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This one has grown on me over time
Revisiting this film, I was immediately pulled in by Howard Keel's opening song Bless Your Beautiful Hide. Audacious even in it's day, there's a tenderness in Mercer's lyrics that makes it somewhat forgivable-remember suspending your reality for a musical? Handsome Howard Keel's virility doesn't hurt. Instead of recoiling over the idea of "finding a wife" I just rolled with it as a silly plot idea. Once I had put myself in the same fantasy mode as when watching a Busby Berkeley musical, I started enjoying it.
I really paid attention to the musical numbers, most notably the Barn Dance & Lonesome Polecat. Amazing. Not too many dances in movies were designed to actually TELL a story, showing what the characters were feeling so eloquently. The Barn Dance scene is the best example I've ever seen of this. The dancing styles of townies vs mountaineers, the girl's being hoisted up in the air, the colors, the acrobatics all contribute to a very coherent "story" in dance.
Lonesome Polecat is also just extraordinary. It has a low base line of something like 3/4 but the lyrics are sung in some odd time signature like 5/9. (help me here music experts) The choreography too, is just excellent- the men really stand out as athletic, as is typical in many cultures such as Indian & Hawaiian dances.
I was again struck by how awful crazy the story line is, but how easily it's vindicated by Keel's character explaining how tough life is for mountain settlers. And Janie Powell was so perfect as the sweet young pretty girl who makes lemonade out of a bunch of sour lemons. The entire story is really about how she orchestrates a success out of her bad situation. I like that she's physically tiny but controls the fate of everyone in the story, not with weak conniving but with strong confident guidance.
At first you think this is a terribly sexist story, but it's truly a pioneering and feminist story.
All's Fair (1976)
Stereotypes in love
Bernadette Peters is a liberal photographer who espouses every liberal viewpoint out there in 1976. Richard Crenna is a conservative writer who espouses every conservative viewpoint that was out there in 1976. There are no nuances here, no "I agree with you on that point". They argue to the point of being shrill. Oh, and for some reason, in 1976 this show would have you believing conservatives are afraid to commit and liberals are not. In fact it is Peters' character trying to convince her future lover (Crenna) to commit to his middle aged girlfriend in the first episode. He cannot.
So on they go for the autumn of 1976 until spring 1977, arguing tirelessly, yet locked in the bonds of physical attraction and probably the attraction of verbal sparring. And after a few episodes of this it got old.
In the long run I think that this show helped Peters' career because she played her unlikeable character believably. I came here thinking I was the only person who remembered this old sitcom. I was surprised that reviewing this show was not virgin territory. Why do I remember it? Because when I was living in the dorm in college there was just one common TV set and the other girls wanted to watch this show.
The Big Idea (1917)
Pretty inventive for a 1917 comedy...
... and it was written and co-directed by Hal Mohr, who was better known for cinematography. In fact this is the second of only two writing credits by Mr. Mohr, and one of only seven directing credits. The plot shows Harold Lloyd relying more on the entrepreneurship and out of the box thinking he'll show in his 20's films than on the kick-in-the-pants and pie throwing comedy that was common in films of the 1910's.
Harold and "the girl" are working at an antique dealer's shop that is going to close for lack of business. Harold gets the idea to put out notes all over town that say that an item at a particular address is marked with a double X on it and contains 10 thousand dollars hidden inside. Naturally the address is that of the antique dealer's and Harold has marked all of the items with double X's.
Planting these notes all over town gives Harold a chance to show off his trademark athleticism. Nobody else in the cast has very much to do, and that includes Bebe Daniels. It is mainly an opportunity to see her as a teenager, only 16 in this film.
Lloyd is still looking for his brand of comedy at this point, but he is close to finding it. I'd recommend it. Let me also say it is NOT in the 4 disc "Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection". That set came out in 2005 and this short was only restored and copyrighted by the Harold Lloyd Trust in 2012.
Ghost Busters (1984)
Just a perfect piece of comedic timing and so 80s
Ghostbusters was so great because it took the science fiction and fantasy part seriously (considering how Dan Aykroyd IRL is a strong believer in the paranormal this makes sense), so the humor was almost entirely from dialogue and the performance of the cast. It takes the simple concept of "people who start a ghost catching business" and adds things like multidimensional gods and giant killer corporate mascots. These are things you wouldn't expect from a comedy movie at the time. Apparently, Aykroyd's original draft of the story was almost entirely sci-fi action with little humor.
The resulting story was dead serious, and rather terrifying. A woman becoming possessed by a demon just because of where her apartment is? Being transformed into a monster, then into stone while she was unwillingly in service to a dark god? That is scary, not funny. What MADE the movie funny was how the actors responded to the situation. They were just like normal people, put in an abnormal situation, and responded in line with their own personal character, which was mainly to crack jokes so they could handle the fear. It was just four guys, out of their depth, going in with a grin because backing down wasn't an option for them.
Bill Murray just shows outstanding comedic timing in this one. He had me from the opening scene where he is shocking a male subject in an experiment while simultaneously trying to "get the girl" by convincing her she is psychic.
What was 80s about it? Well, the triumph of the private sector over academeia - "I've worked in the private sector, they expect results", and the EPA contributing to the end of the world. Everybody could forget about Watergate, recessions, and nuclear war, and just laugh at the movies for a change. If you've never seen it I recommend it . The comedy is timeless.
