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Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans The Wind
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Queen Christina The Bitter Tea Of General Yen Gold Diggers of 1933 Top Hat Bride Of Frankenstein Captain Blood Fury Swing Time Young and Innocent A Star Is Born Wuthering Heights Bachelor Mother
Rebecca All This, And Heaven Too The Shop Around The Corner The Little Foxes Sullivan's Travels King's Row Casablanca The Ox-Bow Incident Brief Encounter The Seventh Veil The Wicked Lady Madonna Of The Seven Moons I Know Where I'm Going! A Matter Of Life And Death Notorious La Belle et La Bete The Best Years Of Our Lives The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers The Ghost and Mrs Muir Out Of The Past Odd Man Out Portrait Of Jennie The Red Shoes Saraband For Dead Lovers The Snake Pit Letter From An Unknown Woman The Pirate The Reckless Moment The Heiress Kind Hearts And Coronets
Sunset Boulevard Gun Crazy Madeleine In A Lonely Place On Dangerous Ground From Here To Eternity Lili On The Waterfront A Star Is Born East Of Eden Rebel Without A Cause The Searchers Written On The Wind A Face In The Crowd The Long, Hot Summer Gigi The Tarnished Angels
The Apartment Marnie Bonnie And Clyde
Ordinary People Stand By Me The Princess Bride Dangerous Liasons When Harry Met Sally The Breakfast Club Some Kind Of Wonderful
The Lion King What's Eating Gilbert Grape? Before Sunrise The English Patient The Talented Mr Ripley Edward Scissorhands Ed Wood
The Painted Veil Cold Mountain The Lives Of Others Atonement
Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
All kinds of wonderful
Is this John Hughes' best production? Well it has to come pretty close to the amazing "The Breakfast Club", anyway. The film is pretty much "Pretty In Pink" in reverse, but so much better. For one thing, we don't have Andrew McCarthy. And the ones we want to end up together, the ones who should end up together, do! Mary Stuart Masterson is wonderful as tomboy Watts, and she and Eric Stolz have great chemistry. And Samantha Jones, the goddess Samantha Jones (played by Lea Thompson) is actually a likable gal too. Not the one for our hero Keith, but Hughes doesn't paint her as a bitch. The bratpacker movie without the bratpack, this is a keeper.
On the Beach (1959)
The end of the world as we know it...and the film result is sublime
Excellent movie with a great concept: the residents of eastern Australia must wait out for an impending nuclear cloud that has claimed the rest of the world. They know they will die, its only a matter of when. A depressing concept, yes, but a great one. One of the better examinations of coming to terms with death that I have seen on screen. I'm not a huge Stanley Kramer fan at all but I liked this film in spite of him (and the terrible overuse of "Waltzing Matilda", an Australian standard), mainly because of the exceptional acting. Ava Gardner is such an underrated actress. She infuses warmth, vulnerability, humour and weariness in her role as the woman who a grieving Gregory Peck falls for.They have electric chemistry. We also have Anthony Perkins considering suicide-- a very touchy issue for the time-- and Fred Astaire in a non-dancing role (and he does it very well). The final clinch between Gardner and Peck has to be one of the best ever.
Kings Go Forth (1958)
Why the negative comments? This is a wonderful little film
This film certainly deserves more attention. One of Frank Sinatra's best performances, and certainly very good performances from Tony Curtis and Natalie Wod too. I have heard it flopped considerably in it's day. I guess it's because the original novel (which I haven't read, but which I have heard about) was censored for the screen, or made "happier" (though there's still a fair share of dark moments). Sinatra and Curtis are the American soldiers who both fall for the beautiful French girl Wood (trying an accent on for size), who is also half African-American. Sinatra loves her dearly, but Wood falls for the charming Curtis, with bad results. The film works well as character study of shy, introvert Sinatra and cocky extrovert Curtis. Leora Dana is truly excellent as Wood's mother. While Elmer Bernstein's score tends to overstate the cause at times, this is an involving drama. Unfortunately the war scenes aren't as interesting as the human drama.
