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I also write for Influx Magazine--where many of my opinions and reviews are also posted.
Lovely & Amazing (2001)
An ensemble movie is tough to take if you really don't like anyone in it.
I decided to watch "Lovely & Amazing" for one reason.... Jake Gyllenhaal is in it. While he only has a relatively small part, I generally enjoy the choices he's made in picking film projects....and this film is one of the few that didn't particularly impress me. Now it's not so much that it's a bad film...but it's a film about which I was completely ambivalent.
The story revolves around women from a family...a mother, two grown daughters and a younger adopted daughter. The common bond the first three have is that they all seem rather insecure. The common bond they all share is that they, as well as the men in their lives, talk a lot but never seem to listen. Because of this, it's VERY difficult to care about any of them....and it was worse because I found myself feeling this only about 10-15 minutes into the film.
To me, the actors seem to do a decent job. After all, it wasn't their faults that the characters were unlikable...that's just how they were written. Sadly, so are many of the others in the picture. And, unless the movie is something like "Downfall", 95% of audience members WANT to like and connect with characters....and I just couldn't with "Lovely & Amazing".
Go Chase Yourself (1938)
Penner is occasionally annoying but otherwise it's a decent time-passer.
Wilbur (Joe Penner) is a bit of an idiot...and his wife (Lucille Ball) is quick to let folks know. This is especially the case after the guy is accused of robbing the bank where he works....and she insists he's just too stupid to have done it! However, the real crooks who did it are holding him prisoner in a trailer he just won...and the police have assumed that because he's missing, he must have stolen the money. Along the trail, the wife gets paired up with a silly gigolo and you know that eventually it all will get straightened out.
This is an okay film. It has some funny moments, but a few times Penner overacts and is a bit insufferable. Add to that an ending involving a runaway trailer (which is NOT done well) and you have a recipe for a film which is a time-passer and nothing more.
Next Time I Marry (1938)
To me, the writer made her a bit too selfish and spoiled.
The plot to "Next Time I Marry" could have worked really well. However, whoever wrote the film really missed the mark when it came to Lucille Ball's character, Nancy. It strongly impacted how I liked the film...especially since it's supposed to be a romantic comedy.
When the story begins, Nancy stops at the side of the road and begins offering various men $500! Anthony (James Ellison) could use the money and he accepts...especially when she raises the money to $1000! So what does he need to do for the money? Marry her...a woman he just met!! Why would she do this? Apparently, she's an heiress but can only collect the money if she marries!
As I said, this idea could have worked. But the writer made Nancy unredeemingly selfish and cruel...to the point where it sure wasn't very funny. First, after marrying, she asks him to go get her some cigarettes in a store...and then drives away without him! Second, when he finally learns who he's married and where she lives, he shows up and she tells him to get lost....with no explanation why she did any of this!! To make it worse, Anthony had a dog in the car with her and she just dumped the animal at a kennel. When asked where, she basically said it wasn't important and she couldn't recall the place's name!! But it gets worse. Friends saw her being whisked away by Anthony (after he wants his dog!) and call the police. When the cops see the car and stops them, she claims she was kidnapped and he almost went to jail. But he is able to prove she's his wife....and the police let him go. Then, because she's angry at him and doesn't want to go with him (although he's done nothing wrong), she lights his trailer on fire!!! Why?? All this just makes Nancy seem evil and completely self-centered....and you really feel sorry for her poor husband. Can the film get better and overcome this huge problem as Anthony drives this 'lady' to Reno for a divorce?
This is an odd film and it reminds me of another Lucille Ball film where she played the most vicious person..."The Big Street". In it, she might have even been meaner and more self-centered! I am a person who can like her other films or TVs but still admit she made a few stinkers....and I can't see how either film would help her image with fans. However, I noticed that reviewers for both films totally ignored her nastiness and loved the films. I honestly feel as if they are more affirming their love of Ms. Ball than the films themselves because a rom-com simply is ineffective if you late the leading lady! Had they softened her characters in both, it would have helped tremendously.
So despite its faults is it worth seeing? Yes, but only as a time-passer. Had they softened Nancy more and made her change of heart less abrupt and inexplicable, I could have seen giving it a 6 or 7. As it is, a 4 seems reasonable.
By the way, I saw several reviews that talk about the racism in the film. I just didn't see it this way. Yes, Mantan Moreland plays a chauffer....so what?! Are they suggesting there should be no black characters in the film? I am just very confused by this...especially since, sadly, back in 1938 a job like this or a maid was pretty common for black Americans.
Wild Stallion (1952)
My lovely horse.