King of the Khyber Rifles (1953)
A tiresome somewhat remake
There were a few British Empire action films, often set in India, turned out by the Hollywood studios during the '50s, nostalgic throwbacks to the cycle of similar epics churned out by the studios in the late '30s. None of the '50s efforts are particularly noteworthy and certainly none of them in league with the likes of Gunga Din, Charge of the Light Brigade, Lives of a Bengal Lancer or, from Britain, Korda's great The Four Feathers.
King of the Khyber Rifles was a 20th Century Fox CinemaScope effort, directed by Henry King, with only superficial similarities to either the novel by Talbot Mundy or the earlier film version (John Ford's The Black Watch of 1929).
Tyrone Power, in his last completed costume film, plays a half caste officer on the Indian frontier who must deal with prejudice among his brother officers (one of whom is very polite but moves out of their shared living quarters when he discovers Power's mother was Muslim). But he is also actively pursued by the headstrong daughter (Terry Moore) of his commanding officer (Michael Rennie). This is a disappointing production, never springing to life either dramatically or as an action adventure. In fact, under King's pedestrian, largely meandering direction, there is very little in the way of action to be found in this film.
Power, who was openly tired of being cast by Fox in costume epics, is noticeably subdued in this film. Moore seems very impulsively American as the daughter of the British general, while Rennie gives a nicely dignified portrayal as her father who is broad minded when it comes to non whites serving in the military but not so much as to want to have one in the family.
The one flamboyant performance in the film is that of Guy Rolfe, as Power's former boyhood friend, Karram Khan, who now leads the hill people against the British usurpers of their land. Rolfe's character is ruthless, though he does shows signs of a personal code of honour.
Bernard Herrmann contributes a truly rousing epic musical score to the production, much better than the film deserves. Typical of a film of squandered opportunities, however, Herrmann's great effort is only heard under the film's opening titles. What a waste.
For whatever reason King of the Khyber Rifles has never been released on DVD in North America, one of the few Power films in which this is the case. A letter boxed version can be found on You Tube. If nothing else, click on it for the first two minutes to hear Herrmann's great score.
Girl Missing (1933)
A couple of scheming gold diggers turn sleuth
Kay (Glenda Farrell) and June (Mary Brian) have gotten away from the chorus line in New York and are living it up in a posh Palm Beach hotel, but the price is leading on elderly wealthy Kenneth Van Deusen (Guy Kibbee), and hoping he will just continue to be led with no sexual payoff. He gets tired of the routine and leaves the girls owing a 700 hotel bill. Their solution is to find another wealthy guy, but this time the guy (Ben Lyon as Henry Gibson) is engaged. And he is engaged to somebody they both knew in the chorus line (Peggy Shannon as Daisy), but who snubs them by saying she doesn't know them. The girls have their problems solved when an old friend (Lyle Talbot as Raymond Fox) offers not only to pay their hotel bill but pay their train fare back to New York.
When Kay and June miss their train and have to stay an extra night, they hear on the radio the next morning that newlywed Daisy is a "girl missing". Gibson, her new husband, is offering 25000 as a reward for returning her, and Kay and June decide to stick around and solve the mystery. There is a car chase along a seacoast highway, a dead body found on a bench, and a note with a dagger through it saying "you are next".
This thing is pure rat a tat action and precode one liners , largely powered by brassy Glenda Farrell who really carries the weight of the energy of this thing. Kibbee is great in his small role as the frustrated wannabe lover. Edward Ellis is memorable as the very skeptical police inspector. Watch this one if you are in the mood for some precode goodness Warner Brothers style.
Women in Love (1969)
Ah, the 60s
After the production code ended and before political correctness started there was an era of almost complete cinematic freedom. This film is of that time.
Glenda Jackson and Jennie Linden play Gudrun and Ursula, a pair of sisters in 1920s England with unconventional views on love. One day while rubbernecking at a wedding, the see the brother of the bride (Oliver Reed) and his best friend (Alan Bates) and after another meeting or two begin torrid relationships. The two couples fornicate their way through life, spouting philosophical nonsense, until another man shows up on a ski trip in Switzerland.
I think the scene that summed it all up for me was when Gudrun and Ursula wandered off at a garden party. Ursula is singing, and a herd of cattle show up, frightening her. Gudrun confronts that cattle -- with interpretive dance. The cattle, suitably baffled, wander off, realizing that the film already has enough BS and doesn't need theirs.. Oh, and the couple that got married at the beginning drown themselves at the garden party to get out of this turkey.
Jackson won an Oscar in a weak year for actresses. I can't blame her; she does the best she can with the leaden material. I give this one a 5/10 for cinematography and for the historical value of being what passed for sexual shock value in 1969.
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Horror and parody mesh effortlessly in this James Whale gem
Everything went right; from the opening,where Lanchester plays Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley with a gleam in her eye, and overly sweet sarcasm, to the beginning of the sequel, where Karloff is thought dead, to Lanchesters Nefertiti hair near the end , her priceless reactions.
