Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
ListsAn error has ocurred. Please try again
"I would just as soon my sister were going out with an actor!"
This film came out a few years before I was born, which made it about a decade before I was hitting stride with my own era's vernacular. So the terms used in the story like 'sklonkish', 'clunk' and 'stupe' were words I'd never heard before, much less used for their derogatory implications. It wasn't difficult to understand what the parties involved were trying to say, but to hear them, it just sounded clunky, if you know what I mean.
Well anyway, this was a cute bit of fluffery for the principals involved. Cary Grant was well suited for this type of light comedy, although this was a bit lighter than films like "His Girl Friday" or "Arsenic and Old Lace". I thought about him as a replacement for William Powell in the 'Thin Man' pictures opposite Myrna Loy, and although it might have worked, Powell just seems like the likelier match for that series. I thought Loy could have played her role with a bit more humor, but she was a judge after all, and had to provide the role model for her younger sister, portrayed by the teen-age Shirley Temple. I'd only seen her as an adult before in the John Ford Western "Fort Apache", and although competent in both roles, it seemed like she was losing her luster as an actress. I mean, how do you top that cute kid from "The Little Princess"?
Present day viewers will probably be intrigued by the picture's title, but there again, my seasoned citizen status comes into play to help out. Bobby-sox were a style of women's sock, white and ankle length, that were popular in the Forties and Fifties. I don't recall any scenes actually where we got a chance to see Susan Turner's (Temple) ankles, but I'll take it on faith the picture was true to it's name. No question about Richard Nugent's (Grant) marital status in the story though, at least until the picture's finale, where it looked like he might have wound up headed for the altar.
The Bank Job (2008)
"I know if this stuffs up, I'm in poo-poo land!"
"The Bank Job" has all the earmarks of a Guy Ritchie flick but without his name attached. I'm thinking of pictures like "Snatch" and "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels", in which there are multiple sets of characters vying for a particular outcome. The eccentric British dialog and eminently seedy characters add to the entertainment value, while the plot isn't as difficult to follow as a Ritchie film. I didn't know going in that the story was based on an event that occurred in London on September 11th, 1971, the infamous Baker Street Robbery in which the money and valuables stolen were never recovered. For historians, that 9/11 date seems rather coincidental and almost conspiratorial, though it occurred three decades before the World Trade Center disaster.
For this viewer, Jason Statham was the only known commodity in the cast, and as always, well suited for this sort of caper. He heads up a small band of merry men who are set up for a safety deposit bank heist, though there is a hidden agenda at play that involves the indiscretions of British politicians. A sub-plot involving a Malcolm X styled revolutionary running a drug operation is also included, more of a distraction actually from the main story, but still serving the film's purpose in the end.
Given the film's historical setting in 1971, I was reminded of the Scottish singer Donovan who came to prominence in the mid-Sixties in England and ultimately, America. He had this hit titled "Mellow Yellow", that in retrospect seems fitting to honor this film's female lead who portrays the character Martine Love. It's Martine who gets the whole caper going when she approaches Terry Leather (Statham) about the bank job. Had she been around when Donovan came out with his hit tune, you'd believe the line in the song - 'I'm just mad about Saffron' - was meant specifically for her.
"Tonight I spend with you."
I just recently watched Dudley Moore in "Arthur" and it reminded me of this earlier movie in which he appeared, which had the unique distinction of introducing both Bo Derek and the number '10' into the popular lexicon. Although to be quite honest, my buddies and I were using the '1 to 10' rating system for some time before this even came out, and judging by today's standards, I guess that makes me something of an incorrigible reprobate. Not to mention politically incorrect, but I digress.
The passage of time has certainly taken the glow off of this popular flick of the late Seventies. All you'd ever see back then were those ubiquitous trailers of Derek frolicking her way toward the camera in that skin tight body suit, causing all manner of hypertension and mid-life crisis into the character of song writer George Webber (Moore). From the perspective of living well past the age of forty myself, George's self absorption and daydreaming his way into the life of Jenny Hanley (Derek) strikes me as decidedly silly, not to mention completely unrealistic. Jenny's willingness to partake in the creature comforts with George down in Las Hadas struck me as entirely contrived following her husband's luckless ocean outing, and George's opting out over the absurdity of it all was about the only meaningful decision he made in the picture.
I think the only person I felt more sorry for than George was that poor gal Mary Lewis (Dee Wallace) who placed George's inadequacy on her own shoulders. She probably deserved a better screen treatment than she got here. And if there ever was an actress who was asked to perform a thankless part, it would be Julie Andrews as the unappreciated girlfriend of lusty George. It seemed like no one could catch a break in this film, unless you go with Brian Dennehy as the sympathetic bartender who just rolled with the punches. He probably should have tried to hook up with Mary.