Broken Arrow (1950)
One of the best of the 1950's
One of the best westerns of the 50's, "Broken Arrow", directed by the always efficient Delmer Daves, is groundbreaking in it's treatment of Native Americans. Here we are shown the Apache chief, Cochise (Jeff Chandler, excellent), with respect, being portrayed with intelligence and heart. James Stewart gives one of his best performances as Tom Jeffords, the white man who is willing to, and comes to, understand the Apache's way of life. "Broken Arrow" is also a great romance, with the beautiful Debra Paget as the Native American girl falling in love with Stewart, and vice versa. Paget does look very young next to Stewart, as has been mentioned, but their acting makes it touching and believable (and tragic when the end comes). I was swept away into the world of this film very easily-- and I was helped by the arresting colour photography by Ernest Palmer and Hugo Friedhofer's score. Who said Westerns were all shoot'em'up? This one is moving, thoughtful, challenging and yet still entertaining in the grand sense of the Western genre.
Waterloo Road (1945)
Watch for Jean Kent in a two-minute bit
This is basically a morality play about the struggle some English women had to have with temptation on the homefront in WW2. But it is well-directed by Sidney Gilliat, and well-acted. It tells a simple story in soldier John Mills playing "hooky" in order to see his wife, who is contemplating being unfaithful with a local louse, Stewart Granger (who is support to Mills, yet steals the show). Great English character actor Alistair Sim is also in the mix as a wise doctor. It's only short, but it tends to drag in a few places. Although Mills is constantly on the move (it's quite a physical performance from him), it's just a bit slow with the one-idea story. Granger is perfect as the lothario who wants to seduce Mills' wife, and Jean Kent gets an all-too-short appearance as a sexy, snappy hairdresser that has been jilted by him. Only a two minute bit, but she's so memorable you are left wanting more.
In the late 1940's, boxing movies almost became a sub-genre in themself. Mark Robson's "Champion" completes a trio of very fine fight films in this period, "Body And Soul" and "The Set Up". While films about boxing all tend to run along the same line (poor guy rises up and is made good through his talent, but glory and fame spoil his character), these three are set apart, and made especially good, by the direction and the acting. "Champion" boasts an electrifying lead performance from Kirk Douglas, who got his first Oscar nomination here. Seemingly no-one was better than Douglas at playing a real bastard; here he oozes charisma but is so despicable that he actually makes you root against the champion! Boxing is perfect for noir, with the grittiness, violence, big dreams and corruption all playing a part in the protagonist's downfall. Robson provides very solid direction, and the black-and-white photography by Frank Planer enhances the atmosphere. Nice to see Arthur Kennedy in a sympathetic role as Douglas' disabled brother, who shyly loves Douglas' sham wife (Ruth Roman). An exciting, compulsively watchable film.
Douglas Sirk's excellent war drama is unfortunately not as well-known as his luridly coloured 50's melodramas "Written On The Wind, "All That Heaven Allows" etc. That's too bad, because it deserves to be, and is one of the best films of it's type. It tells a harrowing, yet hopeful story. The German Army is crumbling in 1944, when war weary John Gavin (suprisingly good) is granted furlough. Hope comes to him through falling in love with a charming girl, Lilo Pulver, whom he kisses by the emerging blossoms next to the river. They marry, and enjoy whatever happiness they can. They revel in it, as you you do, but a gloom hangs over the film. This is also represented by the colour scheme employed by Sirk. Instead of the bright 'Scope of WOTW or ATHA here we have slate greys and smoky blues. His use of mis en scene here is also kind of remarkable, with the grotesque German officer who Gavin visits having what seem to be hundreds of dead trophy animals adorning his walls. Memento's of the dead, perhaps? Remarque wrote the novel, and also appears in the film. Challenging, moving and heartbreaking, with an ending that shocks and angers, yet is also justified.