"Wild Stallion" is a western from Monogram Pictures. And, like many early to mid-1950s westerns from this studio and Republic, it was made using Cinecolor, a two-color film stock. Because it only used two base colors to create color, its palate was pretty limited...giving you 'colorish' films. In other words, some colors simply didn't show up well, such as purples and deep blues because the colors used were an orangy-red and a greenish-blue. A few colors came out really well in these films...but often the films looked very orangy or pinkish. While the Turner Classic Movies print looks excellent for Cinecolor after many decades of decomposition, it still is a bit pinkish...and normal skin tones look a bit odd and the white horse in the film looks more like an albino. But believe me...for a Cinecolor film this one looks great. So why did studios use this inferior color filmstock? Money....full color film (such as Three Color Technicolor) were very expensive but the Cinecolor company found a way to produce color (of sorts) for the same price as black & white films.
The story is told in a long flashback by John Wintergreen (Edgar Buchanan), an elderly Cavalry sergeant who is retiring. He tells a young soldier a story about Dan Light and his white stallion.
It seems that long ago, a family was homesteading in the Black Hills of South Dakota. When young Dan was out fishing, a group of renegade Indians arrived at his family's ranch--killing his parents and burning the place to the ground. The only survivor of the attack was a young white horse which managed to escape into the hills.
When Dan arrived back home, he found his parents and buried him. Soon Wintergreen arrived and helps him. He feels sorry for the kid and so he escorts him to a nearby fort where Dan is raised.
Years pass and Dan doesn't join the Cavalry. Instead, he works for them...capturing wild horses and training them. His philosophy wasn't so much breaking the horses but getting them to trust him through love and kindness. However, despite trying very hard to find that white horse, it keeps eluding him and is the leader of a huge herd of wild horses. The rest of the story is about Dan trying to capture and tame the animal....as well as his possibly joining the Cavalry after a lifetime of being a bit of a lone wolf.
The best thing going for this story is that it's NOT a typical western. The usual cliches are lacking and Johnson and Edgar Buchanan both do lovely jobs in the film. While not exactly a must-see film...it's charming and enjoyable.
The Young Guns (1956)
Awwww...ain't they cute tryin' to act like tough cowboys!
"The Young Guns", according to the prologue, is a western about juvenile delinquency...whatever the heck that's supposed to be! I guess Allied Artists wanted to combine two of the biggest genres of the mid-1950s (westerns and teen run amok films) into one!
The story centers around Tully Rice (Russ Tamblyn), the son of a long-dead bandit. Because of his father, some folks hate Tully and his life in town is awful because the jerk-face deputy keeps treating him like a pariah. But the sheriff supposedly sees some good in the young boy...though oddly he seems to do little to reign in his crazed deputy. Eventually, Tully gets sick of it and leaves town to live with bandits. After all, if folks think he's no good, he might as well be no good. But down deep it's obvious that this pretty boy is good at heart....and he'll make the right choice when the time comes to make important life choices.
While this film tried to be tough, I couldn't help but giggle a bit. Tamblyn's character is supposed to be tough and nasty...but he IS played by Russ Tamblyn who looks like the boy next door! In fact, all of his new gang is supposed to be tough but they all look a bit ridiculous in such roles. The studio thought they would come off as teens run amok but they came off more as kids play acting. Not a terrible film but one that is really, really hard to believe due to the cast.
Strange Bargain (1949)
Very hard to believe....but very entertaining.
"Strange Bargain" is a movie with a plot that is pretty difficult to believe, though it is still quite enjoyable and worth your time.
Sam Wilson (Jeffrey Lynn) goes to his boss to request a raise. After all, he'd been with the company many years and he and his family were having a hard time making ends meet. But what happens next was right out of left field. Instead of the raise, the boss fires him...telling Wilson that the company was about bankrupt and they couldn't afford to keep him even without the raise! However, the boss asks Sam to join him for a drink later...and that's when things start to get really strange. During this drink, the boss reveals just how bad things are. It seems not only the company is bankrupt, but he is as well and he saw only one way out...suicide! And, that way insurance money would provide for his family...if they could convince the insurance folks it wasn't suicide. If Sam agreed, the boss was going to kill himself and Sam would then come in and get rid of the gun and make it look as if he was murdered. What's next? Well, certainly NOT what you'd expect.
As I have said, the plot is hard to believe. But it also is exquisitely written and worked well. Lynn's 'everyman' performance helped carry the idea over, and the direction was fine. Overall, this is far more than you'd expect from a B-movie.
The Golden Fleecing (1940)
A fun little B-movie.
Aside from the bad opening scene (which was WAY overdone), "The Golden Fleecing" is a cute little B-movie and is well worth your time.