"You never met a monster you couldn't love."
A preponderance of characters and a story line that seems intentionally confusing may hinder your viewing pleasure here. Part of my problem is that I'm not personally invested in the wizarding world of J.K Rowling, and ran out of steam near the end of the Harry Potter series of films. So I come to the Fantastic Beasts movies with an open mind and willingness to be entertained. There seemed to be some open ended, unresolved issues at the end of this story, not surprising as there are sequels yet to come. But for all the expectations for Grimmson (Ingvar Sigurdsson) to be a dominant character here, nothing really comes of his quest to kill Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) and he disappears into the background. The character of Credence is revealed at the finale to be a Dumbledore, and the only one capable of killing his brother Albus (Jude Law), obviously necessary for the titled villain Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) to effect his plan to rule over both the wizard world and humans. That much is known, though the plot thread involving Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz) and the accidental death of her infant brother Corvus is left unresolved, as we don't know the identity of the baby that Corvus was switched with. Who thinks Corvus might actually still be alive? Seems to me there's room in the mythology here to come up with something to make things even more convoluted down the road. I'll check in again, but quite honestly can't remember things from one film to the next, thereby suggesting I should watch a series like this all in a row to keep things straight. If that's even a possibility.
Black Hawk Down (2001)
"You're looking at the guy who believed the commercials. About be all you can be."
Be prepared for a battle scene that's the longest and most relentlessly intense one you'll ever likely find in a war movie. It all results from a failed mission to extract a Somali warlord's top two advisers, going horribly wrong when first one, and then a second Black Hawk helicopter are brought down by enemy fire in the Somali city of Mogadishu on October 3rd, 1993. Operating under the military dictum of leaving no man behind, members of Delta Special Forces and Army Rangers go into action that's extremely up close, violent and bloody. What one witnesses almost makes it feel like you're actually there, as the drawn out battle makes you wonder if it will ever be over. Oscars for sound and film editing went to this picture and it's not surprising to see why. It's almost two and a half hours of gritty war footage that tests the camaraderie, spirit and resilience of American fighting forces in a virtually impossible situation. Not without it's casualties, the American side loses nineteen of it's bravest while inflicting untold damage on the Somali capital and a thousand of it's fanatical adherents to Mohammed Aidid. A brief moment of triumph is allowed at the finale as regular Somali citizens enduring hardship and starvation under Aidid welcome the American soldiers who tried to make things right. It's not enough though, to make it seem like the Special Forces and Army Rangers were victorious.
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
"Lock 'n loll, baby! Lock 'n loll!"
If you ever witnessed a Robin Williams interview after he broke out his Mork from Ork character, you'd know that he took his manic persona into overdrive whenever he appeared on variety or talks shows of the era. It always struck me that he couldn't do enough to outdo himself, to the point that sometimes he looked like he was trying too hard. His character here, airman Adrian Cronauer, is sort of representative of what I'm talking about, whenever he's quipping on the radio or doing a version of stand up while stuck in military motor traffic. The movie is definitely an anti-war vehicle, cleverly disguised as a Robin Williams comedy, or as close to comedy as you can get while bringing the Vietnam War to the big screen. That stunning sequence of napalm ignited jungle juxtaposed with the lyrics of Louis Armstrong's 'It's a Wonderful World' creates just the sort of conflicted emotions the film is expected to arouse in the viewer, while the consequences of Cronauer's relationship with the young Vietnamese Tuan (Tung Thanh Tran) brings the horror of war into direct focus for one so unsuspecting. Bruno Kirby and J.T. Walsh bring a callous naivete to their roles as Cronauer's clueless superiors, and after the film was over, I though a more suitable ending would have had Cronauer reassigned as a DJ to a radio station in Guam. That would have been right after General Taylor (Noble Willingham) sent Sgt. Major Dickerson (Walsh) there to temper his rigidity as an officer. Would have served him right.
The Art of the Steal (2013)
"It's always nice to know who you can trust."
Here's what I don't understand - for Crunch Calhoun (Kurt Russell ) to make more money taking dives as a motorcycle stunt driver than to actually perform those crazy jumps successfully in front of a packed stadium - that just doesn't pass the smell test for me. Maybe I'm missing something there, but it just doesn't sound right.
Well anyway, this is a scam the scammer flick in which the scammer and the scammed turn out to be brothers. After Crunch does hard time for a heist gone wrong instead of brother Nicky (Matt Dillon), he's not willing to forgive and forget, and sets up an elaborate plan to take Nicky out with the help of career grifters, most notably Samuel Winter (Terence Stamp), now working for Interpol as their resident expert on artful dodges. What starts out as a scheme to steal and reproduce a famous Gutenberg work, The Gospel of St. James, turns into an elaborate forgery of a famous Seurat painting. The nifty double cross is cleverly handled, but gets a little lost in the weeds during the exposition, so keeping a sharp eye on the action comes in handy. That scene of Dillon and Russell in the trunk of the car discussing the St. James potential was just a little to creepy, don't you think? That was a little too close even for brothers.