St. Elmo's Fire (1985)
The characters were unlikeable, but I still liked this movie
Director Joel Schumacher assembled much of the key members of the 80's "Brat Pack" for this comedy-drama about University graduate friends struggling to deal with life in the "real world". Great concept, fun film, yet only a couple of the characters are actually likable. The rest all rub you up the wrong way. Emilio Estevez's character for example. He basically stalks Andie MacDowell for the whole film, and that's it. Rob Lowe is pretty much a loser who has to rely on his friends for starts in jobs, and treats the girl who silently loves him like crap. Judd Nelson, a career climber, professes love of his girl Ally Sheedy (gorgeous and actually likable), yet cheats on her with random girls. Demi Moore's party girl Jules (what happened to Moore's career after this? She could actually act and had screen presence??) and Sheedy's character are the only really identifiable characters. Maybe, maybe Andrew Carthy too-- if only I could look at him without thinking "Why the hell did Molly get with HIM at the end of "Pretty In Pink"?".
The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
Another American hero brought to you by Cooper
Producer Sam Goldwyn pulls out all the stops here- big emotional moments, sentiment, rousing, well-worked American tunes--yet somehow it all still works in this biopic of famed baseball player Lou Gehrig. It works in large part due to the sincerity of Gary Cooper, who was perfect for these boyishly charming characters. Having Sam Wood on board as director is an equally great asset, with Wood doing well in a couple of other child-to-adulthood period productions, "Kitty Foyle" and "King's Row". He knew how to strike your heart with a big scene, but not to beat you over the head with it. A number of other Goldwyn players were used in this film, Dan Duryea, Walter Brennan and Teresa Wright. All add good things with their performances. I like this film as I'm a sucker for a heart-warming, yet sad story told well.
In Old Chicago (1938)
Good early disaster movie
Along with "San Francisco" this is one of the first Hollywood "disaster" movies, establishing the genre where we get drawn into the characters lives for the first half-to three quarters of the film, and then watch the place explode/sink/burn in the final quarter. This Fox relic is actually pretty good, because it doesn't run too long, and director Henry King handles the personal drama as well as he does the Chicago Fire of 1871. Tyrone Power and Don Ameche are unlikely as Irish brothers, but are pleasant all the same as the likable rogue of the O'Leary clan (Power) and the idealist (Ameche). Power, along with his sweetheart showgirl Alice Faye, is making a monza from his saloon in the rough area of Chicago, but mayor Ameche wants it cleaned up. Cue human drama and political conflict, as well as romantic complications, as the smooth Power is willing to use Faye to his advantage in getting a better deal for himself. Faye was made a big star by this film but I don't really understand her appeal. She's not very attractive and her singing voice sounds strange. Alice Brady won Best Supporting Actress as Ma O'Leary and she's good, but the part isn't exactly challenging. Fox costume films never looked quite as sumptuous as MGM productions did in this period, due to budget constraints, but this one does a good job in capturing the feel of the era, even if most of the story is complete fiction
All I Desire (1953)
Sirk and Stanwyck make this melodrama superior
This early Sirk melodrama, shot in black and white, is a minor film, yet showcases the flair of the German director in enhancing tired story lines into something resembling art. Set in the 1910's, Barbara Stanwyck is the woman who has sinned by abandoning her small-town husband and family for the lure of the Chicago stage. She never fulfilled her ambitions, and is drawn back to the town she left by an eager letter from her daughter informing her that she too has taken a liking to the theatre (a high school production, that is). Back in her old town she once again comes up against small-mindedness, and has to deal with her hostile eldest daughter, bewildered (and boring) husband (Richard Carlson) and ex-lover. The plot is nothing new but Sirk sets himself apart by creating meaningful compositions, with every frame carefully shot, and he is aided immeasurably by having Stanwyck as his leading lady. It runs a crisp 76 minutes, and that's just as well, because the material doesn't really have the legs to go any further.