Karloff is excellent as a monster wanting a mate. Una O'Connor is a scream as Minnie, the old biddy who is screeching to see the Monster killed, then shrieks when she spots the Monster. She is told to shut up at least five times in the film. Ernest Thesiger as Dr. Pretorius is a great mix of horror and humor; he robs graves, and also swigs gin out of laboratory beakers, has supper on top of a coffin, gets the Monster to have cigars with him.
Franz Waxmans' playful score, the cinematography and set design that are both reminiscent of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1919), Everything works. The perfect mix of horror and humor.
The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950)
Eddie Muller's commentary on TCM's Noir Alley raises my appraisal to an 8/10
Eddie M. is great at pointing out a film's strengths and weaknesses, and he did a great job on this recently restored film. This film was made on a shoestring budget and produced by Jack M. Warner, who was constantly feuding with daddy, THE Jack Warner,, and wanted to make films on his own. If the film had a bigger budget, the womanizing workaholic senior detective would have been played by Robert Mitchum, not Lee J. Cobb. The wealthy femme fatale would have been Ida Lupino instead of Jane Wyatt???. John Dall is a little off the tracks in this one, coming across like a young Jimmy Stewart rather than the straight arrow one woman younger brother of Cobb's character, anxious to learn the trade of detective from big brother, but with a deep sense of justice and honesty that overrides even kinship.
The set-up is this. The opening scene shows a man burning any sign that he just bought a gun in a plush living room. He hides the gun. However, the bill of sale falls to the floor. Lois, the wife, played by Jane Wyatt, comes into the living area yelling at and accusing the husband, distractingly dressed to the nines and looking a bit too much like a woman dressed in her daughter's prom dress. The husband says he has had it and is flying to Seattle and leaves. But wealthy Lois finds the bill of sale, she finds the gun, and she finds that her husband has been looking over the changes she has been planning to make to her will, and those plans did not include hubby.
Frantically believing that her husband plans to return and kill her (I don't blame her) she calls her boyfriend, who just happens to be Lieutenant Ed Cullen (Cobb), and tells him to get there right away. He does. While there the husband does return, and enters the house by jimmying a lock, there are angry statements back and forth between husband and wife, and Lois shoots her husband dead. Lois appeals to her policeman boyfriend to help her. He does. The husband left his car at the airport - probably as an alibi for his wife's murder. Ed ironically uses that alibi and returns the dead body of the murdered would be murderer to the airport, outside, so it will look like a robbery gone wrong.
But things go wrong for Ed. He is seen at the airport by an older couple - but it is night. He throws the gun off the Golden Gate Bridge, but again is seen by a policeman who knows him. And worse, a few days later the gun Ed threw in the bay shows up in another killing. How does this all turn out? Watch and find out.
There are some spectacular shots of 1950 San Francisco in this one, and the cinematography is excellent. Stay for the story, and just endure the complete lack of chemistry between Cobb and Wyatt.
Probably the most interesting and noirish story in the cast is that of Lisa Howard, who plays John Dall's wife. She left movies in the late 50s and reinvented herself as a journalist, scoring interviews with Fidel Castro, the Shah of Iran and Nikita Khrushchev. Her behavior and politics got extreme though, and she was fired from NBC news in 1964. Suing her employer made her a pariah in her industry, and on July 4, 1965 she killed herself with a bottle of barbiturates in a parking lot. Eddie Muller said her story would make a great film - "The Woman Who Cheated Herself".
Too Much, Too Soon (1958)
Good performance by Malone, but gets many facts wrong...
But then that is par for the course for biopics of the 50s. Diana Barrymore was a tragic figure, she was ignored by her parents, actor John Barrymore and author Michael Strange, and I'm sure that had much to do with the bad choices that she made. However, so much is incorrect in this film. I don't know exactly how Diana Barrymore started drinking, but in the film, after her father dies and she feels guilty for not having being there, she literally picks up a bottle of her dad's liquor and starts chugging after a lifetime on lemonade. She is shown as having what appears to be a perfectly fine first husband with a good job who is age appropriate when in fact husband number one was a fellow actor almost 20 years her senior during their marriage when she was in her early 20s. Husbands number two and three are pretty much on course, especially husband number two who was a tennis player simply out to exploit Diana for the Barrymore millions.
Errol Flynn gives a fine performance as John Barrymore and life sadly imitates art here as Flynn would die within the year at least partly from his own lifestyle. You really feel sometimes you are looking right at Barrymore, from Flynn's carriage to just his appearance. Flynn actually knew Barrymore, so he did have actual memories from which to draw on in his performance.
Another point - the film makes it look like Diana is John Barrymore's only child - she wasn't - and that Diana's mother was the love of his life the others just being "images on a screen". Given the short time they were married I doubt that too. In fact, Diana was with her dad when he died. Actually, while his legs were bloated stiff from kidney failure and he was lying in a hospital bed, John Barrymore was begging his daughter to go out and find prostitutes for him and bring them back to the hospital!
I'd watch this because the overall tragic stories of John and Diana Barrymore are true and the acting is great, but the devil is in the details. Strangely enough this showed up on TCM's Father's Day programming. I guess, for a change, they were trying to balance the "good dad" movies with the "bad dad" films.
I Take This Woman (1931)
Two drifters find each other in this early talkie drama
Lots of people may watch this and believe it is about two people from different worlds finding each other and the problems they encounter when the honeymoon is over. I think it is more than that.
