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6333 reviews in total 
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Alright But Forgettable, 29 November 2017

Ed Okin (Jeff Goldblum) is a middle class man with a boring job, a case of insomnia and, to top it all off, he just found out that his wife is cheating on him.

This film is a good one simply because of the cast. Goldblum is always a joy, even when he has very little to do as in this film. Michelle Pfeiffer has always been great, as well, and this was really her in her prime (between "Scarface" and "Batman Returns"). All the cameos are fun, if completely unnecessary.

Despite this, and even with the great John Landis in charge, there really is not much going on, which makes the movie sort of forgettable. No doubt most people have forgotten and it would not make anyone's "top three" or "top five" Landis films. Would it? Some of it seems to anticipate "The Big Lebowski", but without the quirky humor.

Quicksand (1950)
Peter Lorre is King, 27 November 2017

After borrowing $20 from his employer's cash register, an auto mechanic is plunged into a series of increasingly disastrous circumstances which rapidly spiral out of his control.

Directed by Irving Pichel shortly before he was blacklisted for suspected Communist activities, the film has been described as "film noir in a teacup... a pretty nifty little picture" in which Rooney "cast himself against his Andy Hardy goody goody image." Rooney stills comes across as a mostly harmless, innocent man in this film, but it may be a bit shadier than people had seen before.

Rooney co-financed "Quicksand" with Peter Lorre, but their shares of the profits were reportedly left unpaid by a third partner. Most of the film was shot on location in Santa Monica, California, with exterior scenes at the old Santa Monica Pier. Jazz cornetist Red Nichols with His Five Pennies group are seen and heard in a nightclub scene.

Peter Lorre's fellow actors in "Quicksand" were impressed with his performances on the set. Commenting on the film in a later interview, Jeanne Cagney observed the following about Lorre: "He did it with all his might. Even though the picture was not a top drawer film he still approached it as if it were the 'A' picture of all 'A' pictures." Indeed, with all due respect to Rooney, Lorre is the real star and the reason this film remains worth seeing today (2017).

Impact (1949)
Oddly Meandering, 27 November 2017

A unfaithful wife plots with her lover to kill her husband, but the lover is accidentally killed instead. The husband stays in hiding, and lets his wife be charged with conspiracy.

In the 1940s, it was still uncommon for brand name products to be seen in movies, but this was a notable exception. A Bekins moving van is prominent in several scenes. The movie trade paper Harrison's Reports typically called attention to cases in which such products appeared on screen, and always took a stand against that practice. It is interesting to consider Bekins within this context, as you not find it strange for vehicles with signage to go by in the real world.

One thing that really stands out today (2017) is the Chinese shopkeeper. While not outright offensive or insulting, it is interesting the way a person from the Chinese community was portrayed. Some credit ought to be given on casting: Anna May Wong was actually Chinese, and Philip Ahn was Korean, still better than casting a Caucasian with a mustache.

Banality of War, 26 November 2017

In 1919, Hungarian Communists aid the Bolsheviks' defeat of Czarists, the Whites. Near the Volga, a monastery and a field hospital are held by one side then the other.

Rather than shooting a hagiographic account of the birth of Soviet Communism, Jancsó produced a profoundly anti-heroic film that depicts the senseless brutality of the Russian Civil War specifically and all armed combat in general. There are no heroes here, just death after death for seemingly no reason.

To no one's surprise, the film was not well received in the Soviet Union, where it was first re-edited to put a more heroic spin on the war for its premiere and then banned. However, in Hungary and the West it was favorably received and had a theatrical release in many countries. It remains one of Jancsó's most widely seen and admired films, although audiences often find it exceedingly difficult to follow because there really is no plot or protagonist.

Besides the clear anti-war message, the film also has some incredible cinematography, with Tamás Somló's camera moving in and out of the action in very fluid motions. It seems very much ahead of its time and calls to mind the much later work of Seamus McGarvey in "Atonement" (2007).

Trapped (1949)
Needs Restoration, 26 November 2017

When counterfeit money starts turning up around Los Angeles, the Treasury Department recognizes the funny money as the work of Tris Stewart (Lloyd Bridges) who has been in prison for several years.

This was directed by Richard Fleischer, h had just recently won the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary, for "Design for Death" (1947). Fleischer went on to make countless great films, including "Soylent Green" and "Conan the Destroyer".

This film is solid as far as film noir goes, or maybe b-movie film noir. The problem is the public domain. The copy I watched looks terrible. The film was fine, but the quality was awful. If someone were to swoop in and fix it up, this might be a better-regarded film.

A Bit of a Forgotten Gem, 25 November 2017

This film-noir piece, told in semi-documentary style, follows police on the hunt for a resourceful criminal who shoots and kills a cop.

What makes this film interesting: During production, one of the actors, Jack Webb, struck up a friendship with the police technical adviser, Detective Sergeant Marty Wynn, and was inspired by a conversation with Wynn to create the radio and later television program "Dragnet".

But also, this is the fictional version of a true story that is not well-remembered today. A Los Angeles police officer went on a crime spree, and had some bizarre ideas about war and death rays. The film is rather tame in comparison.

Is What It Is, 25 November 2017

When beautiful Mary (Ava Gardner) returns home to her "whistle stop" home town, long-standing feelings of animosity between two of her old boyfriends leads to robbery and murder.

Bosley Crowther dismissed the film, writing, "A slice of sordid life in a small mid-Western town was somewhat faithfully reflected in Maritta Wolff's novel, Whistle Stop, but the same can't be said for the picture, based upon it... This plainly remote and artificial concoction lacks flavor, consistency, reason and even dramatic suspense. And it is also abominably acted—which covers about everything ... The film was directed by Leonide Moguy, late of France. Don't ask us why." Crowther was being especially harsh, and one suspects the film is more respected now as time has passed. But really, he was not wrong. This has "disposable b-picture" written all over it, and as far as noir goes, it is not surprising if most people have never heard of it.

Better Have My Money, 25 November 2017

Several people try to help a little girl to find the money her mom gave her to buy a goldfish with.

I am not as convinced as other people that this is a "great" movie, but it is a pretty good one. Despite being very simple, it happens to be rather effective. The director has said the intent was (at least in part) to make a movie for one dollar that Hollywood would have spent millions on. And in that respect he succeeded.

The film itself is not overly exciting, but it does have one thing going for it: it shows the everyday lives of the Iranian people. This is something that I think always has value for people watching in America, because somehow over the years Iran has become the country's chief rival (even more than Russia). I understand the reasons why, but find it unfortunate that the citizens have been demonized in the process. Watching films like this helps rectify that.

Could Be Worse, 24 November 2017

Santa has to get a job as Santa to earn money to pay his overdue rent bill.

The usual problems of an Italian film are present here, most notably the bad dubbing. But actually the dubbing could be far worse. And the picture quality is surprisingly good for the era.

One could say the film lacks originally. There are obvious nods to "A Christmas Carol", for example. But it does have its own special appeal. The elves are interesting and their head bookkeeper happens to be a very well-known American actor... how he ended up in this mess is probably a story in itself.

Before Django, 22 November 2017

Wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, Minnesota Clay seeks revenge on the man who withheld evidence at his trial. There is a problem however; he is going blind.

The most notable hing bout this film is that it happens to be a spaghetti western before "Django". That title is the essential film of the genre, and more to the point, comes from the same director. People more knowledgeable than myself could probably make style comparisons.

In many respects, this is the same story that we see in westerns again and again: a good guy, a bad guy, and a town caught in the middle. The twist is that our hero is going blind, and I am not sure if this has been done in any other film before or since.

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