Magnificent Obsession (1954)
For the love of Sirk
The first of the run of lush Cinemascope dramas Sirk did for Universal is this re-make of the 1935 Stahl film, with Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman this time in the leading roles. Hudson is the selfish, rich layabout who discovers a "new way of living" only after he indirectly causes both the death of Wymna's husband and her blindness. And they proceed to fall in love! Only in Hollywood, I guess, but this crazy plot is miraculously made touching and real by Sirk, who films it in glorious colour compositions. The constant Sirk theme of the dissatisfied, idle rich is portrayed well by Hudson, whose movie-star hunk image is the perfect facade for Sirk to tear down in showing the initial emptiness of Bob Merrick's life. He and Wyman would do better work in "All That Heaven Allows" a year later, but this may be the better test of whether or not you "get" Sirk. If you can look past the outlandish plot, no, actually look inside it and find depth, you'll know you like Sirk.
The Tarnished Angels (1957)
Such an underrated film
While most critics rate "All That Heaven Allows" and "Written On The Wind" as Sirk's best, I found myself most drawn to this film, and I can't wait to see it again. Sirk filmed this drama in black and white Cinemascope as he couldn't get backing for his trademark lush colour as Universal bosses hated the original source material, William Faulkner's novel "Pylon". Black and white 'Scope actually benefits "Tarnished Angels" because it captures the bleakness of both the 30's setting (although the costumes are all 50's) and the character's circumstances. And, as all film noir fans know, an emotionally charged night scene always looks best in shadowy black and white. I found this film the most thematically interesting of all Sirk's, and the characters the most captivating. Dorothy Malone is even better here than in "Written On The Wind", as the ignored wife of Robert Stack's flier, who is king of the skies yet seemingly emotionally barren when he hits the earth. The Shuman's might be one of the most tragic couples in movie history, both desperately in love with each other at cross purposes. Rock Hudson gives perhaps his best performance as alcoholic reporter Devlin, who forges a connection with the sad Malone borne out of mutual loneliness. The direction by Sirk is terrific and he makes the flying scenes thrilling and the emotional scenes breathtaking.
Imitation of Life (1959)
Sirk and producer Ross Hunter chose another 30's Universal property to re-make with "Imitation of Life" and they struck gold here again. This is cream of the crop melodrama, beautifully made and emotional. This is probably Lana Turner's best performance because she is such a perfect fit for her character, who is constantly acting, blind to her own emotional needs and those around her. And of course Juanita Moore and Susan Koehner are excellent in the crux of the story, the loving black mother, housekeeper for Turner, whose more light-skinned daughter chooses to try to pass for white. Sirk is not judgmental on Koehner's rejection of her mother because we are shown just how bad the treatment of African-Americans was. The Cinemascope used here is positively breathtaking.
Samson and Delilah (2009)
Lacking a connection
I was left slightly disappointed by this Australian drama that has got rave reviews, and a Camera D'Or from Cannes Film Festival. I can't deny that it's much better than the average crop of Australian cinema, but I felt director Warrick Thornton's willingness to take a measured approach towards conveying the hardships of young Indigenous Australians also makes the viewer emotionally distant towards his characters, and story. I just felt that I could never really connect with Samson and Delilah, and the love they are supposed to share. The two actors in the roles are good though, especially as they had no acting experience previously. The cinematography is wonderful, with many breathtaking images. But I just couldn't connect.
American Madness (1932)
Oh, spare me another miracle!
Capra didn't really change much between films, did he? With the exception of "The Bitter Tea Of General Yen" and "It Happened One Night" almost all his films are brutally flawed by his simplistic, idealistic need to make social commentary on big business and corrupted morals. I have no problems with making a statement about the fat cats of the world, but hearing "Come and see...something extraordinary has happened!" at the end of every Capra film where the idealistic hero is saved from ruin makes me cringe. "American Madness" is an early pre-cursor to "It's A Wonderful Life", with Walter Huston the good guy bank manager who gives out loans based on his faith in people's character. Of course his board of directors don't like that. So Huston has to deal with that and a robbery and subsequent bank run. A rather boring sub-plot has him have to deal with his dissatisfied wife as well (Kay Johnson). Huston is excellent, Pat O'Brien (as the ex-con suspected of robbing the bank) quite good, and both save a lot of the preachy moments of the film but the supporting cast are very average. As with most Capra films, save "Yen", it's visually unappealing. There's not even that much Pre-Code naughtiness to get things to fire!