The story starts with wealthy beautiful slacker heiress Kay Dowling (Carole Lombard) being seen in a public place with a married man (Oh the horror!). The wife is threatening divorce and naming Kay as co-respondent. Kay says big deal, but dad says she needs to either marry her forever fiancé or go out west to dad's ranch in Wyoming until things simmer down or he will disinherit her. So off she goes to the ranch - you get the feeling that forever fiancé is putting her feet to sleep. While out west she meets cow hand Tom McNair (Gary Cooper). He makes her feel foolish a couple of times - like a city slicker which is what she is, and so she decides to make him feel foolish by getting him to fall in love with her. It works, but she falls in love too. They hastily marry, but Kay finds she is quickly not only a fish out of water, but on another planet.
Her wedding gift from Tom's fellow cowhands is a stuffed deer head. Tom can't stay on as a cow hand and just sleep in the bunkhouse, so he gets a run down one room cabin as a house for the two, and begins ranching. All the money has to go to the cattle, so there are no extras. But worse, there is the horrible isolation of the Wyoming winters. When she arrived, Kay was there during the three months out of the year they have good weather. She wants to pack it in and go back home, but a neighbor lady in whom she confides says industry does not come easy to Tom, and that unless he has somebody besides himself to work for, he will just walk away from his ranch and go back to being a cowpoke.
So it turns out these two have more in common than you would first think - they are both drifting through life in their own way unless something bigger than themselves wills them forward. How does this turn out? Watch and find out.
Lombard and Cooper gave great rather understated performances. They were quite good at expressing a range of emotions without a great deal of dialogue. The one real question mark in the cast is the part of Kay's dad. He never seems to step out from behind his desk, never has a tender word for his daughter though she is his only child, and seems to only care that she is not a headline with no thought to her happiness.
I'd definitely recommend it as one of the better made and acted early talkies.
They All Come Out (1939)
In this little B, crime seems to pay if you get caught!
This was on TCM for the first time in years the other day, and at first I was surprised at how much it seemed like a documentary - specifically one of the "Crime Does Not Pay" shorts MGM did. Actually, it started out that way and Louis Mayer liked it so much he asked that it be expanded into a feature film. Tom Neal stars as Joe Cameron, made an unemployable vagrant by a wounded hand that made him unfit for manual labor and with him not knowing a trade, on the road he went, often picked up by the police for not having a dollar. Hungry, he orders a big meal at a diner that he knows he can't pay for and is bailed out of his troubles by gun moll Kitty Carson (Rita Johnson). This is how he winds up entangled with Reno Madigan's gang, with the job of driving for them whenever they pull jobs.
At first they live it up, but they are eventually captured. But not before Reno and Joe hide 33K in stolen loot but do not tell the others about it. The rest of the film is about how the federal prison system treats each one of the gang - even operating on Joe's hand and teaching him a trade. The lesson seems to be that the feds know who is redeemable and who isn't, and if you're not it's off to "The Rock" - Alcatraz. Before their capture, Joe and Kitty seem to have an understated romance going, and during their imprisonment they are allowed to write letters where this romance seems to blossom. But against them when they get out is their record, local papers looking for sensational stories, and then there is still Reno inside prison expecting Joe to help spring him with the 33K they hid. And Reno has friends on the outside.
I doubt that the federal prison system was ever that good, and even if it was, I doubt a prison psychiatrist could just talk a seemingly crazy man out of believing he had women in his pockets and cure him with talk alone.
imdb currently rates this as a 6/10, but knowing its roots as a short/documentary, I'd give it a 7/10. The leads give real depth to their rather rushed performances, and it is an interesting tale.
Du Barry Was a Lady (1943)
This is enjoyable nonsense, but it could have been much better
MGM bought a seventeen song musical comedy, threw out thirteen songs ("It Ain't Etiquette", "Well, Did You Evah", and "But In The Morning, No" can still be heard as backg round music) and had five studio composers take care of the rest of the score ("Salome" is their best contribution).
The plot--Film takes place in a nightclub. Louis (Skelton) is in love with May (Lucille Ball). After he accidentally drinks a Mickey, he dreams he's back in 1743 France, where he is Louis XV, and May is Madame DuBarry.
To me, Skelton is unbearable when he plays stupid; here, he takes forever to get the idea he's back in France, and tramples jokes into the ground. I don't know if that's his fault or the fault of director Del Ruth.
Ball is good as May/Madame DuBarry. She saves the second half of the film with her comedy skills where she makes a fool out of Louis XV. She is dubbed for most of her songs, but her real voice can be heard in the song "Friendship".
Gene Kelly is good as Alec/The Black Arrow. He has the best song ("Do I Love You") and an excellent dance number on the nightclub stage.
Virginia O'Brien makes "Salome" a memorable song. Look for Marilyn Maxwell in a bit , and Lana Turner in an uncredited bit.
Mr. Bug Goes to Town (1941)
Good effort with too many lulls also had bad timing for its release
The version I saw was titled "Bugville", from a 1989 Legend DVD release (I Think--it has a sloppily prepared title card and matches the Wikipedia description, and the promo video TCM has is of the beginning of MBGtT is an exact match, excepting the title card).