Lew Ayres plays Henry Twinkle, a very mild mannered insurance salesman who wants to make a sale in order to get a raise...and then he can afford to get married. Well, he thinks it's a shoe-in after making his latest sale. What he doesn't realize is that the guy who purchased the policy is a wanted criminal with a $25,000 reward on his head and fellow mobsters who want to silence him....meaning it's very likely SOMEONE will kill the guy and force the insurance company to pay. So, Henry gets the idea to look for the crook (Lloyd Nolan) and keep an eye on him....just to make sure he stays safe. Where this then goes is pretty crazy...but I'll say no more because I don't want to spoil it.
The film has a cute, clever script that kept my interest. Well written, but more importantly a lot of fun to watch.
Kansas City Bomber (1972)
Surprisingly good....and what a departure for Welch.
Raquel Welch took a huge career departure in playing the lead in "Kansas City Bomber". While it's not an especially deep film in some ways, it sure stretches her talents.
When the story begins, K. C. Carr (Welch) is traded from her roller derby team to one in Portland. Why? Because the owner of the Portland team (Kevin McCarthy) wants her on the team and plans on building her up to a top star. After all, she's talented and beautiful. However, soon it becomes apparent that the owner is pretty cutthroat....and he begins firing players who stand in the way of his dream team. As a result, the players hate K. C. and make her stay in Portland a tough one. What's next? See the film.
I am not sure how many actresses would agree to a role like Welch's. After all, the skating was rather dangerous....as Welch learned when she was practicing for the film (see IMDB trivia for more on this). It took guts...and I appreciate it. I also appreciate that although she is a lovely lady, the film often de-emphasized this and sure could have been an exploitation flick.
Overall, a far better film than you'd expect. Is it great? No...but it is never dull and is rather entertaining.
Chalte Chalte (2003)
Will there be a happily ever after?
The story begins at a bowling alley. A man arrives and introduces his new fiancée to his friends and they sit to have drinks. During this time, they end up talking about a wonderful real life love story...the story of Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) and Priya (Rani Mukerji).
Raj owns a small trucking company and one day Priya passes him and then parks in front of his truck to tell him what an idiot driver he is. Well, she's obviously not the world's best driver, as she left her car in neutral without the parking brake engaged...and soon her car rolls away and down an embankment!
A bit later, Raj arrives at a friend's wedding. Soon Priya also arrives and begins telling her friends about the idiot truck driver she met. She doesn't realize he's standing behind her listening! When she realizes it, her anger cools and she realizes she's been a putz. Soon they are talking and hit it off.
Priya needs to go to her aunt's home and has no way to get there, so the gallant and love-struck Raj offers to drive her. They have a wonderful time during this drive and she gives him her phone number...which is soon lost when his clothes are washed with the number in his pocket! After 20 days of searching, he finds her...only to learn in the interim she's become engaged to a childhood friend back in Athens.
When she flies back to Athens, Raj follows...hoping to convince her and her family to let him marry her instead. Fortunately for Raj, the flight is diverted to nearby Mykonos due to weather problems*. During this time, they fall further in love and he eventually drives her home to Athens.
When her fiancé learns what has occurred, he's a real nice guy and agrees to break the engagement and so Raj and Priya marry. Now this is where the story from the bowling alley ends. Soon we see that Priya and Raj did NOT have a happily ever after...and their marriage is rocky, in part due to finances involving Raj's trucking company and Raj's inferiority complex because he's not rich. After all, he's a working guy and she's used to the finer things in life...and he wants to provide them to her. In desperation, Priya goes to her old fiancé, Sameer, and asks him for a loan. When Raj learns of this, he assumes the worst and the marriage is in even worse trouble. Is there any hope for this pretty couple? Well, considering it's an Indian romance, it's not hard to guess.
I found this movie very strange...like two different movies. The part before Raj and Priya married was wonderful...and I adored it. The other portion, however, was tough to like at times because several times Raj seemed like a real jerk in the way he treated his wife. I found this really made it tough to love...especially when he learns who provided the needed money and he yells at her and verbally abuses her. I'd give the first part a 9 and the last a 3 because Raj was so hard to like...to the point where I wanted them to divorce! And the ending...well, it really fell flat and I'll say no more.
*Nearly all the Indians who watch this film probably never traveled to Greece and never will. The filmmakers assumed this because the Mykonos in the film looks, at least at times, like Athens...because it IS Athens! Despite being a busy vacation spot, Mykonos is small...and Athens is enormous!! I recognized several places from my visit, including the Olympic stadium. Also, it is odd that Priya never speaks Greek even though she was born and raised there....and the locals all seem to know English or Hindi! I understand why they did this...it made watching the story easier.
