I expected to see in a World War II film - where families are almost always peaches and cream.
And I thought, "well, this movie is different!"
It got better and better and better - primarily because you really are brought to believe that despite despite overwhelming odds, these two - Parker and Morgan - really do fall in love.
They're very modest, they've such limited hopes, and those hopes are so fragile - that you root for these two very gentle modest people so intently - as almost everyone they know - as well as all the worldwide events, conspire against them.
It's a very simple movie plot that is told with such verve, such overwhelming conviction by the participants fully invested in the wonder of the tale, that you are simply swept away. With low expectations, I just love it - and looked to buy it when I next came to the computer.
There are few movies that seem to bring people from another decade right into your home - real people with besetting problems and far from ideal surroundings - and whom you want to succeed so very badly.
Thanks to all who participated in this movie! You won no awards but you certainly won my heart!
Long Time Since (1998)
Pretentious - Atrocious - Slow Motion
It did take days to watch the whole of this, but since I'd rented it (for the pleasure of seeing Paulina Porizkova whom I'd quite enjoyed in other films) I continued to persevere but regret it.
I am amazed at any positive comments - particularly about the visual - which mainly consists of extreme close-ups of parts of people's faces - a nose, an ear, part of someone's neck, a bit of someone's cheek.
We never know very well what's happening - but it doesn't much matter because when one is given finally to understand a story at the end - it is unimportant, contrary to much of what we'd been told ("this dream/memory is far far worse than mere murder ..." - nope), and extremely tedious.
There are so many inexplicable but boring matters throughout. E.g., we never know for example, why all these characters in the U.S. have foreign accents - Julian Sand, Paulina Porizkova, all her assistants.
We never know the reason for anything actually - why did Sand return to try to find Porizkova, who is this extremely annoying "Cyril" character, why does Porizkova care about the happily adjusted adopted woman whom Porizkova seeks to lure to her workplace? Is Porizkova's character's loneliness (she's apparently a childless middle aged spinster - rather hard to believe of Porizkova, but there you are) the cause of her asking a completely unknown woman to come with her to New York?
We know no reasons for most of what happens - but if someone were to ask whether we'd like an explanation, we would just shake our heads - we don't care.
I'm amazed that someone financed this film and released it - it is just awful dreck. Avoid it - you don't know it but this is a favor to you.
Thirty Day Princess (1934)
Charming, thoroughly enjoyable comedy against Depression background
I liked this movie far more than expected - it's a quite funny mistaken identity kind of film - with the requisite newspapermen, wealthy men, princesses, romance that any Depression era comedy relish. I had some concern about the always erious Sylvia Sidney in a comedy - but her intelligence is just wonderful in the line readings - she's quite an actress.
Cary Grant is very young - and not quite as deft and light as in later years - but fine, not clunky at all.
Edward Arnold is thoroughly enjoyable in the kind of role he was born to play - the plutocrat. I particularly enjoyed the amusing discussion (hard to imagine in a film now) with the king of the necessary size for the bond issue for Taronia's electrification.
There is further interest in the comedy's deadly serious background of extreme poverty/destitution/fear of hunger that haunts the film - it's very much there in the asides, in the protagonist's motivation.
I hadn't realized that Sylvia Sidney (known as a real symbol of the Great Depression) and Cary Grant had worked together twice before. They work very well - and she's far prettier than I remembered.
You'll enjoy this one - the writing (by Sturges and others) is truly sparkling, the comedy is fast, intelligent and the show charming.
The Hot Spot (1990)
If you liked Double Indemnity and Postman Always Rings ...
you'll really like this.
The movie is superbly unhurried, has a wonderful script, truly astonishing chemistry among Don Johnson (what a fine and terribly underrated actor he is), Virginia Madsen (amazing in this - just amazing) and Jennifer Connelly, great atmosphere, fascinating locations, you feel the heat, savor the colors, want one of those Cokes they're always drinking.
Casting is so important in a movie like this - and Madsen, Connelly and Johnson are just so at home with each other - and with this place - they know these characters down to the ground.
This movie is a real pleasure to see - incredibly sexy, the heat wages just seem to rise from the sidewalk, the smell of frenzy from the car seats of their convertibles.
This is a real surprise to me - great credit to director Dennis Hopper and all the actors. I'd no idea what to expect - it was wonderful.
The Camomile Lawn (1992)
This is one of the more propagandistic things you'll ever see - and within moments you can rat out the way the characters, situations will go - if the character/situation is self-pitying, libertine, atheist, self-absorbed, licentious - he/she is loved. If disciplined, restrained, religious, frankly patriotic or traditional, he's hated.
