Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Crying Game

The Crying Game I think is a film that actually was technically a bit mistreated by the way it was originally touted solely around the twist. The reason being it's not really a thriller, yes there are elements of one, but the twist isn't really suppose to be this "No Way!" moment. The twist is a very important part of the story, but of the film it work much more in an emotional rather than plot sort of fashion. I just have always found the way the film has been built up a little strange. The film really is a character study of this man who happens to get involved with violent people but is a decent man at heart. The examination of the man discovering this about himself is definitely quite interesting, and now I'm starting to feel that I've never given the film enough credit. It works definitely as an emotional story of self-discovery as well as an examination of a shifting perspective. 

A Song to Remember

A Song to Remember tells the story of Fredric Chopin. This film is quite simply a bore. Now this is not a case where the material just is not there. There is. As with too many films about composers it ignores the creative process, Chopin evidently just composes when we are not looking here. It should have a great score but somehow it wastes the music in such bizarre fashion. Then even in his personal life there should be something interesting with his relationship with Georges Sand, but its so poorly developed they make her seem just like a villain. The performances are almost understandably bland, given the material, and oddly enough Paul Muni is the most successful performer because he hams it up a bit. It's such a lifeless film that it seems like it actively sucks out the soul of something that should be inherently spirited.

The Bad and the Beautiful

The Bad and the Beautiful attempts to give an insider Hollywood story through its depiction of three stories associated with a film producer. This is a film that suffers with its structure as each story seems like it is cut off just when it might be getting interesting. This really causes on whiplash for our lead character who goes from likable to unlikable in a matter of seconds in order to stop short the story in its tracks. Then really the third story seems only tacitly involved with the rest of the proceedings. The stories don't build to a final satisfying conclusion. It's never really a bad film but it's one that feels as though it just never takes off. It probably would have been far more interesting without the flashback structure and we stuck with the producer throughout the whole film to create a natural progression.

Moby Dick (1956)

Moby Dick is somewhat curious film as John Huston takes a very stylistic approach to the material. In that he barely adapts the dialogue from the book, and equally keeps sequences with an otherworldly feel to them. That's not the wrong approach considering the often symbolic and poetic nature of the material. There is one sinking flaw in all of this is Gregory Peck's performance as Ahab that struggles with the dialogue and fails to make Ahab feel that force of nature he needs to be. It's a gaping hole that hurts the whole film as he just seems ill at ease, now the rest of the cast is more or less decent, but Ahab's the pivotal character. However even with that problem there are striking visual sequences, I love the shot of the darkness in the doorway to Ahab's cabin, and the final climax is still rather powerful even with Peck.

Friday, February 26, 2016


Spellbound is basically a typical run man on the run Hitchcock thriller, but rather than unearthing some vast conspiracy the wrong man is just trying to find what's wrong with him psychologically speaking. Gregory Peck is the wrong man and is downright terrible. Ingrid Bergman to her credit does her best to try to make up for things as his running partner. The film lacks any sort of memorable sequence you'd expect from Hitchcock, even the Salvador Dali dream sequence is misused since we don't experience as a dream. Too much of the film are base conversations centered around Freud's theories. It's extremely messy as it fails to intertwine this well at all with the thriller element. It's a very messy film because of that. It's not terrible thanks to Bergman, a scene stealing Michael Chekov and the fact that Hitchcock can still make some memorable images out of some lame material.

Cleopatra (1963)