National Velvet (1944)
My lovely horse.
"National Velvet" is not a perfect MGM movie...but it comes darned close. There are a few itty bitty quibbles (such as the lack of proper British accents and the character Donald Brown...who is mostly an annoying distraction), but apart from those, it shows what this studio could do if they gave it their all...which they clearly did. The movie was filmed in vivid color in a day where few films were and it combines so much excellence into the picture...from acting to direction to the sets and music.
The story is supposedly set in England. But considering this was during WWII, such location shooting was clearly out of the picture. So the studio used a variety of locations (including Monterey and Pebble Beach in Carmel) and made the best of it.
Velvet (Elizabeth Taylor) is a girl who loves horse and has fallen for a neighbor's high strung gelding, Pie. Because it's so high strung, he ends up raffling it off...and Velvet wins him. Later, she has the seemingly insane idea of entering the horse in the Grand National race...because of his endurance and ability to leap over fences and hedgerows. Can the horse manage to compete with the best of the best?
The bottom line is that instead of telling you how perfect and well crafted the movie is, you should just see it yourself. Even the few on IMDB who didn't love the film didn't hate it!
Le beau Serge (1958)
Handsome Serge? Well, not so much now...
Although the film is called "Le Beau Serge", the story really isn't about Serge as much as it is about his old friend, François Baillou, a man with a savior complex.
When the story begins, François arrives back in the town he grew up in and where he hasn't been in many years. He is surprised to see that his old friend Serge is now a drunk and Serge's new family is a huge mess. Soon it becomes apparent that François has a bit of a savior complex and works hard to try to 'fix' Serge and his family....even if they don't want fixing!
This film is so unlike Chabrol's later films, though the twist ending and mental illness aspects of this film were often seen in his later, more cinematic movies. I didn't love it but did enjoy it...and it provides you a lot to think about and interpret.
Le coup du berger (1956)
How do you explain away an expensive fur coat?!
"Le Coup du Berger" is considered one of the earliest French New Wave films. It's a short from Jacques Rivette and like many other New Wave films is about a person who isn't necessarily to be liked or admired (much like Jean-Paul Belmondo in "Breathless").
When the story begins, an unfaithful wife is given a fur coat by her lover. Her concern is how to let the husband see the coat without arising his suspicions. All this is compared in the film to as a sort of chess game.
So is this worth watching? Well, for film historians, absolutely. After all, how can you know what the New Wave was or learn from it if you don't watch any of the films...and this is a seminal film from the movement. Now this is NOT the same as saying the film is necessarily enjoyable or brilliant...it's only mildly enjoyable and looks a bit like a cinematic film and a home movie combined stylistically. For the average person, far from being a must-see...but for film students and budding filmmakers, well worth your time...especially since at the end you get to see several influential New Wave directors playing extras.
Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962)
Just the sort of story critics love. As for the public...
"Cléo de 5 à 7" is a film from the French New Wave by auteur Agnès Varda. I mention this because New Wave films were a huge departure from earlier French films and the films of Hollywood. They often deliberately chose topics for the films that weren't especially cinematic an often featured morally suspect protagonists (such as in "Breathless"). This sort of stuff critics have long enjoyed...though in the case of this film, I wonder if the subject matter would drive away most viewers. If you read the IMDB summary, it talks about a hypochondriac awaiting test results to tell her if she has cancer...not exactly a crowd pleasing sort of plot! So is it worth seeing or is it an artsy film that 'normals' would be best to avoid?
The story begins with Cleo consulting a fortune teller. It seems she's taken tests to see if she has cancer but she wants a second opinion from the woman. What follows is Cleo's life for the next 90 minutes (not 120 like the title would imply) and you learn more about this woman. For example, she is a lounge singer and kept woman....and her lover isn't surprised when she tells him she thinks she's ill. Apparently she's a hypochondriac and often thinks she's very ill. You also see her go about her day, doing a variety of mostly mundane things...such as going to a bar, seeing a friend who is a nude model and practicing for an upcoming concert. I say mostly because in a brief scene, she passes a most bizarre busker who is shoving live frogs in his mouth and on his face for the crowd's amusement!
Instead of being a cinematic sort of movie, this looks more like they just followed a woman for 90 minutes...recording everything...dull or interesting...it didn't matter which. This is exactly the sort of stuff artsy folks adore about the New Wave. After all, it's a HUGE break from traditional films. My problem is that although I do like some New Wave films, too often they seem to be more an experiment for the amusement of the filmmakers and their intelligentsia friends and less something 'normals' would want to watch. The best examples of this I can think of are some of the movies by Godard, such as "Alphaville" and "Pierre le Fou"....films which make little sense and are intended to make little sense. A bit of this, for me, goes a long, long way. I think I generally prefer the films of Jean-Pierre Melville...also a New Wave director but also a guy who made some much more traditional films than some of his counterparts.