So it's a neat caper flick with both brothers doing a double cross, and it could have had a more more meaningful resolution if we found out where Nicky would be spending the next few years. Even so, stick around for some humorous outtakes during the credits roll. It's your reward for good behavior making it through the movie.
"He seems drunk, but he sounds sincere."
There will be those who castigate the film for making it's central character an alcoholic, but I think it's done all in good fun, and the movie itself is quite funny. It has it's share of charm too, especially in the personal relationship Arthur (Dudley Moore) has with his butler Hobson (John Gielgud) and driver Bitterman (Ted Ross). The story line keeps the viewer on the fence regarding which way Arthur will go regarding marriage, but you sit there rooting for Linda Marolla (Liza Minnelli), even if Susan Johnson (Jill Eikenberry) wasn't such a bad person in her own right. Just a tad too privileged and expecting to get her way as usual. The character of Hobson was clearly my favorite here; you'd have to go all the way back to the late Thirties to find a comparable personality. Edward E. (E.E.) Clive was a perfect deadpan foil while serving as butler in the Bulldog Drummond series. He always cracked me up the way Gielgud does here. This film even has one of the most popular Top 40 song hits of that year with Christopher Cross's 'Best That You Can Do'. For light entertainment, you certainly can do worse than "Arthur", it's not often you'll find an actor like Dudley Moore who's maniacal laugh can be annoying and infectious at the same time.
"The meaner she was, the more they liked it."
If you were a professional wrestling fan from roughly the mid-Fifties through the mid-Eighties, you would have encountered only one female world champion. That would have been The Fabulous Moolah, real name Mary Lillian Ellison. This episode of the Dark Side series looks at the legacy of Moolah, recently tainted by allegations of nefarious activities involving the female wrestlers she took under her wing to train and promote. Accusations of prostitution are part of the mix, hiring out women to various wrestling promotions with that sort of condition understood.
Appearing in the program to present opposing points of view are Moolah's daughter Mary Austin, promoter and booker Jim Cornette, former wrestlers Wendi Richter and 'Princess' Victoria Otis, and the son and daughter of former wrestler Sweet Georgia Brown, one of Moolah's proteges. It's probably fair to say the Moolah did take advantage in some respects with the women who sought her out for training and entering the profession. She provided a training facility and place to live in exchange for rent, and took as much as a twenty five percent commission out of the purses of the girls' matches. Interestingly, while the daughter of Sweet Georgia Brown, Barbara Harsey, condemns Moolah for making her mother drink, pop pills and have sex with other men, her brother Michael McCoy contradicts that narrative by saying that Moolah did nothing but help his mother in her career.
Somewhere in the middle is probably some semblance of the truth, though the 'sport's' history of kayfabe, or maintaining secrecy about anything to do behind the scenes, will continue to obscure the reality. Vickie Otis, who wrestled as Princess Victoria, offers a somewhat twisted summary of how she felt about Moolah. "If I choose not to like her because of what she did to me, that's fine," Otis says. "But Moolah needs to be remembered. She was an icon in this business. You can't take away her history because she was an a--hole!" Like a number of the situations presented in "Dark Side of the Ring", much is left up to the judgment of the viewer, and this one was no exception.
"There's no way out of this one."
So if the Europeans have their spaghetti Westerns, would this qualify as a lo mein Western. Okay, I know it's not a Chinese flick, director Jee-woon Kim refers to it as a kimchi Western, and I could go with that, but how many other viewers know what the heck kimchi is. Best just to call it an Oriental Western and leave it at that.
With the movie's title I figured it would have some connection to Sergio Leone's "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly", and so it does, as the three principal characters are identified easily enough early on. What surprised me the most while watching was that this actually did look like a traditional Western for the most part, although the use of motor vehicles from time to time places it closer to the modern era. Like the plot of the earlier classic, this one has a search for an undefined treasure (it was two hundred thousand in gold coin in the Leone film), with as many as four competing parties joining the chase to what might be buried treasure from the Qing Dynasty. The Good/Park Do-wan (Woo-sung Jung) eventually joins forces with The Weird/Yoon Tae-goo (Kang-ho Song) with an ultimate goal of bringing down The Bad/Park Chang-yi (Byung-Hun Lee), but there are many twists and turns along the way that also involve a band of Manchurian Ghost Market thieves and the Japanese Imperial Army. The film is full of riotous action sequences. and in a most noteworthy move, The Weird exchanges vehicles with a Manchurian thug while barreling through the desert while the bullets fly. Meanwhile, defying all kind of credibility, The Good rides headlong into the ranks of the Japanese Army taking out soldiers left and right while remaining unharmed. The only thing missing was a variety of martial arts moves, I guess guns trump fancy legwork and flying kicks. The three way showdown at the finale is to be expected among the principals, and if you're wondering how it all ends, you'll have to see the film. As for the missing treasure, it pops up at the end of the story as well, although I don't know how much the treasure map had to do with it.
