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Force of Nature (2020)
Police is trying to evacuate a residential building in Puerto Rico ahead of a hurricane. When it's attacked a criminal gang, the two sides battle as a storm rages outside.
This is a derivative action B-movie. This genre has become a refuge of lesser stars, aging action stars, and actors with issues. This movie struggles with weak writing and sad locations. The apartment setting is strictly generic and does not take advantage of Puerto Rico. I actually appreciate them bringing work to the island after so many local disasters and I'm willing to overlook their personal flaws. It's too bad that this is an inferior product.
San Quentin (1937)
solid prison flick
San Quentin is a tough prison in San Francisco. Chief guard Captain Stephen Jameson (Pat O'Brien) is taken with nightclub singer Mae Kennedy (Ann Sheridan). Her brother Joe 'Red' Kennedy (Humphrey Bogart) gets arrested and becomes a new prisoner at San Quentin.
This is a solid prison flick with Bogie as the troubled conflicted bad guy. It's by the book and they have Bogie. They also have Pat O'Brien as the perfect foil. One wants to root for Bogie but he is dragged down by his own self-destructiveness. It's perfectly standard for him and for this movie.
Alibi Ike (1935)
Chicago Cubs are short of pitchers until Francis X Farrell (Joe E. Brown) drives his car crashing through the outfield fence. He has a crazy windup and great pitches. He falls for the manager's sister-in-law Dolly Stevens (Olivia De Havilland). His non-stop excuses earn him the nickname of Alibi Ike.
Joe E. Brown with his wacky face is automatically loveable at first sight. It does clash with this character's constant excuse making. I'm reminded with another comic with a rubber face. It's Jim Carrey in Liar Liar but that movie adds a funny layer to the comedy. This one runs out of steam relatively quickly. He loses his loveability and the humor is lost after that. This premise needs that extra layer of comedy.
Carbine Williams (1952)
for Jimmy Stewart fans
From a 1951 Reader's Digest article, Marsh Williams (James Stewart) works at the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in New Haven, Connecticut. His son David gets into a fight and Marsh brings him to prison warden Capt. H.T. Peoples to scare straight. Peoples recounts the story of Marsh's life from moonshining to incarceration where he handmakes a rifle which would be incorporated into the M1 Carbine.
It's a straight and narrow biopic. Jimmy Stewart delivers all the rooting interest from inner personal charms. Mostly, there isn't much drama in the way that this is told. It needs to heighten the danger when he's in the prison. In the end, this is a movie for Jimmy Stewart fans or maybe gun fans...
It Always Rains on Sunday (1947)
These are stories of various people one Sunday in London. Tommy Swann escapes from prison. He tries to hide at his former girlfriend Rose Sandigate but she is now married with a tired boring life and bratty step-children. Cops are in pursuit. There is a shooting, and an employees-only party in a closed nightclub.
This is a rather modern way of story telling. These are interconnected stories of connected characters with an overarching narrative. Some of it is more compelling than others. I got lost with some of the characters. The miniature railyard sequence is a bit laughable. Obviously, somebody screwed up with the shot although I think the sequence would be fine without the miniature. All in all, it's an interesting British movie.
Home from the Hill (1960)
Captain Wade Hunnicutt (Robert Mitchum) is shot by a jealous husband during a hunting trip. He's a wealthy powerful womanizer in his Texas town. Hannah (Eleanor Parker) is his long-suffering wife. She promised to stay as long as she raised their son Theron (George Hamilton). He's now 17, innocent and somewhat clueless. Rafe Copley (George Peppard) is Wade's right hand man. Wade wants to toughen Theron into a man like himself rather than a momma's boy.
It is often the case that the word melodrama denotes an inferior film. It's hard to say that the melodrama here has detracted from this movie. It is easy to say that the material demands the melodrama and the movie steers into it. The acting is terrific and well-fitting. This is like a night time soap and it is a good example of one.
Hold That Lion! (1947)
The fourth Stooge
Larry, Moe, and Shemp are looking for their inheritance. The three nephews are sole heirs but the executor Mr. Icabob Slipp is nowhere to be found. They go to his office with subpoenas but they don't know what he looks like. They follow him to a train where they accidentally release a lion.