Cleopatra seems like the very definition of Hollywood bloat. It's a curious film that even where it should succeed, the spectacle, it also falters. There is no sequence that can be named in the film that makes you sit in awe. There are obviously expensive looking things with the costumes and some of the sets, but that's just it, they look expensive but that does not mean good. Everything looks overblown and overproduced actually. Past the production there's not much to be appreciated with the bland or over played performances almost throughout. Roddy McDowall is the only guy who seems to be trying to create anything remotely interesting with his work. Every else either seems as stiff as the armor they wear, or embrace the melodrama in the worst sort of fashion. It's a downright lousy film that earned is infamy.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The Return Of The King again in terms of technical achievement once again cannot be faltered. This film perhaps has the most notable flaw in John Noble's hammy performance as the simplified Denethor. There is no reason Denethor needed to be simplified to just being an aggressive obnoxious and one dimensional villain. There was a great story for that character of a man being destroyed by sorrow, but the film and Noble do not capture it unfortunately. It's just such a shame since if he had been given the proper justice I think Denethor could have been a highlight of the series. The other qualm, less severe, are the ghosts. They are actually quite effectively realized, particularly in their introduction, but they are made too much to be a deus ex machina. Getting that all out of the way this is an outstanding film which more than makes up for the aforementioned weakness with how amazing the highpoints of the film are. The other two films built to each character arc and this film does not waste a single one. The power of so many moments is incredible as the film makes use of what came before in such a tremendous fashion. These scenes are truly awe inspiring whether they are the bigger moments, such as Théoden rallying of the troops for one last charge, the moment where Aragorn kneels to the hobbits, or of course any scene where Sam steps up to be the true hero. The film has so many beautiful and thrilling moments throughout, such as when Gandalf comforts Pippin during a battle, or perhaps Aragorn simple battle cry "for Frodo". It's astonishing spectacle, but never loses the human element, even without humans, making itself the crowning achievement to the greatest film trilogy of all time.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Everything which was worth mentioning in praise of Fellowship can once again be noted. This though features the addition of Gollum of course, which is a remarkable achievement in not only making it a believable effect but also making such a character work as well as he does. Nothing falters in its sequel as each of the old characters continue their development well while the additional character of Gollum, and the underrated Kind Théoden, add nicely to the story. The story still moves along so well, and the Helms Deep centerpiece is fantastic sequence to be sure. As with all the films I am not without a few qualms here mainly in the character of Faramir who feels a bit too much like a repetitive roadblock for Frodo and Sam (which was not the case in the novel). Once again though the sheer strength of the good completely outweighs the, well not really bad just not great. Again a great film that brings such substance and power to its fantastical story.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Fellowship Of The Ring being the first evidently deserves the most credit in bringing the fantasy of Lord of the Rings to life. In terms of its visual realization of the world the film cannot be faulted through its brilliant use of locations, sets, props and costumes you really do feel this a completely new yet lived in world. The technical achievements continue with its beautiful, now iconic I'd say, as well as the often stunning visual effects, some quite marvelous in terms of their practical forced perspective in order to create the various sizes of the characters. The storytelling also deserved such credit particularly that opening sequence which gets so much exposition out of the way in a wholly compelling fashion. The characters are well acted and drawn with many of them finding their development within the forward momentum the story. I always feel special mention particularly goes to Sean Bean's Boromir who I think ends up feeling far more complex than he was in the novel. The action set pieces are each fantastic yet it never loses the emotions behind any of it. I would not say this is a flawless film, the fact that Merry is just comic relief #2 always bugged me bit, but nevertheless it's a great cinematic achievement.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Avatar's story is the standard Dances with Wolves plot line yet rife with some unneeded complications involving its setup. It's acting is either bland or way over the top which go along with the bland or over the top characters. This should leave the all important part of the film which should be the visuals. The film though is actually oddly ugly, that cinematography win might the worst in the category, and the environment really never feels particularly imaginative. The film doesn't succeed in even what seemed to be its point, and for me that makes it an utter failure.

Modern Times

Modern Times is an example of what seems like pure cinema. The story is simple enough as a man and a woman try and fail to find some sort of success. That seems like nothing but it is more than enough to create such a fascinating series sequences that depict this attempt. Chaplin was brilliant performer and a great director with this being an exceptional example of both of these strengths. He underlies it with a subtext of the mechanization of society as a message you understand, and feel the power but he never allows it to override the film. He equally makes it a hilarious comedy, a splendid love story, just a marvelous film. The music and every image make for an experience that is truly wonderful.