So did I enjoy "Cléo from 5 to 7"? No, not really. I found the central character unlikable...or at least someone I honestly didn't care about one way or the other. Lovers of the New Wave love this...but for me, as I said already, a little of this goes a long way! Now this is not to say I dislike French films....they are among my favorites. But I have to have a reason to care in order for a film to be one I'd recommend or want to see twice....and I don't feel either way about this movie and I didn't care whether or not Cleo died from cancer. Most of the reviews are positive, though I also assume that French New Wave films are mostly self-selecting....in other words, if you love them, you seek them out and see magnificent things in them. Most folks probably wouldn't bother in the first place. To me, it just reinforced why New Wave films often bore me.
By the way, in the cab and in the bar, you hear folks talking about Algeria. This is because the film came out the year this long civil war ended....and Algeria gained its independence from France. You also hear about rebels...and this is not referring to the Algerians but conservative politicians and military offers who thought President DeGaulle had betrayed the nation by allowing Algeria to gain its independence. It was so bad that assassination attempts were made on him, as the rebels wanted to continue the war regardless of the cost.
Strange Affair (1944)
A kind of sequel to "Dangerous Blondes"...kind of.
"Dangerous Blondes" (1943) was a very good and most agreeable mystery film starring Allyn Joslyn and Evelyn Keyes. So it's not surprising they would return them a year later for a sequel. But here's the odd part....it's NOT a sequel...but it also is! The names are not the same and Joslyn's character is no longer a crime fiction writer but an artist who has a crime comic strip. Why the changes? I have no idea...none. But the feeling and spirit of the films clearly is identical...a sequel! I scored the first film an 8....is "Strange Affair" also that good??
The film, naturally, features a murder and, naturally, the cops are really dumb (particularly the investigator's assistant)...so it takes an amateur to solve the case! This is THE blueprint for this sort of film....and Hollywood might have made 500 or more films like it. In many cases, it's a newspaper reporter (such as Lee Tracy), but it could also be a teach (Edna May Oliver) or any other non-police person who somehow knows more than trained cops!
When the story begins, Bill (Joslyn) meets Mr. Baumler. Oddly, later in a night club, he sees Mr. Baumler again...but it's a different person! Apparently, there is a faux Baumler. But before he can figure out WHY and WHO....the second Baumler dies right there at the table in the club! The police foolishly are quick to assume it's a heart attack that killed him. But Bill, being the know-it-all amateur, assumes he was poisoned...which they soon realize is the case. So what is really going on here and how will Bill and his lady friend (Keyes) get to the bottom of this case?
My feeling is that if you liked the first film, you'll like the second. This is because in both the mystery isn't as important as the interplay between Keyes and Joslyn...which is snappy and funny. Well worth seeing. And the best part...near the end when the dopey cops arrest Keyes. Her reaction is priceless!!
Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994)
Early SRK in a goofball role.
According to IMDB, Shah Rukh Khan reportedly said that this was his favorite film in which he acted. I am sure much of it was because he was young and this film helped to make him a breakout star. But when you watch it today, it's obvious he made many, many better and more timeless films.
"Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa" is a romantic comedy where Khan plays a VERY different sort of character. Instead of being his usual suave and self-assured character, here he's a bit of a goofball...VERY clumsy and not especially confident nor bright.
The story concerns Sunil (Khan) and his unrequited love for Anna (Suchitra Krishnamoorthi). This mostly seemed to be because he adores her but is afraid to tell her. But he also is a weasel as he works hard to keep his friend and bandmate from romancing Anna. He's not much of a friend. When this ruse is discovered, it tears the band apart....and they kick him out of the group. Now, friendless, you wonder if Sunil has any chance at a happy ending.
The style is pure 1990s comedy. When I sat that, I mean it has the usual cliches (such as people tripping or having accidents because it's wacky) and the music is very much like 1990s Indian music...with that tinny, canned sound that disappeared by 2000. In other words, the film lacks the sophistication and excellent technical qualities that later made Indian films the equal to Hollywood's in quality. I am not a fan of these earlier broad comedies....and it's probably since I am an American and never grew up with this style film. Instead, I didn't start watching Indian flicks until about 2000....and I really came to have high expectations for the country's films.