It's a simple by the numbers job.
Thus, although some here have written of this revealing how the war changed people's morality, this is false. We see before the War ever begins, that we're watching as rotten a group as one can imagine - deeply self-pitying and selfish people - women without any kind of femininity ("sure, I'll have sex with you whenever you like once I've married a rich man"), men without any kind of masculinity ("sure, I raped as many women as often as I could - committed war atrocities, sure, the lot - it was WAR and I know war and you don't" (and I can't stop talking about it because I'm as self-pitying a human as you'll ever ever meet! Why, I saw men die!")).
I hated these characters - really loathed them right down to the ground.
This was a grave disappointment because I have really liked so many of the actors in other things - from Nicholas LePrevost to Jennifer Ehle, from Rosemary Harris to Toby Stephens, from Paul Eddington to Felicity Kendall to Richard Johnson. Perhaps the book is better - but I doubt it. It's the characters and story that I found despicable.
Lost in Translation (2003)
Really disliked it
I agree with those who really disliked the movie. It was charmless. I cared for neither character because I never felt I'd any reason to like either one. Nor did I find them so beset with pressing problems that my pity was evoked - The man can routinely ring up his wife if he wishes to have a chat (though he's a way for a few days earning a few million dollars) and receives her attention with almost daily faxes and mail seeking his opinion on matters affecting them.
And the young woman has a husband who seems to yearn for her company and seek to do whatever he can while there on business to make her happy.
I felt I knew nothing of either of the principal characters - and never felt either had any serious problem with which I ought to be concerned.
If I'd felt that there was a charm in the film -- some kind of wonderful dialogue or charming imaginative behavior in which the two engage, I'd have enjoyed it perhaps - even if I'd otherwise felt nothing for the characters -- but alas.
(I do wonder sometimes why movies from 70 years ago seemed effortlessly to carry dialogue one would always remember (from Constance Bennett speaking to Cary Grant in Topper ro Myrna Loy speaking to William Powell in their 13 or so films -or Carole Lombard speaking to Fred MacMurray).
Sadly this is just utterly charmless and flat.
I am surprised I disliked it as much as I do - I'd not have seen it if I hadn't quite expected to like it.
There really are quite good movies out there - don't waste your time.
Stone Cold (2005)
Tom Selleck is one of the finest and most appealing American actors. Moreover, whenever I've seen or read an interview with him, heard DVD commentary by him, I am really struck by his modesty, how well he listens to others, his tact and courtesy, his intelligence, and his knowledge. This is a very smart and kind man.
I never saw the (apparently legendary) Magnum series (I was always at work in those days!) and so really know him from the appearances on Friends, his superb westerns and these two wonderful Robert Parker movies.
And he's just so very interesting to watch - he's so down to earth, he's the least "grand thespian" of anyone. This character and Selleck's performance - remind me of many of Robert Mitchum's roles actually - and that's really meant as a compliment.
This movie is not a "who done it" - when we hear Selleck as a psychologically damaged, taciturn problem drinker small town police chief, identify whom he "knows" did the crime(s) - it is stated matter of factly, anti-climactically. So if you're looking for an Agatha Christie kind of puzzler, this isn't it.
But what you do have is a movie that is haunting - an extraordinary film depicting natural beauty and moral poverty. And you have superb performances by Selleck and by the culprits. (I was very impressed by their casting - their accents, their manner, their movement - were absolutely perfectly compelling and right). Polly Shannon is a charming, lovely beauty who interacts very well with Selleck. You likle seeing them together - they just fit.
Finally - and not least - you have Mimi Rogers - beautiful, astonishingly sexy, sophisticated, humane - and with one of the greatest voices of any actress.
There's a lot in this - wonderful dialogue, real wit - just not a complex plot (however one you've seen it, question how the climax came about - how the final setting was chosen - what clues were deliberately given to put people in that place).
This was a hugely popular movie on American television - enough that they created an equally good "prequel" in "Night Passage".
I hope they make many more - though I've mixed feelings about this typecasting Selleck being typecast -- when he can do so much.
I really recommend this one. It's just superb.
