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Pleins feux sur l'assassin (1961)
It's not a masterpiece, it's not even a great film but it is interesting and it's a film that should be seen by anyone with a serious interest in the medium. Franju, even when not firing on all cylinders is not someone to be dismissed because there will always be a germ, an element, that is worth a look, or a second or third. No one seems to have noticed the obvious flaw in the ointment: the premise - not unlike that in Laughter In Paradise - centres on an eccentric personage faced with death and desirous of making his heirs jump through hoops before getting their hands on his money. In this case the heirs cannot inherit until five years have elapsed (unless his missing corpse is located before that time-limit expires. Not only that but during those five years the deceased's large chateau must be maintained. Strangley enough ALL the heirs have nothing pressing to occupy them i.e. no lives, and are free to drop everything and put their shoulders to the wheel. Once you get past this improbability there is much to enjoy, not least atmosphere, Franju's stock in trade.
Woman on the Run (1950)
Hello, Frisco, Hello
Most regular cinemagoers have seen Bullitt, Vertigo, or even Pal Joey, all of which feature the San Francisco that became a regular stop on the Tourist itinerary and came to depend on the Tourist Dollar and one of the several plus points of Woman On The Run is the fact that it portrays the San Francisco that wasn't famous, the blue-collar town that it was until it hit pay-dirt tourist-wise. Many of the locations no longer exist but are preserved in black and white courtesy of Norman Foster and his crew. It's also a pretty fair noir if anyone asks you with fine performances from Ann Sheridan and Robert Keith. On the other hand either I missed something or the denoument was labored but that's small price to pay for seventy-one minutes of fine craftsmanship.
The production company clearly spent a young fortune on PR for this title and if the flacks got it ride and drag the punters in the movie will easily make its neg cost back.Whilst it managed to keep my mind off Brexit and my dinner plans for the evening throughout the running time I had completely forgotten it by the time I reached the foyer on the way out. Part of the problem is that in my salad days I was frightened by screenwriters like Terence Rattigan and directors like Puffin Asquith who, had they turned out nothing more than The Way To The Stars and The Browning Version would have more than secured a lifetime pass to the Pantheon and these Poster boys for the luvvies Curtis and Boyle, who struggle to achieve mediocrity just aren't in the same league albeit as crowd-pleasers they're right up there with The Simpsons and Kermit the frog. This is a thinly-veiled rip-off of the tv sitcom Goodnight, Sweetheart, in which time-traveller Nicholas Lyndhurst passes off Beatles song as his own work and that's the story from soup to nuts. The best thing about it by a country mile is Lily James who, unlike the rest of the cast, is completely unselfconscious and doesn't walk through the film clearly in awe of being in this season's feelgood triumph. Go see it, though. You will anyway.
Late Night (2019)
Bombing On The 23rd Floor
Neil Simon set one of his later comedies in the Writers Room of a television show - he based it on his own time as a writer on Your Show of Shows - and the laughs came thick and fast because he IS Neil Simon. Ms. Kaling is light years shot of Neil Simon so we can dismiss this as Laughter On The 23r Floor without the laughs. Ms Kaling, who is also an actress wrote herself a nice, juicy part. Kaling as an actress is better than Kaling as a writer - just. As for top-billed Emma Thompson nothing she does here negates her image as an arrogant, egotistical leftist luvvie who thinks nothing of creating a 6,000 mile carbon footprint in order to fly from LA to London to ... join a protest against carbon footprints shouting silently 'what a good little hypocritical girl am I. It just about gets by as a time-passer but that's about it.
I looked in vain for a negative review of this gem and would have been affronted had I found one. In short it is everything the posers say and much, much more.The brilliant director expects the viewer to be up on not only the life and career of Moliere but also his time - the seventeenth century - and albeit this is asking for the moon it matters not a whit or a jot because the movie is so compelling and even the dim lighting - authentic but most productions would light it anyway - does nothing to break the spell. Brigitte Catillon is the only actress likely to be recognized today given she gets work in top French films like Les Soeurs fachees and Ne le dis personne but there isn't a bad performance in the film. See it, bask in it, and buy it.
The Hustle (2019)
On Your Marks
It is - or it certainly should be by now - a given that Hollywood is totally incapable of remaking a movie and equalling let alone eclipsing the original so if you must check out a remake keep that in mind. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was made 24 years after Bedtime Story which it rip - sorry, remade. In other words there was a good chance that the original audience for Bedtime Story no longer went to movies when Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was released in 1988. Similarly The Hustle has been released some 31 years after Dirty Rotten Scoundrels so why all the knashing of teeth. As it happens I've seen both Bedtime Story AND Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and have no problem with The Hustle which is essentially Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with tits. Orson Welles isn't going to be turning in his grave and the voting members of the Academy are not likely to be troubled but in terms of a time=passer it's more than adequate.