So is it worth seeing? Perhaps....especially if you love these older style comedies. But for folks not familiar with the country's films or Shah Rukh Khan, I suggest you instead try some of his newer films first. Now I noticed that most of the reviewers adored it...and I know I am the oddball here. Chances are they grew up with this style film and it really appealed to them....which is certainly understandable. I just found it a bit underwhelming...especially when I think of SRK in such brilliant films as "My Name is Khan", "Hey Ram", "Billu" or "Om Shanti Om" (among others).
My ghostly lover.
Lachchi (Rani Mukerji) is about to marry Kishanlal (Shah Rukh Khan) but little does she know that she's marry a VERY cold fish! On their wedding night, he announces to her that his father is sending him away on business in the morning and he'll return in five years!! And, because he doesn't want to start something he cannot finish, he'll sleep in a separate bed on their very abbreviated honeymoon! Not surprisingly, she is heartbroken.
What Lachchi does NOT know is that on her wedding day, she was seen by a ghost who now is quite smitten with her. He knows what the awful husband has done and offers Lachchi his love instead...and he assumes the form of Kishanlal! But he is not a rapey ghost...he tells her all this and gives her a choice...and she accepts. I assume she figures ghost sex beats no sex!
To satisfy the father, Kishanlal tells his 'dad' that a holy man informed him that IF he abandons the five year trip and stays home, he'll awaken each day with five gold pieces! Apparently, these ghosts have cool powers...such as the money, influencing a camel race AND being able to impregnate Lachchi. Yes, apparently he CAN father a child...much to their surprise. But what happens when the husband returns?! Surely there will be quite a commotion!!
If you like supernatural love stories with a tiny amount of comedy (and who doesn't?!), then this film is an excellent bet for you. I cannot compare it to the earlier version of this story (Duvidha, 1973)....but this version of nice, inconsequential fun. I mean no offense by this....but am more saying that the film is lite and enjoyable.
Oh, and did I mention that the narrators of the movie are a couple marionettes?! And, at the end, there are a LOT of marionettes in a final, delightful musical number?!
No Substitute for Victory (1971)
Interesting...though not especially well made.
When I was looking for things to watch on my Amazon Fire, I was surprised to find this very obscure documentary from 1971 which starred John Wayne. And, as a retired US History teacher, I did find it interesting....though flawed.
Wayne hosts the film and introduces a variety of people sharing his views on how the Vietnam War should be fought. One thing about the war that is often forgotten is that although it was unpopular in later years, much of this was due to HOW the war was being fought and many were not against the US being at war but the politicians' running of the war. This is a big part of the show...pushing for politicians to stop micromanaging the war and let the men fight an all-out war. This aspect of the film is interesting and if fought this way, the war MIGHT have been won by the US and South Vietnam. Apart from this aspect of the film, I did find that the film never questioned why the US went to war there in the first place and some of the history lesson given by Lowell Thomas was suspect...such as him calling Lenin 'Vladimir' (a common mistake...but he was NO Vlad). I also was surprised when he mentioned that Charles Lingburgh was a war hawk in WWII...which was completely untrue. Lindburgh was actually pro-Hitler in the 1930s and only became pro-war after the US was attacked.
So is it any good? It's okay...and, oddly enough, the worst part about it was Wayne's poor delivery of his lines. It also didn't help that there were CONSTANT refrains from the song "The Ballad of the Green Berets"...to the point of inducing nausea. As far as a history lesson, while not always accurate, it did provide an interesting insight into how the war might have been successfully fought. Overall, a film most people probably wouldn't watch in the first place, but at least the history teacher in me found a few things to like.
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
Far from perfect but I appreciate the effort.
"The Greatest Story Ever Told" is a lavish production on the life of Jesus that was directed by George Stevens. In some ways, it's pretty good...in other ways it's left wanting. Plus, with ANY life of Christ on film, I guarantee some will love it and some will hate it!
So what didn't I like? Well, one big problem is that the film is a star-studded affair and really shouldn't have been. Tons and tons of well known actors are in the film to the point where at times it seems more about them than about telling the story of Jesus. The best example, clearly, is John Wayne in a tiny scene where he seems more to be playing himself than a Roman Centurion. The other problem is that the film was filled with folks who looked totally out of place in the story. In other words, everyone is so white. Now I am not a super politically correct sort of guy...but having a Swede play Jesus? And, the likes of fair-skinned and blue-eyed John Derek as a disciple?! Huh?! My final quibble is that the film is way too stilted and lacks humanity. In other words, Jesus and pretty much everyone in the film are humorless and stiff....and don't feel especially real because of this.
On the other hand, while the film pretty clearly looks like the American Southwest, it wasn't a bad substitute for Israel. Also, the sets were lavish and obviously cost a lot of money.