OK Fleischer/Paramount animated feature (Fleischer made the animated 1939 "Gulliver's Travels) about bugs endangered by man has a listenable score by Frank Loesser, very good opening and closing sequences, and a good nightclub scene (watch for the Jitterbug). Film has too many lulls between the interesting scenes, and in general is cloyingly sweet. Film is a disappointment.
This is the one that was released two days before Pearl Harbor. Thanks at least partially to bad timing, film was a financial disaster. Film is hard to find, so is worth a watch. Just have a pot of coffee close by.
Smiling Irish Eyes (1929)
This film is lost, but its impact and description are not.
Sorry, I can't rate this one since it no longer exists. Most 1928-1930 sound films are lost to the ages. But there are enough descriptions of it left that I can give you an idea of what this early sound disaster entailed. First, when Warner Brothers bought First National, one of the chief talents whose contract they obtained was that of Colleen Moore. Unfortunately, John McCormick, Moore's husband at the time and basically her agent, also came along for the ride. He was the First National producer in charge of Moore's projects so Jack Warner couldn't just tell him to take a hike.
McCormick thought sound was a fad - after all why would people want to use ALL of their senses when watching a film? - and carelessly picked "Smiling Irish Eyes" as Moore's debut in a sound film. Moore plays an Irish girl who pines for her boyfriend (James Hall) who is in the United States. Finally managing to join him, she finds him in New York performing on stage with a female costar. Apparently him singing "their song" to the costar on stage and kissing her is too much for this Irish lass. Moore's character flies into a jealous rage and returns home. However, the boyfriend goes after her and back in Ireland explains that "the other woman" actress is someone whose father he is helping to stop drinking. The two marry and bring the entire family back to New York.
Apparently the characterizations of the Irish were so stereotypical that the film was banned in Ireland. Also, Colleen mugs for the camera and gave such a bad impression of an Irish accent that the audiences were in stitches. Unfortunately, this was not supposed to be a comedy.
Some say the Vitaphone discs still exist, some say they do not, but if they do exist I am yet to find the digitized recording listed on archive.org so I can listen for myself.
How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
One of my favorite films of the last decade...
...not that this is necessarily saying much, since the films of the past decade are either made for the Academy Awards with some social message that hits the audience over the head with a social justice sledgehammer, or they are action films with lots of car chases and explosions and comic book heroes or they are 50 shades of obscene. But I digress.
This animated film is beautiful to watch, but that is not the main drawing point. The drawing point are the characters. Even though this is set in some fictitious land full of Vikings beset with fire breathing dragons who are always raiding their livestock, you can easily relate to everybody. The main character, Hiccup, is the son of the warrior king of the Vikings. Hiccup is mild mannered, lanky, awkward - your typical teen of about age 14. He likes to build and invent things. Dad wants his son to be a dragon slayer. So one day, during an attack by the dragons, Hiccup actually catches one with one of his inventions. He grabs a knife and runs into the forest to kill the dragon to make dad happy. But he just can't. This "fearsome" dragon is tame, passive, dog-like before people had dogs. And so "Toothless" as Hiccup names him, becomes like a pet to Hiccup. The pair develop this beautiful unbreakable bond. And Hiccup learns about dragons.
Hiccup is signed up for Dragon Killing class with the rest of the island's teens. Hiccup quickly rises to the top of his class but manages to not kill even one dragon. Instead he uses the techniques of bonding with dragons that he has learned from Toothless to subdue them into harmless pets. Nobody questions what is going on but Astrid, a tomboyish teen girl who just knows Hiccup is up to something.
This film has genuine laughs, thrills, the real problems of sons and fathers disappointing and misunderstanding one another, the awkwardness of that first romance, and the idea that sometimes your enemy may be your enemy for reasons you don't understand.
I watched this for about the tenth time last night and I have to say it just never gets old. Highly recommended.
Anatomy of a Psycho (1961)
The acting and direction are wooden, and the production values are minimalist. But from time to time I really enjoy these independent films from the 50s through the 70s. Last night on TCM was one of those times. A man is about to be executed for murder. You never get to see or hear from that man. All you know about him is what other people say. The man's brother, Mickey (Ronnie Burns) is angry at everybody who played a part in his brother's execution because his brother told him he was innocent. His sister, Pat (Pamela Lincoln), does not share in his anger because she does not believe in her brother's innocence. Besides, she knew he made his living robbing other people. Mickey points out that the money from those robberies went to them being raised by their criminal brother when he could have let them go to an orphanage.
Mickey hangs with a rough crowd of teens in "the shack" - an abandoned former pool hall. When Mickey swears vengeance on everybody that helped send his brother to the gas chamber the gang helps - some. But eventually things go terribly wrong. A complicating factor is that Mickey's sister is engaged to the son of the star prosecution witness against Mickey's brother.
The overall plot line is interesting and makes some good points, almost religious ones such as the importance of forgiveness and how when a person hates it is that person who is wounded most by it.. However the actual dialogue and some of the scenes are to die for. Examples - Mickey's straight arrow sister offering to drop out of college so her delinquent brother can go because "girls don't need school". The "tough cop with a heart of gold" threatening to shoot an unarmed Mickey for - climbing up a water tower??? Was he afraid he would fly away? When he comes back down the cop says "You know you can trust me???. Mickey's girlfriend dumps him, but I really didn't pay much attention to her dialogue because her hair has a life of its own! Is there a stylist and some hair gel in the house?