Friday, February 12, 2016

It Happened One Night

It Happened One Night is cinematic bliss to be sure. It's story is simply marvelous as its just about the two of them making their way across country while getting into various hi-jinks and falling in love. You don't need any more than that since Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert have fantastic chemistry. They are hilarious together and the romantic element works so well while the film does not even need to focus upon. Every situation they run into works and its just a joy to watch the two interact. What many It Happened One Night pretenders forget is the ending. It Happened One Night does not waste the time with drawing out the third act separation, they get over the problem in a quick and easy way that feels so fitting to the rest of the film.

The Thin Man

The Thin Man is what started it all for Nick and Nora Charles who are brought so wonderfully to life by William Powell and Myrna Loy. There chemistry is worthy of legend as they play off each other so brilliantly as they found so much humor out of the couple yet the affection between the two of them was always just notable. One could watch the two of them just warmly bicker all day, they are just that good at it. Now this film as The Thin Man films go, from what I've seen anyway, has a more compelling mystery than most of them. There is a more palatable atmosphere in the investigation scenes and there is a stronger feeling that Nick is actually in danger unlike in the later film. It combines the dramatic tone of the murder flawlessly with Nick and Nora's entertaining interactions, which was not the case with the sequels.

Come and Get It

Come and Get It as a book was apparently a sprawling epic, the film evidently pared this down to just one man Barney who makes binding life decisions for the sake of success rather than love. The film I won't say is not without problems. The fact that the film was directed by two separate directors is noticeable as some seems have a more personal almost screwball style fitting of Howard Hawks, while others seem to be going for the style of a grander epic a la William Wyler. Now for the film's sake both seem to have been on point as it works whether it seems in the style of one or the other. It is perhaps most held together by Edward Arnold's leading performance which carries the whole personal journey on his back, and he always keeps the story clear in his concise and rather powerful portrayal of Barney's dilemma.

Titanic (1997)

Titanic the film made a purposeful old fashioned romance film by James Cameron, to the point that he basically forced Leonardo DiCaprio be as straight forward as possible in playing a guy who's just so dreamy. Now I take exception with the defense that is often given to the film in that its attempting to be the old fashioned romance film. Now I will give it this Winslet and DiCaprio have the chemistry, but as some one who has watched romance films from the 30's, 40's and 50's, they were not so stinking corny, the good ones anyways. The villains of those films also, if they existed, were not as ridiculous and over the top as what Billy Zane does this his performance. The film is made melodramatic to the max, in a way that was not the case for the films of the past. Now the rest of the film is sprinkled with some very thin caricatures and the scenes are about as one the nose one can imagine. The stuffy stuffed rich people are all pompous at the dinner people, while the poor are free wheeling and having a great time on the bottom decks. The film does have some spectacle in the disaster sequences, but I'll admit disaster has never been my favorite genre. Everything is played up to the max with the overbearing score, THAT song, some downright absurd dialogue, you really before I started out these thoughts I thought my feelings towards the film had cooled a bit, well I guess I was wrong.

Shaft (2000)

This Shaft is not a remake but technically really just a sequel to the original films since the original Shaft, played by Richard Roundtree as the original Shaft, is in the film. This film like the original does have tonal problems in this one is unsure if it wants to be about a legitimate crime story or if it just wants Shaft to be a badass action hero type. The film jumbles these elements rather oddly with many elements involving Jeffrey Wright's drug lord seeming to attempt to be a more realistic crime film, while the central thriller elements suggests otherwise. Samuel L. Jackson is more than suitable replacement Shaft as one would expect. Jeffrey Wright is effective enough as one of the villains though he's doing a harder to understand version of Al Pacino in Scarface I believe. Then Christian Bale, who I always forget was in this movie, certainly works as basically a more subtle version of Patrick Bateman, as the other villain. Do the competing sides of the film really come together? No they don't as there is plenty of tonal whiplash to be found throughout. However it works well enough as a badass action hero film, and a more down to earth crime film when it wants to be either.