Corrina, Corrina (1994)
Eenie, Meanie, Miney, Mensch
This is one of those movies where you check your prejudices at the box office and cry 'uncle' as you take your seat and in return you get to wallow in pure entertainment with a bittersweet afterglow. It's a family movie in every sense of the word you can think of and features three leading performances that are well beyond magnificent. In a nutshell Ray Liotta's wife dies - presumably prematurely, traumatising their daughter to the extent that she becomes withdrawn and loses - at least temporarily - the ability to speak. The obvious solution is to hire a nanny/governess/therapist and this provides a sequence reminiscent of The Fabulous Baker Boys in which a succession of round pegs try out for the square hole position. Finally, as we knew would happen, the ideal candidate shows up in the shape of Whoopi Goldberg and leaves the opposition dead in the water. And now a theme - as opposed to a plot - rears its discreet head; Goldberg is as black as a yard up a chimney and Liotta is as kosher as bagels and lox and the year is 1959. Goldberg is clearly an honorary member of the Magic Circle and in nothing flat a once dysfunctional household is running as smoothly as a Patek Phillipe. If you have anything in your thoracic cavity this is a movie you can watch, enjoy, and be moved by, time and time again.
Vass You Dere. Sharlie?
We may be asking the wrong questions here; it's not so much is it ethically or morally right to spi;; the beans as exactly who is this movie targeting? The youngest celebrity featured is Rock Hudson who died in 1985 and virtually all of his memorable movies were made in the fifties and sixties. The others - Katherine Hepburn, Walter Pidgeon, Cary Grant, etc were already major stars by the 1930s. The point I'm making is that even forty year old moviegoers are either going to be long au fait with these revelations or else too young to care. You could argue that it's useful to have all the dirt in one place but that's about the best you can give it.
After the Ball (1957)
Something For The Boys
As it turns out there are TWO male impersonators in this film, Pat Kirkwood and Laurence Harvet and neither is wholly convincing. The main selling point for me was a screenplay by Hubert Gregg who was, of course, married for a time to Pat Kirkwood, but for a writer of Gregg's calibre the screenplay is lacklustre at best. As was his wont Harvey managed yet again to snatch a suet pudding from the jaws of a soufflé and Kirkwood isn't far behind performing Tilley's signature songs as if immersed Houdini-like in a large tank of water. It's difficult to envisage this whole project conceived as anything other than a tax loss.
Out of the Clouds (1955)
Some fifteen years before Airport Michael Balcon offered this prototype the total cost of which wouldn't have paid Burt Lancaster's salary in the latter. At one level it's social history depicting a 'London Airport' still to become Heathrow where every plane if propeller driven and friends can practically kiss the travellers goodbye just before take-off. The semi-documentary style weaves several stories together - All Human Life Is There = from the crews and airport personnel to passengers but stops well short of any real drama. As a 'day in the life ... it makes easy-to-take entertainment.
Lost in Yonkers (1993)
Found In The Multiplex - One Gem
Let me begin by staing that Neil Simon's New York-Jewish humor is right down the rue of this English goy and I've seen a good ninety-five per cent of everything he's written on both stage and screen including Original Screenplays like The Out Of Towners. I also saw Lost In Yonkers in England though alas, Maureen Lipman was a pathetic substitute for Mercedes Ruehl who deserved ten Best Actress Oscars let alone being disgracefully overlooked. The early Simon - Come Blow Your Horn, Barefoot In The Park - was almost pure comedy, one one-liner after another but around the time of Chapter Two, with a major tragedy in his own life, he began injecting much more drama into his work and Lost In Yonkers a supreme example of comedy drama. Mercedes Ruehl is beyond brilliance while Irene Worth is merely brilliant and with class acts like this Louie could have been played by Jonathan Winters and still not spoiled it. A great, great movie.
Second Act (2018)
No Second Acts In American Lives
Reading the first page of reviews here on imdb it would appear that this title really split the voters. To me it was just what it said on the tin, entertaining, undemanding, well acted, well shot. What more do you want realistically? Theoretically going to this type of movies implies a bargain between you and the Multiplex; just as you check your weapons at the door in a Western so you suspend your disbelief at the cashier's window in a romcom. Once you've done that and made a mental commitment to relax you're free to let the movie wash over you. If you're going to watch Othello you go with a different mind-set. It's not rocket science.
Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
I've been aware of this movie since it was released but I have an aversion to acting jokes like Keira Knightly and, to the best of my knowledge there was nothing and/or no one in the film that would offset her so more or less ignored it until, surfing the channels I came upon it as it was just starting. I began to watch it and found it unpretentious and charming in a low-key way and Knightly was unable to ruin it. Okay, it was Scripting By Numbers and it wheeled out just about every cliché in the book but it was undemanding and easy to like.
Boy Erased (2018)
Now You See Him
It's hard to know who would be the best person to discuss this film - is it someone like me who had never heard of it and, by definition knew nothing about it, or would it be preferable to approach someone who inhabits the memi-monde, someone who may have even been in a program like the one depicted here. Swings and roundabouts probably. In my case I was at a loose end on Saturday night so I drove to a Multiplex with no idea what was playing and asked if there was anything about to be screened. The cashier consulted the time table and said that Boy Erased would be showing in ten minutes. I'd never heard of it, certainly not seen any reviews. All the cashier knew was that it starred Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe so I figured it would probably be half-decent. It didn't take long to discover it was set in the Jurassic Age or, to put it another way it was set in an America where people believe seriously that homosexuality in teenagers can be cured by Aversion Therapy. I don't know if Nicole Kidman and/or Russell Crowe subscribe to this belief but they did lend their names to the film and received star billing although their roles as the parents of a teenage son who has been 'outed' and shipped to a sort of cross between boot camp and military college are peripheral and the film - based on a true account, written by a man who attended a Q and A with his real mother - is little more than a record of the time he spent there. There were about three other people in the cinema, a major multiplex on a Saturday night. All the technical credits - writing, directing, acting, were up to snuff but its only audience may well be the LBGT supporters.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
Forging A Bond
A quirky, offbeat entry that ticks all the boxes and adds up to an entertainin movie. Not for the first time and clearly not for the last aa anctor hitherto known for comedy has demonstrated a deft dramatic touch. Jack Lemon is arguably the doyen of this group and if MvcCarthy lacks both Lemons' comedic and dramatic chops she is still no slouch in either department and certainly deserves ang gong coming her way of for which she is merely nominated. It's difficult (in my case) to understand all the acclaim that has been lavished on Richard E. Grant's supporting performance. This is not to say it's chopped liver but merely competent.
Cast a Dark Shadow (1955)
Although I haven't seen the play (Murder Mistaken) on which this film was based it is firmly in the tradition of English stage works of the period and I'm ready to bet the farm that on the stage the actress playing the murdered wife also got to play her sister - conveniently living abroad. Lewis Gilbert employs two different actresses here, Mona Washbourne and Kay Walsh but there is also a third actress in the shape of Margaret Lockwood who, as the murdering husband, Dirk Bogarde, discovers to his chagrin, is nobody's fool least of all his. It's well made, well acted and as hokum goes fairly enjoyable and a cut above the usual Danny Angel fare.
Green Book (2018)
Driving Mister Daisy
Like the man said you got seven basic plots; you get to plot eight you're back to one with maybe a little backspin. Back in 1987 Alfred Uhry wrote a Pulitzer prize-winning play called Driving Miss Daisy, it was a fine play and, when subsequently adapted for the screen, an equally fine film. Set in Atlanta, Ga, it featured a Black man working as a chauffeur to a White Jewish lady. Green Book features a White Italian-American chauffeuring a Black man through the Deep South. Similar stories, right? Well, maybe. Miss Daisy actually lived in Atlanta while Dr Shirley was merely touring whilst playing a series of one-night concerts. Actually the film is about two disparate individuals, chalk and cheese, initially antagonistic who learn to respect, admire, and bond with each other - now that IS a new plot. This is an exceptionally fine film boasting two exceptional performances and a fine supporting cast. Bring on the dvd.
Have I The Write
Every so often I'm faced, as a regular filmgoer, with a dilemma when a writer, director, or performer for whom I have no respect as an artist, becomes involved in a project that captures my interest. In this instance the stumbling-block is acting joke Keira Knightly who is appearing as Colette, a French writer of the early twentieth century about whom I know too little. Accordingly I opted to endure rather than enjoy Knightly but alas I got the worst of it as all I - or indeed anyone learned about Colette is that she was a country girl who married an older control freak who enjoyed a reputation as a writer based on his knack of running a stable of writers prepared to let him take the credit for their talent. Such plot as there is centers on Colette's resentment of her literary gifts being credited to her husband and rebelling successfully against this. Normally solid mahogany Knighty approaches walnut here but ultimately wood is wood.