It's a fine Stooges short with Shemp. This one has a fourth Stooge. In a way, Dudley Dickerson plays a Stooge-like character in the black porter but I'm really talking about Curly who makes a cameo after his stroke. And he has hair! Although his distinctive snoring gives him away.
Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)
yellow and shock like
Major Weldon Penderton (Marlon Brando) and his wife Leonora (Elizabeth Taylor) have a troubled relationship on a military base in the American south. Lieutenant Colonel Morris Langdon (Brian Keith) and his depressed wife Alison (Julie Harris) are their friends. Anacleto is the Langdon's gay Filipino servant. Pvt. L.G. Williams (Robert Forster) becomes obsessed with the Pendertons as Weldon battles his inner desires.
Director John Huston made this film filtered with a yellow rust color. It's a reference to Anacleto's peacock painting with a golden eye. It also makes the movie happening in the past like an old photograph as the opening text suggests. I don't like it. I might like it better as a straight up black and white film. My best take is that it drains my energy needed for maintaining attention. It places a barrier from the story. It may have been an artistic choice but it does come with a cost.
As for the story itself, my expectations were upturned about an hour into the film. It's an interesting choice although I feel like it's a missed opportunity. Darn it, I wanted something much more groundbreaking. I wanted something explosive which may be impossible back in the day. As what it actually turns out to be, I can still see some shock value but some of it feels too melodramatic. It's one of those movies that needs to be placed in a proper place and time. There are artistic choices being made here even if I don't agree with all of them.
Whistling in Dixie (1942)
In Georgia, Martin Gordon is murdered in Fort Dixon as someone whistles Dixie. Hattie Lee discovers the body but when she brings everybody to the site, the body had disappeared. Martin was involved in a love triangle with Hattie and her cousin Ellamae Downs. Judge George Lee produces a letter from Martin that he's leaving town to avoid romantic troubles. Ellamae sends a beetle to her friend Carol Lambert (Ann Rutherford) and invites her to a murder investigation. Carol's boyfriend is radio personality and amateur detective Wally Benton (Red Skelton) known as The Fox.
This is a fun screwball murder mystery with Red Skelton. He delivers the jokes. Some of which are understandably anti-Japanese racist. Rutherford returns to join him in the duo. It ends with some fun slapstick. All in all, it is fun and of its times.
Mysterious Island (1961)
fun sci-fi fantasy camp
It's 1865 at the siege of Richmond. Union soldiers Cyrus Harding, Herbert Brown and Neb Nugent with reporter Gideon Spilitt escape a Confederate prison by hijacking a balloon and kidnapping young guard Pencroft. They float across the Pacific to a tropical island. They encounter a strange nature gone wild. Then they find shipwreck survivors Lady Mary Fairchild and her niece Elena. In addition, there would be pirates and the submarine Nautilus with its creator Captain Nemo (Herbert Lom).
This starts as a function sci-fi B-movie camp. Then it gets to the great Ray Harryhausen stop-motion animation effects. I eat up all that stuff. It's funny that the characters keep eating all the giant creatures. The story does try to cram a lot into it. I question the addition of Captain Nemo at first but it does not disappoint. Herbert Lom is great and so is the Nautilus. Overall, this is essentially a B-movie with superior effects and a fun attitude.
Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb (1938)
Larry, Curly, and Moe are short on money as always. Curly mixes up glue with maple syrup leading to a series of hilarity. Curly wins a $50k radio contest. The Stooges rent an expensive hotel suite and promptly destroy it. They are pursued by the three gold-diggers who are pretending to be rich widows. Then they find out that most of their prize has been eaten up by taxes leaving them with $4.85. This ends a little short. I want more downfall for the Stooges. They could do the classic running around in the hotel being chased by the girls and the hotel security.
Heavenly Daze (1948)
go to hell
Shemp is denied entry into heaven. He is given a chance to enter if he can reform his cousins, Moe and Larry. The two remaining Stooges are hopelessly crooked and clueless. I like the sleazy Shemp in heaven. I like Moe and Larry fighting over the inheritance. I like most of this although I would prefer the Stooges to end this by going to hell.
They Only Kill Their Masters (1972)
A doberman is blamed for the death of his female owner in a small seaside California town. Chief of police Abel Marsh (James Garner) investigates. He goes to retrieve the dog from the vet Dr. Warren G. Watkins (Hal Holbrook) where he meets his assistant Kate Bingham (Katharine Ross). They intend to put the dog down but the autopsy reveals the cause of death to be an unusual drowning. The dog was actually trying to save her.