A Woman's a Helluva Thing (2001)
Preachy yet coarse
A feminist tract in which if you the viewer believe that: i) wild animals are seldom tamed by singing but instead attack, kill and eat (the line that grizzlies never attack unless provoked was a hoot - unless "provoked" means that it sees flesh); ii) homosexuality is both immoral per se -- and its acceptance almost always associated throughout history with signs of a society's dissolution and decay iii) few women are bisexual (in this one, virtually every woman is presented as having no preference for men or women) iv) divorce is far worse than infidelity v) land is there for human beings to use, develop and enjoy vi) it is as incumbent upon a mother of an adult son to keep in touch as it is upon the son vii) a mother raising her son alone is an unfortunate and real tragedy for the child viii) the idolization of a parent for worthwhile ideals is a good and healthy thing ix) adults continue to bear a responsibility for their sexual behavior, no matter their age, and the duty to engage in this most intimate and giving of acts only within the most intimate and openly sacrificial of relationships: marriage -- believe me, you are NOT going to like this film! Essentially it's a Howard Stern sort of fellow who is brought down by a Jane Fonda sort of woman (think The Electric Horseman). It's ugly stuff because the values, the ideals, of the screenplay are all so harmful.
I share the other objections about the odd things in the writing: a) why would this man lose every girlfriend he has -- because he refuses to reveal that his mother's death and funeral caused him to be unable to keep dates with them? It's a mystery why he just keeps saying "it was personal" when faced with angry and disappointed women. HUH?
b) there's an enormous inconsistency (i.e., the screenwriter wants to have it both ways) by telling us that the protagonist's mother loved the father with everything she had - and then later we're told that there was only one great love in her life - her lesbian girlfriend.
c) the underlying legal assumptions are nonsense. We're never told that the executor has any right to live at the property - merely that she shall determine the timing of the sole heir's title and right to occupy the property. Yet somehow the film makes it appear that the executor is the rightful occupant - which is crazy. (Try to think of any executor of any will who uses the decedent's property before the will's bequests are fulfilled - it doesn't happen).
d) the assumption throughout this film is that women are equally drawn to men and women - it's just absurd. Thus, we're told: i) that Penelope Ann Miller's character is dating other men near the end of the film - after having been with the decedent for five years - and before that in a fulfilling relationship with the protagonist, ii) that the protagonist's housekeeper after being devoted throughout her adult life to her kind husband - is now dating another woman iii) that one girlfriend upset with the protagonist would now therefore "like to try a woman".
iv) that a male transsexual is eager to date the protagonist v) that Mary Kay Place's character naturally looked at other women in college ("and they looked back" she says with an idiotic triumphal flip of the head).
This is all just ridiculous.
I agree with others about the sound of the DVD (I had to keep it at maximum volume and repeatedly rewind to understand names, phrases).
This is a film by someone who really despises traditional heroics by any man, hates the notion that a man is needed to raise a child, loathes the idea that there is any necessary connection between marriage and sex. The film is out to preach - and that kind of propaganda of false messages doesn't sit well.
The Door in the Floor (2004)
Interesting tale of debauchery
This is a well-acted (in fact brilliantly by Bridges) and interesting tale of a married couple who use the excuse of the death of their twins many years before -- to mistreat the daughter they have had since the sons' death and to engage in statutory rape of a boy and the sexual humiliation of a number of single women. The story ends with the daughter's abandonment as the mother says, "if I can't be a good mother, I'd rather my daughter be without a mother".
Hollywood loves tales of the death of someone in a family because they believe they then have fun with it - all kinds of deranged behavior is sure to follow! This is because Hollywood expects the audience to believe that no human beings who experience sorrow ever have the capacity for resilience, receive the solace of prayer, or the true consolation of others. Instead, we are expected to sympathize with those who go HOG WILD! In this film, both parents' behavior is off the map in terms of immorality - the usual excuse is given ("Oh, they lost their children, ergo ..."), but just how far they'll go, what deviance they will resort to (and Kim BAsinger goes VERY far - even lining up her clothes for a boy's masturbation!) is fun to watch.
So, pour yourself a Rye and whisky and relax - this is kind of fun - at one point Jeff Bridges asks defensively "So you consider yourself morally superior?" Oh yeah! Have fun with it.
Kissing Jessica Stein (2001)
Charming, intelligent, swiftly moving
This was recommended to me years ago, and I just got round to seeing it. I'm glad I did.
The film is modest (which is a plus), creates genuine and charming characters, causes them to go through dilemmas that certainly parallel others that have occurred in our own lives, is amusing, and ends nicely.
I wasn't aware before seeing the movie that the two actresses who star in it - wrote it. But one can see the remarkable rapport they have in dialog - it's evident that the two rehearsed this together - in a good way. (And to listen to the two actresses' commentary on the DVD is wonderful - they're both so articulate, enthusiastic, intelligent and obviously like one another - the last is not always so evident with joint commentaries on DVDs).
Some of the humor comes simply from quite different backgrounds of work, friends, family (though we only see Jessica's family) as much as it does from attitudes toward sexuality.
The characters are simply winning - so you quite care about them and what they're going through.
This is a charming film.