Shaft (1971)

Shaft offers a memorable theme song and central character though Richard Roundtree's performance can vary from badass to just a bit hammy at times. As a private eye style thriller it does well enough in its best moments though the whole blaxploitation are particularly dated, and not in a good way. To many of these side characters are kind of absurd caricatures in every sense right down to the excessively stylized way they speak. These ideas would later be often parodied to look extremely entertaining but often in the actual films they're kind of stuck between to points. They aren't quite ridiculous enough to be entertaining yet they are not grounded enough to be believed. This film does not fully rely on these elements thankfully and gets along past that enough to make for a more than decent thriller.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Whisperers

The Whisperers synopsis of an old woman hearing voices sound like it might be a horror film in the vein of the Whisperers, but its not. It's actually an even darker story just about a lonely old woman in poverty forced to live alone as he mind only decays over time in her dingy apartment. The woman is very played by Edith Evans and the film is certainly effective in its depiction of the depressing situation. It has sudden shift when the woman's husband comes back, which is interesting in itself though the way it handles it feels a bit disjointed since the husband suddenly becomes the lead for this portion. It's a very well acted and the direction certainly puts forth the stark reality of the situation well. The film unclear focus keeps it from becoming something truly remarkable itself, even though individual elements of the film are.

The Comedians

The Comedians fits right into Peter Glenville's oeuvre as a stage director who really did not transition well as a film director. There's a lack of cinematic life to his film, and any effectiveness purely comes from the performances. That's the case here as it seems like the film wants to be an ensemble piece about the various lives and characters being intertwined with a potential government coup. The problem is most of the characters seems superfluous and the purpose of the film does not even seem to present itself until very late in the game when it focus very specifically on one element. Elizabeth Taylor seems only there because Richard Burton's there. The only people who seem to have a purpose are Burton, because he's the lead, Alec Guinness and James Earl Jones the latter two though really only because they manage to performances that alleviate the material and manage to surpass Glenville's uninspired direction.

Baby Doll

Baby Doll's plot about two rival gin mill owners with one trying to figure out if the other burn down his is extremely thin. It's the very definition of just a set up for the interactions between the characters. In fact even the interactions between the characters is pretty disjointed with everyone being on a different wavelength except Eli Wallach and Carroll Baker. The two of them are great together in their romance is both sweet and somewhat humorous. There really is not much to the film other than when they are together, but the scenes are enough for the film to get by.

Night Moves

Night Moves is a neo-noir that purposefully seems to wish to subvert expectations of the normal noir genre. It's lead Harry seems like a tough guy private eye, well played by Gene Hackman, but really has no idea what to do with his wife's infidelity as well as really has very little control over his situation. The plot's moves along but in an odd way. The kidnapped girl is instantly found for example. As standard the body count piles up yet there is a strange lack of urgency to the proceedings as the film leaves you in a position like Harry, where you do kind of know what's going on yet can't quite what to make of any of it. The plot matters, yet it doesn't in the way is prods along in a most peculiar fashion leaving you only really being able to hold on to the character of Harry. I won't say that it clearly works or it clearly does not either. The whole thing holds a certain fascination, yet it is not consistently compelling in this atypical approach either.

The Parallax View

The Parallax View is a fairly memorable paranoid thriller form the seventies that benefits well from Alan J. Pakula's direction which keeps an ominous quality to every frame. In addition it has one of Warren Beatty's better performance at the center as a reporter trying to figure it all out. The film has some great sequences in there creating the right eeriness to the proceedings as though the whole world is hiding something. The first forty minutes or so are outstanding. Unfortunately though this is one where the more the plot develops the less interesting it becomes. The secrets uncovered a pretty standard, and then it requires Beatty's character to make some stupid decisions when really his guard guard should be at its highest. It in no way ruins the film, but this one simply does not build to something truly special.

Pickup on South Street

Pickup on South Street offers an intriguing film noir plot about a small time thief stumbling into the world of international espionage by chance. The film takes a particularly raw approach to some of the subject matter through its lead character Skip McCoy and Richard Widmark's performance that refuses to compromise his character. The depiction of his amorality is pretty effective as it only lets up in a way that feels believable through the machinations of the plot. Fuller knows how to direct a sequence and creates the grimy atmosphere of the film's story rather well. Also in its favor is a great supporting performance by Thelma Ritter as basically a professional snitch. Her final scene is amazing both in terms of her performance as well as Fuller's direction of it. There are few problems with the film since the other side characters and the villains are pretty forgettable.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Ship of Fools