Overall, this is a film many will enjoy, though I think some other similar films about Jesus are better, such as "Jesus of Nazareth".
A good, solid western...and without many of the usual clichés
"Hondo" is one of John Wayne's best westerns, yet I rarely have seen it listed among his films like "The Searchers", "The Man Who Fought Liberty Valance" or "Fort Apache". I have a theory about this. First, unlike these other films, after "Hondo" came to theaters, it and a few other Wayne films were not released to television until the 1980s. So, for 30-odd years, no one saw them...while they DID see his more famous films many, many times. Second, the story in "Hondo" is much smaller in scope and isn't a grand spectacle like many of Wayne's other westerns. But despite this, it's is a great western...with many things to love.
Wayne's character, Hondo, in this film is pretty amazing. First, he's part-Indian and has a positive attitude towards Native Americans. And, even while the Apaches are on the warpath and don't like Hondo all that much because he's white, he respects and understands their anger, since the white men have lied to them and broken treaties. Second, he is the most no-nonsense and tough of all his cowboy characters. He has a simple outlook on life and lives by this code. So, he's decent and honorable...but also will put up with no crap from others and he expects folks to treat him in kind. You can't help but respect the character.
When the story begins, Hondo arrives at a lone cabin where a woman (Geraldine Fitzgerald) and her young son live. The Apache had been chasing him and shot his horse...so he's on foot. When she learns he's the notorious Hondo, she assumes the worst...but over time with the family, she comes to realize she has nothing to fear. However, she should be afraid, as she lives near the Apache and her husband is gone...and she might be killed if she remains. But she's determined to stay and insists she gets along fine with the natives.
After Hondo leaves and heads to town, he happens upon the woman's husband...and he turns out to be a real jerk and ne'er-do-well. Repeatedly, he insults Hondo and picks a fight...which Hondo soon finishes. Later, after leaving town, Hondo comes upon some Apache trying to kill this man...and Hondo saves his life. To repay Hondo, the jerk then tries to kill him...and Hondo is forced to shoot him first...leaving the woman a widow. So, he heads to her home to let her know what happened....and the Apache soon give chase. What's next? Well, a lot!
This film has less 'fireworks' than many Wayne westerns. But it has one finely crafted scene after another....all which reinforce the ideal that is Hondo. A truly memorable film that I'd place up with Wayne's best films, such as "Stagecoach" and "The Quiet Man". Yes, it's THAT good...without a single misstep in the picture. I cannot believe it's not considered among his very best....and with a most unusual and sweet romance as well.
By the way, look for the swimming scene...it's a real hoot!
12 O'Clock High: The Hollow Man (1966)
A pilot, held by the Germans for months, manages to escape and return for duty.
"The Hollow Man" is a very important episode because it deals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. While it was the subject of a few prior episodes, this one really hits home.
Lt. Wally Bolen is a pilot who was shot down several months ago. He was taken prisoner and tortured horribly. But he eventually managed to escape and insists he's ready to return to flying B-17s for Colonel Gallagher. Gallagher is thrilled...and promotes Bolen to Captain. However, what the unit doesn't understand is the degree to which Bolen is scarred....and he has an extremely bad case of PTSD. During times of stress, mentally he's right back in German custody...being tormented. This ends up causing a major problem during Bolen's first mission after his return. What happens and will he need to be taken out of action for good?
While some might think Robert Drivas overdid it a bit with the PTSD flashbacks, they were actually done well. All in all, a very important episode as so many soldiers and pilots returned to the war...damaged and unable to cope.
12 O'Clock High: Decoy (1966)
Entertaining...though not exactly realistic
Colonel Gallagher needs to be flown back to his base. So, he hitches a ride on a new B-17 being transported to the base anyway. When he climbs aboard, he's shocked to see that the pilot is Tony Powell...a man who was washed out of his unit for cowardice. Now his job is transporting planes and avoiding combat situations. But he cannot completely avoid combat and some German fighters end up knocking the B-17 out of the sky. He and Gallagher manage to make their way to an island in the North Sea...where they are captured by Germans from a nearby sub. Part of the reason they were captured easily is that Powell refused to fight and quickly surrendered! What's next? See the show.
The other review currently posted on IMDB is right....there is no way a German U-Boat would fire a torpedo on a fishing boat. This is because torpedoes were like gold....and Captains didn't just fire at anything with them. And, what strategic value would there be destroying a fishing boat?! If you can look past this, it's an otherwise decent episode.
News of the World (2020)
A very different sort of film for Hanks.