The investigation seems to be stuck in neutral while Abel spends the first hour pursuing Kate. I kept waiting for him to do some police work. This may be a good setup for a TV show but it's overextended as a full theatrical movie. I do like Garner. That dog has the scariest scene. As for the needle, what the heck is Abel doing? One could see that coming from a mile away. He should be dead. The whole thing is ridiculous. Abel is not a particularly good cop. He's taking the good ole boy to a stupid amount.
Portrait of Alison (1955)
dress for the job
Tim Forrester is hired to paint a portrait of Alison Ford from a photo. It's the start of a convoluted murder mystery. Honestly, I wasn't following too hard on the mystery. The portrait is an interesting hook. The one thing that annoyed me and I couldn't let go is how Tim is dressed. He keeps wearing a tie. Everybody is dressed to the nines. I guess cops could be a suit and tie job but I don't know any artist who dresses up for the job. More than that, the character is played like a stiff veteran cop. Even when he's dressed down, I still don't buy him as an artist. Everything else flows from that. I can't get pass it. It may be superficial but it's annoying as heck.
short and bitter
Mouchette is a quiet loner girl. Her mother is dying. Her father is a drunk. Their family is poor. Life is hard and people dislikes her. She gets picked on and she lashes out at them. One rainy night, she gets lost in the woods where a gamekeeper confronts a poacher.
I like that she's bitter piece of crap also. She has a quiet anger which makes her a more compelling character. It's a quiet short bitter tale. This French film has real bite.
You'll Find Out (1940)
Chuck Deems is the manager of the Kay Kyser's big band. His girlfriend Janis Bellacrest claims that someone is trying to kill her. The band is set to play for her 21st birthday at her family's mansion. It's a weird place with one bridge as the only exit until that bridge gets blown up.
I've never heard of Kay Kyser before this. He's a comedic bandleader during the 30's and 40's. His brand of comedy can best be described as dad humor. The bandmembers deliberately overselling it does come with its own charms but I wouldn't say that it's my cup of tea. This movie does have a lot of horror veterans and as a horror comedy, it has a certain amount of fun. At the end of the day, this is a light weight flick which closes with Kyser telling us that it's all pretend. It is so light weight that it threatens to float into nothingness.
Stranger on the Third Floor (1940)
get out quick
Michael Ward (John McGuire) gets a big raise for writing a big newspaper article against Joe Briggs (Elisha Cook Jr.) in his murder trial. Joe insists on his innocence but gets convicted solely on Michael's testimony. Michael starts having second thoughts. A stranger (Peter Lorre) breaks into his room. When his hated neighbor gets killed, Michael suspects the stranger and becomes concerned that he could be railroaded like Joe. His girlfriend Jane may be the only one on his side. She goes searching for the stranger with only a vague description.
I like the first hour or so of this movie. It's an interesting murder mystery premise. The Kafkaesque surrealism is a little confused but I'm willing to go with it. Michael going to the police is problematic. He's being too clueless. Then the movie goes into a quick wrap-up mode and ends quickly a few minutes after an hour. Did they run out of film? Lorre never explains what happened. It's all wrapped up with a giant fake bow. This has some intriguing neo-noir aspects despite a rather bland lead couple. Lorre makes up for any flaws with his weirdness. I just don't know about the truncated third act.
Dont Look Back (1967)
Filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker chronicles Bob Dylan's 1965 concert tour in England. His music is before my time. Sure, The Times They Are a-Changin' is one catchy tune but I'm no super-fan. I appreciate his music. It starts with his iconic video for "Subterranean Homesick Blues". It doesn't get more groundbreaking than that. It's interesting to hear his words and his thinking. His diatribe against Time Magazine is interesting. His anger there is interesting. Looking for the glass thrower is interesting for the drunk guy. The fan girls are interesting in their ideas about him. Overall, this is a great piece of music culture and it's a small insight into the man. This is a must for his fans and aficionado of that era's music.
Palm Springs Weekend (1963)
beach party in the desert
It's Easter vacation. A busload of college students from Los Angeles is headed to Palm Springs for fun. The boys are chaperoned by coach Fred Campbell. Underaged Jane Hoover (Connie Stevens) falls for rich playboy Eric Dean (Robert Conrad) with a fast car. He gets into a fight with Doug Fortune (Ty Hardin) as they compete for Jane who is using the fake identity of Gail Lewis. Bunny Dixon (Stefanie Powers) is tired of her overprotective Palm Springs police chief father.