If you are looking for an A or even B list film, or if you are looking for a horror film, this will disappoint. But for MST3K style goodness without the rifftrax, this fits the bill.
A good impersonation, but not a performance
You get an all time great actor, Al Pacino to play long time coach Joe Paterno at the time the Jerry Sandusky molestation case broke, and what does HBO do? Nothing that measures up to their reputation. Pacino looks and sounds like Paterno, but then everything stops there. Pacino just goes around looking dazed and confused and gives no insight. There is really no insight given into the Paterno family, or the victims - not even the victim that is portrayed here, or the reporters cracking the case. The whole thing is just so superficial. There is nothing to take away from this other than universities often act like big corporations - asking "How can we protect ourselves here?" and firing anybody that answers that question, even someone lionized by the school for over 50 years. But in this cynical age that comes as no surprise. HBO, I've come to expect better from you.
The Brute Man (1946)
This is much better than its reputation
This was a B film made by Universal but sold to poverty row outfit PRC for distribution, and there are no big names here and no big budget, but it is very poignant for several reasons, which I will get into later.
This is basically a 20th century Frankenstein story. Someone is going around murdering people with his bare hands - "The Creeper" as he is called by the newspapers and the police. The audience sees the murderer from the beginning, and none of the murders seem premeditated. It is initially a deformed man with monstrous strength apparently visiting people he knew before, and when they become afraid or try to scream or run, he kills them in anger.
The police almost catch "The Creeper" after the second murder, but he climbs up a fire escape and into the apartment window of a girl playing a piano. The girl seems unafraid of him and when she asks him if he is in trouble followed by knocking on her door, she hides the man and tells the police that she has seen nor heard anything strange. However, the police never identified themselves, and later you can hear running, yelling, and shooting nearby. If The Creeper is in her apartment who exactly are the police shooting at? But I digress. The Creeper learns the girl is blind, cannot see his ugliness and is therefore friendly, plus she didn't know it was the police at the door, because they never said who they were. Like the Frankenstein monster, in a blind person The Creeper has found a friend.
Meanwhile the police have connected the first two victims and go to visit two people who were connected to them 15 years before in college and who are now married and doing well for themselves. They tell a tale of a popular athlete, Hal Moffat, who was tutored in chemistry by the husband, but when Hal got a little too friendly with his girl - now his wife - the tutor gave the jock the wrong answers to questions for an oral exam the next day. As a result, Hal failed the oral test and was given a long complicated chemistry experiment to do as remedial makeup work. Always having a bad temper, and realizing he had been deliberately tricked, Hal threw the test tubes to the ground, but the liquid splashed on his face. In the hospital, the doctor told his friends that Hal's features would be deformed, and that even his glands, which effect how features are formed and how bones grow, would be effected.
So we have a blind girl who needs money for an operation to restore her sight, a bitter homicidal man who knows that the couple who betrayed him years ago are doing well financially, and who also tends to take violent revenge on anybody who crosses him, and the police who now know who the murderer is, they just have no idea how and where he is living and what he looks like. How will all of this work out? Watch and find out.
The poignant part of this is how art so imitated the life of the man who plays "The Creeper", Rondo Hatton. Mr. Hatton was also a popular athlete during high school who was injured by poison gas during his service in WWI. That chemical exposure later caused acromegaly, a slowly progressive deforming of bones in the head, hands and feet, and internal and external soft tissues caused by disease of the pituitary gland. The deformity, which was progressive, broke up his first marriage. He did, however, marry a second time. So it may be that the low rating is from people who do not like the fact that Universal, who had a contract with Mr. Hatton, used his deformity to exploit him in such roles. However, I think his performance was pretty good. After all, there is no time for real dramatic depth in these old B films. I'd recommend it as a well done modern horror film.
The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)
Fred and Ginger together one more time...
Except this vehicle is nothing like their other films at RKO. This is a MGM musical in the big MGM tradition. The whole thing was an accident. Judy Garland was supposed to have Ginger Rogers' role, but her chronic illness made a replacement necessary. Rogers and Astaire have the same old chemistry even if it is a different studio. They play feuding song and dance team Josh and Dinah Barkeley who break up personally and professionally over Dinah's desire to do dramatic acting and Josh's jealousy over who the author of the play is - a flirty Frenchman, Jacques.
At first Josh says he wants Dinah to fall on her face. But when he sees her actually stumble in rehearsals when he sneaks in to catch a peek, he blames it all on Jacques, who he says does not know how to direct her. So Josh comes up with a ruse in which he calls Dinah after rehearsals and pretends to be Jacques, complete with fake French accent, giving her cues on how to improve her performance based on what he has seen. Unfortunately it works too well. Dinah thinks even more of Jacques since he is helping her out with great tips, and Jacques is bowled over by Dinah's inexplicable improvement. How will this work out? Watch and find out.