Ship of Fools has one excellent element the relationship between La Condesa (Simone Signoret) and the doctor played by Oskar Werner. They are both great together and messages involved with their story are used well as subtext rather than simply being controlled by it. The romantic relationship is made believable as both of them find a powerful mix of warmth and sadness in their scenes together. The rest of the film though is preachy melodrama. Not of these relationships seem believable that develop and all feel like manipulation at its very worst. There never feels like an ounce of honesty in any of the other characters who carry their single uninteresting character trait, and this is not helped by the performances that are either bland or over the top. The moment I think I hate the most in the film is when Michael Dunn's Glocken directly addresses the audience at the end. It is extremely indulgent, and when he says the story mean nothing to you, I kind of wanted to curse at the screen.

Judgment at Nuremberg

Judgment at Nuremberg is a film with many excellent qualities. The courtroom sequences are stage brilliantly and Stanley Kramer knows how to get the most out of pretty much every angle in that crowded room. There are such great individual moments within there through the testimonies from the particularly strong performances of Maximilian Schell, Burt Lancaster, Judy Garland and especially Montgomery Clift. The writing, the directing, and the acting all come together in these scenes. Outside of the courtroom the film is decidedly less interesting, and the end result of these scenes seems oddly simplistic. The film much of the time allows one to decide based on the arguments so to speak, that is until the ending which makes its position clear. Now most would have reached this position to begin with I would imagine, so its grand statement at the end seem unneeded, although it could have worked quite well but Kramer once again has to spell the message out in Neon letters.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

All get the good out of the way Tracy is good, Poitier is good and Roy. E Glenn is good. Cecil Kellaway is okay, and Hepburn is fine most of the time. Now for the bad. Once again Stanley Kramer is not one for subtle messages, but this one is odd in that he's usually quite competent as a visual filmmaker, that's not the case here. This film is rather ugly to say the least, maybe colors just weren't Kramer's strong suit, as the whole thing looks ridiculous and sets look almost bizarrely fake. The performances are pretty atrocious out of the ones I mentioned in that they either feel out of a sitcom or are one overwrought note as though they know they are an important message movie. Almost every bit of dialogue is strange. Everyone is making either grand statements or are given rather cartoonish things to say like when Tracy accidentally drives into someone's car. No one speaks like a normal human being here. It's honestly a pretty terrible film, and might be wholly forgotten if not for Tracy's final speech.

Inherit the Wind

The Scopes trial definitely has the material for a great film, the problem we always get the same thing, an adaptation of Inherit the Wind. Inherit the Wind is not a great play. Rather than making us see the viewpoint of skeptic through overcoming the opposition of an educated religious man, the film just makes every religious person an over the top idiot, even the educated Matthew Brady based upon William Jennings Bryan. They are almost one note, save for Brady, but he goes from slightly sympathetic to full blown hammy madness at the drop of the hat. The film tries to have to both ways with Gene Kelly's character being rebuked at the end, but that honestly the moment is not really earned since we really only saw Brady in one light. The real story offered something far more interesting this is just the depiction of the taking down of a straw man. Now it has some nicely written moments in terms of the spoken words, Tracy and Kelly are both good, but this is mostly negated by just how ridiculous everything else is in the film Fredric March's performance included. Stanley Kramer, though he can make a courtroom visually compelling, was not the right choice as he was never one for subtle messages so he only amplifies the extreme nature of the source material.

Doctor Dolittle (1967)

Doctor Dolittle comes from the time of the overblown musical and this perhaps is the most overblown of them all. Harrison does his usual talk threw, and is not particularly charming here. Anthony Newley has a nice singing voice but is extremely bland in his role. Samantha Eggar is just sort of there. The story isn't much and is mostly just there to move Dolittle from one spectacle involving animals to another. The problem is the spectacle isn't very spectacular. More than anything the film and the songs for that matter are forgettable, well all except Richard Attenborough's one scene wonder which is the show stopping moment of the whole film. Unfortunately the film continues long past that point.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Vanilla Sky

I'll admit I usually got tired of thirty minute mind bending trips with episodes of Twilight Zone, this is an entire feature film. One has to be a real master of the art to make it work, David Lynch can do it for example, but Cameron Crowe is quite up to the task. Not that I think the film is a complete failure. There are individual scenes that work, and I certainly like some of the performances, Diaz, Taylor and Russell. It does not quite captivate, particularly not in the pivotal romance, in a way that it should for it truly work as a film.