Marilyn Vs The Falls. Of course, The Falls lose out!
The beautiful plunging Niagara falls take second billing to the sexy figure of Marilyn Monroe, in this moody colour noir drama. Marilyn is Rose Loomis, the buxom wife of neurotic Joseph Cotten, who schemes with her lover to kill him. The early scenes in this film are remarkable in their sensuality and tension, with poor old Joe about to boil over in his motel room with a naked Marilyn between the sheets! Jean Peters plays one-half of a honeymooning couple who befriend the pair, with bad results. Peters also looks gorgeous and shows off her best assets in this beautifully filmed Technicolour noir. Marriage isn't shown in a very good light in this film, with the honeymoon facade stripped bare. Even by 1950's standards, Peters' husband is a total w'nker! Very interesting themes here. Pity that the film shifts tones abruptly to chase thriller in the second half, with the hunt for the killer less interesting than the slow-burn early scenes.
21 Days (1940)
Larry and Viv, it wasn't THAT bad...
Made in 1938 but shelved until 1940 when the two stars were captivating the world as Scarlett O'Hara and Heathcliff (Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, of course!) this is a very slight little film that is typical of the low-budget stuff producer Alexander Korda was churning out in Britain throughout the 1930's. Modest, inoffensive, rather stiffly acted and implausibly scripted, "21 Days" is decent enough entertainment and I guess a "must-see" if you are fans of the Oliviers. Larry plays Larry, the ne'er do well brother of an aspiring judge (Leslie Banks) who accidentally kills his girlfriend's (Vivien Leigh) husband. Olivier still wasn't that comfortable with the film medium and you can see it here, while Leigh doesn't have much to do except look very pretty and act concerned. Leigh and Olivier famously caught a US screening of this in 1940 and left halfway through and got roaring drunk because they thought it was that bad! Hmm, while it's often cited as the worst film Leigh was in, I prefer it a lot to the con-fuddled mess that is "Dark Journey".
Interesting look at Rommel
James Mason is Rommel, the famed Desert Fox of the German Army who commanded respect from his Allied enemies for his skill as a general in Africa in WW2. He also came to despise Hitler, which is why this film from Fox studios shows him in a more sympathetic light than most Nazi figures being portrayed on the screen back then. This is sort of a forerunner to the sympathetic Nazi figure portrayed by Marlon Brando in the excellent "The Young Lions" (1958) Director Henry Hathaway handles the action well, with the story a solid one taken from a novel about Rommel. Mason gives authority and humanity to his role, and the supporting cast is uniformly good.
The Young Lions (1958)
Entertaining, rewarding big WW2 epic starring Marlon Brando as a somewhat sympathetic Nazi. Before the war Christian Diestl (Brando) was a lower class young German who believed that Hitler's party would dissolve Germany's rigid class system. We follow Diestl throughout the war, where he begins to question everything he may have believed in. The German soldiers are juxtaposed with the American, represented by Dean Martin, the self-confessed coward who does not want to fight, and Montgomery Clift, the poor Jewish boy who is forced to fight against prejudice from his own side. I really liked this film- it challenged me and Dymtryk handles the drama well. Brando is fascinating as always as Diestl, but Clift is slightly off as Noah Ackerman (and he really does look in physical pain in some scenes, a result from his accident). Unfortunately Dean Martin didn't seem to get a strong enough story arc for his character. Maximillian Schell and the women, Barbara Rush and Hope Lange, are excellent. I was disappointed that Brando did not meet again with Rush (who he shares the first scene with) later in the picture. It's adapted from a novel, so it clearly wasn't written that way, but it would have been excellent if they could have, I felt that was going somewhere.