Of course MGM spared no expense in the late 40s with the Arthur Freed unit, which made this film. There is beautiful Technicolor, comedy and masterful piano work from Oscar Levant, a great piece of special effects work by MGM and dancing by Astaire in the number "Shoes with Wings On" in which Astaire seems to be dancing side by side with pairs of tap shoes, and a ballroom number in which Fred and Ginger dance to "They Can't Take That Away From Me". Fred sang it to Ginger but the two did not dance to it in 1937's "Shall We Dance". Finally, Ginger's recitation of "La Marseillaise" when she plays "Young Sarah Bernhardt" in Jacques' play is a (probably) unintentional camp classic. Fortunately the French are forgiving people.
It was an unexpected reunion, but for fans of the big MGM musicals of the period and of Fred and Ginger in particular, I would highly recommend it.
The Last Starfighter (1984)
The Music Man Meets Star Wars
A recent high school grad (Lance Guest as Alex Rogan) lives in a rural traier park that his mother runs. Despite having a great girlfriend (Catherine Mary Stewart as Maggie) and a loving family, like any kid in his late teens he wants to see what is in the wider world, specifically he wants to go to college. But that requires a scholarship, and when he doesn't get one, that means he is stuck where he is, going to community college. Out of frustration and boredom he is given to playing "The Last Starfighter" video game that is in the park's rec area. Then one night Alex breaks the record on the game, and is surprised when the alien Centauri (Robert Preston) lands and asks him to come with him, that as the winner of the game he has won a great surprise of a prize.
Alex finds out that the surprise is that Centauri is an intergalactic con man who marketed the game to find somebody with the ability to be a Starfighter and basically simulated the actual war between the democratic Rylan Star League and the autocratic Ko-Dan Empire in the game. Alex says he did not sign up to get himself killed and asks to be taken back to earth.
Right after Alex leaves, the Starfighter base with all of the Rylan fighters is blown up due to sabotage and the Starfighters killed - except for one, Alex. The Empire sends a hitman after him in the trailer park, and he would have succeeded if not for Centauri interceding. Centauri tells him the empire will send more and more of these hit men and that the only way Alex can protect himself and his family is go back and be a Starfighter. Except now he is literally "the last Starfighter".
If this all sounds a bit like Star Wars - autocratic empire versus democratic good guys, a young man who wants adventure who finds himself in the middle of things, etc. that is because it is. Unfortunately, the villain doesn't really measure up. That would be Xur, a traitor from Rylos to whom the Ko-Dan Emperor has promised control of Rylos in return for giving the empire vital information. Xur plays this role as a campy man child who walks around talking to his scepter. Not exactly Darth Vader.
There are some humorous bits - Robert Preston in his last feature film doing a send up of his conman role in The Music Man, and the robotic likeness of Alex who Centauri placed on earth so that Alex's friends and family don't notice he is missing while he is out saving the galaxy. The problem is that the robotic likeness just doesn't get 20th century "mating rituals" as he calls them, and manages to alienate Maggie in Alex's absence, and also frighten Alex's little brother when, in the middle of the night, the Alex clone decides to get up and repair his head.
The ending makes it look like the film was setting itself up for a sequel, but that never happened as the box office didn't really pay off. This was a summer movie in 1984 and much was expected, but it did not pan out. I'd still mildly recommend it, largely for the wonderful Robert Preston who unfortunately is not around for most of the film.
Paris, Texas (1984)
Arthouse character study from director Wim Wenders
Harry Dean Stanton stars as a man who first appears walking alone through the desert terrain of the southwest. After he's hospitalized for heat exhaustion, his brother (Dean Stockwell) is contacted to come and get him. At first, Stanton refuses to speak, and when he eventually does begin to open up, he seems to have memory loss. He's been missing for the past 4 years, and his young 8 year old son has been raised by Stockwell and his wife (Aurore Clement). Once Stanton seems to stabilize a bit, he and the boy go on a road trip to try and track down the boy's mother (Nastassja Kinski).
Harry Dean Stanton has always been one of my favorite character actors, and I was pleased to see him get a lead role for a change. He's terrific, and the only flaws I could maybe point out were the script's fault and not his. Kinski is very good as well. Like I said, the script has some issues for me, with the main character arc being a little hard to buy, and the two and a half hour running time could have been trimmed without loss of mood or substantial content. The cinematography by Robby Muller is fantastic, as is the score by Ry Cooder. I would still recommend this film, but I was a little disappointed considering it was one of the "1001 Movies to See Before You Die".
Nora Prentiss (1947)
How a group of people with no real ill intent create a great noirish tragedy
Dr. Richard Talbot (Kent Smith) is a middle aged man living in San Francisco with two good kids, a dutiful wife, and a good medical practice, respected in the community. And he has one of the dullest most routine lives in the history of the world and doesn't even realize it until one night on his way home from his office he sees a girl (Ann Sheridan as Nora Prentiss) hit by a car and stops to render aid. She has only minor injuries, and he treats her in his office while she flirts shamelessly. He tries to remain aloof, but does kiss her goodnight at her invitation. Something awakens in Richard.
And then the two begin seeing each other. Innocently at first - he shows up at her nightclub to watch her sing on the excuse of eating dinner. And it builds from there. Suddenly the doctor realizes just how dull and routine his life is. He doesn't want to slip into the trap of an extramarital affair, and he tries to get his wife to agree to do "fun" things with him, but she just poo poos him and says they are too old for that sort of thing.