La villa (2017)
Although I wasn't around it is, I suppose, reasonable to speculate that back in the nineteen thirties keen filmgoers looked forward to a new film from Marcel Pagnol one, more than likely featuring one of his regular players, Raimu, Fernandel, Charpin and set in the Midi. True or not I have learned to look forward to a new film from Robert Guidguian, who also has something of a repertory company in the shape of his wife, Ariane Ariscaride and leading men Jean-Pierre Darrousin and Gerard Meylan and likely as not set in and/or around Marseilles,, the hometown of both director and actress. He was back in 2017 with The House By The Sea which has just opened here and it is well up to snuff with a definite Chekovian feel in the melancholic tale of three siblings caring for a widowed father who can no longer take care of himself. As with Chekov there are supplementary characters, the elderly neighbors, their attentive son, the much younger girlfriend of one of the two brothers. All excel. As he often does Guideguian injects a Left-wing philosophy which makes him a sort of Ken Loach but with talent instead of attitude. In sum another fine film from a gifted film maker.
The Favourite (2018)
Given that the producers have seen fit to evoke what we might - in view of the content - paraphrase as the Sport of Kinks in their title they have laid themselves open to other sporting terms such as the supporting cast is 6-4 against getting a look-in at gong time in what is clearly a three-horse race. The three principals are, in fact, excellent and contrive to pass the post locked together in a photo finish following a lavish steeplechase lushly framed against a backdrop of Hatfield House and one tasty visual after another. The story - allegedly true - fits the truth where it touches but the likelihood of anyone outside an Academic noticing and/or caring is roughlt 100-6.
Le grand bain (2018)
For reasons best known to himself Gilles Lellouche opted not to act in this film and contented himself with directing - his friend Guillaume Canet, for example can and often does perform both functions - but it is unlikely that this excellent film would have been enhanced had he actually taken part. The cast is exceptionally strong in both male and female actors and what appeals is that no one - not Virginie Efira, Melanie Doutey, Marinas Fois, Matthieu Amlaric, Benoit Poolevarde - is particularly well known outside France but all have secure places in the domestic industry. The story is slight, a tad offbeat but ultimately both entertaining and satisfying.
Stan & Ollie (2018)
Life Of Reilly
A timely reminder of what REAL comedy duos are all about for those like me who could only gag in bafflement that acts beyond atrocious like Little And Large, Canon And Ball etc ever got past a Working Men's Club in Nelson And Colne. Even in the twilight of their careers Laurel and Hardy could still wipe the floor with the opposition - two of whom, the abject Abbott & Costello and equally dire Norman Wisdom are featured/mentioned during their fleeting moment in the sun. The strict accuracy of the storyline has been called into question but overall it failed to impair what remains a fine film. As a person I find Steve Coogan an arrogant narcissist so full of himself to be on the verge of giving birth but twice now - in Philomena, by the same writer, and now here - I have seen him give a half decent performance. Everyone involved aquits themselves well and it should certainly hold up to a second viewing
Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)
The Chipping Version
As a Rattigan completist I had to see and eventually own this title. Michael Redgrave as the headmaster is, of course, a priceless bonus - for me he was the definitive Crocker-Harris in Puffin Asquith's adaptation of The Browning Version and Rattigan must have had fun with several nods to the former, not least the final speech to the boys when Chips announces his imminent departure. Leslie Bricusse turns in arguable his worst ever score yet these are truly 'show tunes' inasmuch as they are meaningless if you have not seen the film. I have to agree with everyone that Peter O'Toole is excellent in the lead whilst Petula Clark is not as bad as she might have been. Although I now own it it will be some time before I return to it.
The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
Two-Faced Woman? You've Got To Be Kidding
Viewed today you could argue that this film is fairly simplistic but in 1957 it was probably impressive not least the acting by Joanne Woodward who unashamedly snatches what is a gift role for an actress with both hands and extracts the last ounce of juice out of it. On the other hand Lee J. Cobb is equally impressive unobtrusively in the far less showier role of the psychiatrist initially bemused an then fascinated by multiple personality. In fact Nunnally Johnson - a Georgian himself, as was the real-life Eve and indeed Joanne Woodward - coaxes excellent performances out of virtually all the performers and the film stands up well overall.
Creed II (2018)
This is precisely what it says on the tin. In other words if you've plowed through all of the 'Rocky' franchise plus the first Creed and have been entertained then you won't be disappointed by this sequel. All the 'Rockys' are made to high professional standards and offer glossy violence and this is no exception and if the ending is predictable from Outer Mongolia so what.