The plot to "News of the World" is pretty simple and it's a leisurely paced film...somewhat like Clint Eastwood's "Cry Macho". It is set in 1870 in the Reconstruction Era in Texas. Captain Kidd (Tom Hanks) is a Civil War veteran who happens upon a head man and a wild blonde girl in the wilderness. There are papers with the dead man's possessions indicating that the girl, Johanna, was abducted and raised by Kiowa Indians after her parents were killed. She was discovered with the Kiowa and the US Army sent her with an agent to return her to her extended family. But he's dead...and no one seems willing to help...so Kidd finally agrees to take her the 400 miles to Castroville, Texas (near San Antonio).
As you'd suspect, this won't be easy since the child really wants to be with the Kiowa and she doesn't understand English. Her family were German immigrants...so she understands some German...but Kidd only knows a few words of the language himself. The film shows them on their journey across the Plains to her family.
This is a most enjoyable film and a nice change of pace for Tom Hanks. It also talks about a seldom discussed problem which happened on rare occasions...white kids being abducted and raised by various tribes. Interesting and never dull.
Cry Macho (2021)
A slow, gentle sort of road picture.
"Cry Macho" is a pretty amazing film that in some ways reminds me of "Mackintosh and T. J.", Roy Rogers' last movie that he made when he was elderly. Both films are about aging cowboys who befriend kids who are about 13 and both have a very slow and deliberate pace....which is all you really should expect from aging actors.
Clint Eastwood directed and stars in this story. It begins with Mike (Eastwood) being asked by his boss (Dwight Yoakim) to go to Mexico City to bring back the boss' 13 year-old son who has been living off and on with his mother. I saw off and on because the boy often just wanders the streets because the abuse is so bad at home. The mother, at first, agrees to let Mike take the kid but later she changes her mind...apparently just to be a jerk! But because of the abuse, Mike takes the boy north...which isn't an easy thing because the mother is rich and has thugs looking for Mike and the kid. To make it worse, the kid is very street-wise and wild...and it seems doubtful he'll stay with Mike for long.
The film seems like at times there isn't much in the way of script....just a lot of small talk and small moments. This is NOT a complaint...and I actually liked these moments. The acting and direction really helped to carry the movie for me.
By the way, the film was not actually filmed in Mexico but in New Mexico...near Albuquerque (in Belen and Polvadera) .
Jab We Met (2007)
The story begins with a vivacious nut and a man suffering a nervous breakdown.
"Jab We Met" is an interesting film....or it was for me because it featured a Sikh woman...something I cannot recall seeing as a love interest in any of the other Indian films I've seen.
The story begins with Aditya in an important meeting. Everyone is involved except for Aditya...who just seems vacant and lost. Then, without explanation, he leaves....drops by his old girlfriend's wedding...and then disappears....hopping the first train he sees.
Obviously he was in the midst of a nervous breakdown, as you learn Aditya's father just died....and he's simply overwhelmed. Aboard the train, he's in an almost comatose state when the vivacious and wacky Geet sets with him. She has no idea who the guy is, but instantly she's talking and talking and talking to a person who simply cannot respond. She then realizes he's in trouble...and she makes it her duty to look after him and takes him home to Punjab to meet her family. What's next? See the film.
What I liked about the story is that although you know how the film will eventually end, it's really not all that predictable on how it gets there. While Geet is vivacious and Aditya's withdrawn and heartbroken, it doesn't stay that way...both characters change through the course of the film. Some nice acting and music make this a nice romance...one well worth your time.
Shah Rukh Khan and the late Irrfan Khan really show what fine acting is all about in "Billu".
To appreciate "Billu" you need to understand the magnitude of the adoration the Indian public has for their movie stars, particularly Shah Rukh Khan. I knew some of this but it really helped that just before I watched this film, I also watched "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman: Shah Rukh Khan" on Netflix....and it showed the almost rabid adoration of the thousands of fans camped outside of Khan's home...hoping to get a glimpse of this Indian mega-star!
"Billu" is a most unusual film in that Shah Rukh Khan plays a slightly fictionalized version of himself, called Sahir Khan. It seems that he and his production company have chosen the village of Budbuda to film their next movie and this causes problems for a very poor barber, Billu (Irrfan Khan). It seems Billu told his kids that he grew up with the famous actor and knew him...and the kids now expect their father to arrange a meeting with Sahir. To make things worse, the kids tell their friends and soon everyone in the village thinks Sahir and Billu are buddies....and they all suddenly become very loving and kind towards Billu in the hope that he'll introduce them to the actor. Where does it go next? See the film.
The best thing about this film is the acting by the two Khans. Both have some marvelous moments at the end of the film...moments where you might want to have some Kleenex handy. The story itself is also quite charming and clever....and never disappoints. And, I really loved the first musical number...it was a showstopper!