Singin' In the Rain

Singin' In the Rain is one I hate to even give my thoughts on because I wish I could have all the fun everyone else seems to have when watching this film. It just does not work for me, and I find the whole flamboyant tone, only amplified by having Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly as the leads, quite tiresome. I even commit cinematic blasphemy by not finding Jean Hagen's loud mouthed performance very funny. This is a film you probably need to love really to like, and I don't love it though I wish I did.

THX 1138

THX 1138 is definitely worth seeing just as an example of George Lucas throwing out a unique world of science fiction for all to see. Unlike Star Wars this is of the 1984 variety in terms of futuristic setting. He has some interesting ideas and there are individually great moments. The film ends up feeling just like a series of scenes that are held together by plot that always seems to have a lack of urgency to it. As with other science fiction films it excessively sits upon imagery to ensure that the audience sees it. The problem is though you're wowed by it for the first thirty seconds but then it just continues. It definitely presents something intriguing in terms of its set up, but it does very little with it in terms of providing an engaging story, or at least compelling characters.


Klute has two things in its favor Gordon Willis's great cinematography and Alan J. Pakula's atmospheric direction. The problem with the film is its noir plot line never becomes terribly interesting, and when the killer was revealed you kind of forget that there was even suppose to be a killer. It tries for more with its central character but there is only so much you can do with an absolutely wooden Donald Sutherland, who I usually rather like. There is something there with Fonda's character and the examination of her life as a prostitute but even that is largely ignored in order to focus on that plot which is frankly a bore.

McCabe & Mrs Miller

McCabe & Mrs Miller is a rather fascinating experiment of sorts by Robert Altman, as he does his usual large cast of colorful characters whose stories intertwine in one way or another, yet here there technically is a more direct moving plot involving McCabe trying to keep his property despite threats from a powerful mining company. It needs to be said that it's a downright beautiful film as the production design and cinematography are both outstanding. As one would expect from Altman it certainly gives its time to the characters and actually makes the plot developments surprisingly emotional particularly in the film's last act when things turn violent. It's one of Altman's best, perhaps his best, and also features some of the best work by Warren Beatty and Julie Christie.

Splendor in the Grass

Splendor in the Grass, despite its name, is not really about the scandalous relationship between two teenagers. It focuses much more on the reaction towards just a general romance between two young people who are not expected to be together. The most "scandalous" elements really only result from Natalie Wood's being driven slightly mad from being expected to be a proper lady despite its desires. The film works less as a romance, its not one really, and far more of the way something seemingly normal can be blown out of proportion to the point that it grips an entire community. It's an interesting and engaging examination of that. I won't say it ever becomes anything too notable, except really Beatty's and Wood's final scene which is rather memorable. 

Monday, February 1, 2016


Babel is basically a film of telling four separate manipulative stories. Now all films technically are manipulative, or at least try to be, however this film seems particularly obvious in intentions with every story focusing on extreme emotions. The only thing that can really save it are some performances to provide at least a bit of nuance making their characters into people rather than just puppets to be wrong through a wringer. Well they don't all pull it off, some do very well, but that even can go only so far, and the film's whole attempt in finding some sort of understanding of a troubled connected world feels wholly inadequate and simplistic. It's not a terrible film, but it's not a very good one. Also it won best score for a song from the Last Emperor since that's the only part of the score that stands out.

The Lady Eve

The Lady Eve is for the most part an enjoyable screwball comedy, in that all the comedic scenes basically work more or less. I'll admit the conceit of the film does annoy me, as the Lady Eve fools everyone except the best character in the film played by William Demarest. Barbara Stanwyck does not really pull off the illusion though to be fair to the film, it point that out. I don't know it just does not all come together. It's funny though and sometimes that's more than enough.