Somewhere in Time (1980)
Charming romantic fantasy that taps into the "Portrait of Jennie" theme of time travel, love found and lost very well for the most part. However, it tries to be a bit too epic in its love story towards the end and it all feels a little bit exaggerated. The leads (Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour) look gorgeous together even if they don't really have that much chemistry. The musical score is nice, as are the visuals, and overall it's a fine way to spend a cruisy Saturday afternoon on the couch, but it's not really the great romantic classic it hopes to be. Recommended viewing for fans of fantasy romances like myself.
The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
Absolutely wonderful! I had avoided seeing this up until now because, I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of Woody Allen. I just find his films about neurotic New Yorkers whinging about life so damn annoying. Get out of the city and deal with it, people. There is a world outside, you know. But I digress...I loved this film because it was sparkling and imaginative and very clever. I knew as soon as the opening credits rolled and Fred Astaire is singing "Cheek to Cheek" that I would love it. It's a film that celebrates the cinema, and how illusion is sometimes better then reality. Mia Farrow's character could have indeed been written about my relationship with film.
Sixteen Candles (1984)
Sweet film about turning 16
Back to 80's teen movies again! While this pre-cursor to the classic "The Breakfast Club" isn't quite as good, director John Hughes hits the mark again in giving us a fun microcosm of high school life, with punchy dialogue. Sweet redhead Molly Ringwald has just turned sweet 16, but her family has been busy with her vacuous older sister's wedding. Samantha's birthday really sucks, but the guy of her dreams Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling) may have noticed her after all. A relative to 90's teen gross-out comedies such as "American Pie", John Hughes' comedies are better because he doesn't rely on gratuitous nudity to get laughs. However, there is something very off-putting about Jake practically inviting Farmer Ted (Anthony Michael Hall, who played the geek so well) to sexually assault his girlfriend. And the laughs with the (now) obligatory minor Asian character get tired after a while. Watch out for John and Joan Cusack in bit roles.
Pretty in Pink (1986)
Why the heck choose Andrew McCarthy?
John Hughes wrote and produced the follow-up to his great "The Breakfast Club", and while it again doesn't hit the mark as the middle film, it's still another entertaining 80's teen romantic comedy. Hughes muse Molly Ringwald is Andie a girl from the wrong side of the tracks with an eccentric fashion sense who falls for a rich guy, Andrew McCarthy. The trials and tribulations of high school life, dating etc are played out in the well-paced 90 minute running time. I find these films fascinating because while I can relate to many of the characters and adolescent situations (who can't!) my high school life was very different from what seems to be the American experience. Maybe it's because my high school only had 350 people, but we never had the cliques. In Australia we don't have the proms (perhaps that is a good thing), the cheer squad, the jocks parading around the school in their football jumpers. It's much less socially demanding.
Big question for John Hughes though: why the hell make Ringwald end up with McCarthy? Oh I get that McCarthy was a huge teen heartthrob back in the 80's (he doesn't do anything for me though, yuck) but his character is so lame. Duckie (Jon Cryer) may be borderline obsessive about Andie, but he's much more winning than Blane. is in there too as Steff, the high school rich guy who treats everyone like crap, but is also possibly in love with Ringwald. Come to think, Steff should have got with Andie. 7
The Way to the Stars (1945)
Excellent war film with much heart
Excellent wartime film, designed as propaganda, but so well-made that it's a lasting British classic. John Mills and Michael Redgrave star as the fliers who become firm friends. We are let into their lives and loves and it's a warm film that feels genuine. Like the trial scene in Powell & Pressburger's magical "A Matter Of Life And Death" director Anthony Asquith also has something to stay about British-American relations during WW2, finding humour in the differences yet also heart. Mills may slip under people's radar because he's always so quiet and efficient, Redgrave is magnetic on screen. Very well edited and shot, it's one you must check out.