This is basically a beach party movie taking place at poolside. They dress like the 50's away from the pool. It's mostly harmless. The humor has no edge. It's a bunch white people doing the twist while pretending to be hip. There is a good fist-a-cuff in the middle. It could have been the start of a good rivalry with some thugs but they seem to go away just as quickly. Instead, the melodrama gets concentrated on Eric but he turns pathetic. The movie needs a simpler villain. Overall, there are some fun and some drama but non of it is that good.
Banana Split (2018)
High school sweethearts April (Hannah Marks) and Nick (Dylan Sprouse) start fighting and split up. It's the summer before she moves on to college. She's horrified when Nick starts dating someone else. She is further shocked to like his new girlfriend Clara (Liana Liberato). The two girls begin a friendship without telling Nick.
This is a love story. It's a love story between the two girls. That's probably why Nick seems more of a side character. Quite frankly, Ben is even more expendable. He's fine as a comedic sidekick to advance the plot but he's not worthwhile to do a love triangle. I would like for Clara to expand her character. She does the numbers move which is a fun bit from years of rom-com. She could do something with her family. I like April's family. This is written by lead actress Hannah Marks and Joey Power. It seems like they wanted to concentrate on the female relationship. It would be great if they committed more fully in that endeavor. I want something deeper and these young actresses could have delivered it.
Rock Rock Rock! (1956)
Dori (Tuesday Weld) wonders when boyfriend Tommy will ask her to the prom. Her singing is dubbed by Connie Francis. Gloria is wearing a strapless dress to the dance and keeps coming between her and Tommy. To keep up with Gloria, she feels the need to buy a new dress for the dance but she needs $30. This rock and roll movie includes performances from Chuck Berry and others.
It's a meaningless little rock and roll movie. The story holds little substance and serves only to wrap around the music performances. It does have a very young Tuesday Weld and some good music. It's a cute little time capsule from that era. Chuck Berry is electric doing his walk and playing "You Can't Catch Me". I've never heard of most of these other music groups. The cinematography can be best described as early TV filming. This is a movie for ears more than the eyes.
Hotel Berlin (1945)
Berlin is being bombed as the war approaches. In the Hotel Berlin, the Gestapo is searching for underground leader Martin Richter. Other Nazis are planning to escape to America. The hotel is a hot bed of Nazis, military, refugees, celebrities, and everyday Germans trying to survive as they wait for the inevitable defeat.
This is trying to imagine Berlin as Casablanca. It's a misreading of the situation which they wouldn't understand back in the day. They know the facts of the extermination but they don't have the sense of it yet. It's also a bit messy in terms of the story. It's unlikely that the German underground has that many survivors by that point. There is a high-minded discussion of morality. All in all, it cannot be great because it doesn't understand the Germany on the ground.
A baseball smashes the front window at Louie's Sweet Shop. It's the neighborhood kids. The adults decide to call up the Gravesend residence for permission to let the kids play baseball in their lot. Slip and Sach travel up to the mansion but they don't realize that the family is disturbed and the house is full of monsters.
This is trying to be Abbott and Costello. I don't hate it but I prefer to have Abbott and Costello. Costello is a comedic genius. These guys are a step below. This is still good clean fun if not necessarily original.
I'll Never Crow Again (1941)
A crow harasses Olive Oyl and she calls Popeye for help. Soon, Popeye is battling a murder of crows as they ravage Olive's garden. It's a simple premise. I'm glad that the crows don't turn into racist stereotypes. It has a very weird twist ending to up-end expectations. I'm not automatically against it but it's expecting a lot from a cartoon audience. This is still a short for kids.
color and empty
The opening song is horribly ill-fitting for Rio. Non of the music feels Brazilian. It's in Technicolor and that is the most impressive part of this Traveltalks short. It's great to see such an old film in color documenting a wonderful city of the world. There are surprisingly few people in the streets. Is this Sunday morning with everybody at church? They don't even film a passing scene with Christ the Redeemer which was finished a few years before this. It's interesting to see Rio in another light but this short makes Rio look like a sleepy provincial town.