Well, the initial bloom of the affair turns to unhappiness for both Nora and Richard as Nora wants more - and so does Richard for that matter - but he just can't commit the overt act of breaking up his family. He can't make real and open what has been the truth for months. So Nora decides to make a clean break. She is moving to New York to sing in a club for an old friend (Robert Alda as Phil Denardo).
Richard won't lose Nora, but he can't bring himself to ask for a divorce either. As the clock is ticking on Nora's train out of town, in walks a patient with a fatal heart condition complaining of horrible chest pains. Richard tries to save him, but the patient dies in his office. Richard and the patient were alone. The patient has already said he lives at the YMCA and has no friends or family. And the dead man is the same weight, age, and height as the doctor.
So a cowardly solution comes to Richard's mind. He puts the dead man's body in his own car, dowses it with gasoline, sets it ablaze, and pushes it from the road off a cliff to the rocks below. The body is burned beyond recognition with all of Richard's identifying belongings on him. And then he catches up with Nora and lies to her about how he has asked for a divorce and is leaving town with her.
He reads the San Francisco papers in New York and reads of his funeral. But he also reads of an investigation caused by his partner in the practice noticing some funny things that might mean Richard was being blackmailed and was perhaps murdered. So Richard's plans - of which Nora knows nothing - are possibly foiled. I'll let you see how this all works out, but I'll just say the irony is astounding, and ask you - at the end of the film, what would you do if you were Nora?
Kent Smith never really caught on in motion pictures, but here he is great as a man who starts out as dead on the inside but respected, then alive but torn, and then trapped in a jail of his own making as his sanity slowly unwinds. Nora is a tragic figure, even though she started the flirtation, probably just making fun of a guy she at first found unbelievably stiff given the world of nightclubs in which she lived. Robert Alda is as patient as a saint as the guy who loves Nora, knows all about the home she broke up but not about how Richard actually broke it, and doesn't judge her.
If you want to watch a noir in which everybody's life becomes a train wreck but you really can't find one evil character, just one cowardly one, this is your film. It's also one of the first post war films to incorporate the theme of being all alone in a big city despite the sea of people.
Don't reward Disney for this travesty and hand over your money to watch this Mickey Mouse movie
Modern Disney - you know, the one that has to buy Pixar to gain any originality - has its fingerprints all over this one. There were great visuals, entertaining characters, and funny one-liners. Oh, and this one had inspirational messages: Anyone can be a hero, we fight out of love, failure is a teacher, etc. (however ham-fisted).
The audience was there for the world-building and the advancement of the story. None of which really happened. So the audience focused on the string of plot holes, lapses in logic, and generally lack of anything new or interesting that was added to the Star Wars world. The Last Jedi is the cinematic reverse equivalent of fast food. Critics were more than happy with it because they came expecting a Transformers like CGI fest - they got that; the audience was expecting more.
Plus after two movies we literally know nothing about Rey except that she is good at anything with little or no training. The only real spoiler I offer - given what happened on and off the set of the last two Star Wars films - is that the franchise is currently left in the same place as the British TV show Black Adder at the end of each season, minus Rowan Atkinson and the originality.
I have to give it 4/10 stars just for the art design and technical expertise and nothing else. A big budget film like this could never be a 1 or a 2 out of ten. That's an Ed Wood film or "Manos The Hands of Fate" (don't ask). Likewise a 10/10 is Casablanca or The Godfather - when everything including acting, directing, depth of the plot and the ability to argue about themes, all come together such that the film still resonates years after it was made. This one made it about a third of the way between these two extremes.
The Incredible Dr. Pol (2011)
Great look at a practice in rural Michigan
Dr. Pol, DVM, has a practice in rural Michigan, and this reality show follows him as he makes his rounds to his various farm patients, as well as the office where people bring their domestic animals. It has an old fashioned feel to it. The doc knows his patients and their owners, and you get to see him deal with birth, injuries, death, and the hard decision to put an animal down. He's not a man given with the gift of much gab, but he has a distinct likability about him. He's a man who is 75 as I am writing this, and when I first watched the show I was guessing he was in his mid to late 50s. That's what comes from doing what you love - it keeps you young at heart. Also part of the practice is his son Charles, who, as he admits, is not even a veterinary technician, just an assistant, but seems to be loving what he does and being around his dad. The office is organized and maintained by Dr. Pol's wife of 50 years, and then there is "Dr. Brenda", Brenda Grettenburger, and the junior vet on the team, Dr. Emily Thomas.
There are a wide variety of situations, animals, and dilemmas, so I am yet to get bored. I will tell you that there does seem to be a good deal of professional jealousy about Dr. Pol. If you look around the internet you'll see fellow vets talk about how uncaring the staff is and unsanitary the procedures are. Folks, it is called editing. You don't see every little thing that is done. Plus you don't wind up with 20,000 patients by being a bad vet. Dr. Pol was disciplined by a Michigan state board a few years back based on the complaint of a viewer of this show who was a retired veterinarian living in Tennessee! However, that decision was reversed and even the owners of the animal in the case in question said that they were happy with the outcome.
I'd recommend you watch the show. Just don't mention it to your vet or they are likely to start snorting, stomp out of the examining room, and fire you and your pet from their practice. Just my two cents.