Oh yeah, if you're still wondering what kimchi is, think nasty smelling fermented cabbage. It falls into The Weird category.
Wonder Wheel (2017)
"It just seems to go from one drama to another."
All of the characters here have a train wreck quality to them that makes watching a voyeuristic exercise. Kate Winslet takes center stage as the severely conflicted wife of carny ride operator Humpty Jablon (Jim Belushi), and she does this fantastic extended scene pouring out her heart and soul that's a wonder to behold. She's unhappy, her life is unhappy, Humpty's unhappy, and everything about their situation is bleak with no hope of rescue. This is a Woody Allen flick with Eugene O'Neill overtones, reflecting on the human condition and how hopeless people lie to themselves in order to live. When Humpty's daughter arrives on the scene, it's to escape a failed marriage to a gangster, and Humpty takes it as his mission to make sure she picks herself up and makes something of herself, but in so doing, manages to demean his wife at every turn. "She's not gonna spend the rest of her life waiting tables. She's better than that" - not realizing apparently that his own wife is trapped in the very same circumstance.
The setting of the story is 1950's Coney Island, and when you see that opening shot of the boardwalk with all it's colorful; grandeur, it's a wonder to behold. There's a puzzler though, it looks like the home that Humpty and Ginny (Winslet) share is a fishbowl, encased in glass on at least two sides, and one wonders how the casual passerby could avoid looking in. I guess I should mention that the pebble in the shoe here is provided by Justin Timberlake, initially attracted to the older Ginny by way of her maturity and sexiness, but immediately distracted when the nubile Carolina (Juno Temple) innocently enters their orbit and commences to begin her own affair with Mickey Rubin. The fury she unwittingly ignites in Ginny is matched only by the antics of Ginny's son from her first marriage, who's fascination with setting fires threatens disaster at any moment.
Without emphasizing the obvious, Carolina's past association with a gangland hoodlum catches up with her, and the point is made without fanfare. It does lead however to a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion, as lives are left in limbo with a sense of hopelessness and despair. It leaves one with the feeling that was expressed by Carolina at one point when she was baring her forlorn past to Mickey - "It was great. Until it wasn't".
Ugetsu monogatari (1953)
"I wanted to taste sake from your cups."
I was already somewhat perplexed by this movie when Lady Wakasa (Machiko Kyô) uttered the above line to the film's protagonist Genjuro (Masayuki Mori). It just struck me so funny that I lost touch with the picture. The statement was made with the utmost sincerity, but it simply came across as comical to me. And at no time did I get the impression that Lady Wakasa was a ghost while attempting to seduce Genjuro from his life of pottery and profit. That only happened when I came to the reviews on this board by those obviously more in tune to the picture than I was. For my part, I didn't consider Genjuro and his friend Tobei (Eitarô Ozawa) to be honorable characters, both leaving their families in pursuit of personal ideals. Tobei in particular turned out to be a scam artist by impersonating a real Samurai warrior. How do you live with yourself by stealing someone's head and declaring yourself a skilled swordsman? If I was the Lord Captain I would have challenged him on that point. And then, Tobei's wife Ohama (Mitsuko Mito) turns to prostitution? Maybe I'm not seeing something here, but the span of time in which all this occurred seemed like a mere matter of days. How would someone's life change course in such a limited amount of time? Believe it or not, the most credible part of the story for me was when Genjuro returned home and found his own wife (Kinuyo Tanaka) to be a ghost. After everything else that happened, that I could believe.
Walt Before Mickey (2015)
"I wanted to be an artist."
If there was ever a personality who deserved the big screen treatment, it would be Walt Disney, What you have here though, is an 'A' list story wrapped in a 'B' movie package, which is kind of a shame because Walt Disney's career was larger than life and his legacy deserves better than this. Not that the picture is entirely bad, it provides a bare bones outline of Disney's (Thomas Ian Nicholas) early life and decision to make animation his full fledged career. Disney's early associations with the men who helped him get a start, along with brother Roy (Jon Heder), are chronicled through all the trials and tribulations of seeking financing and securing a decent place to form a studio. But the players aren't very charismatic and the performances are generally wooden. While watching, I was recalling my memory of Disney from watching the weekly Sunday night broadcasts back in the Fifties, and how he'd introduce each program and talk a little bit about it's subject matter. Delving into that portion of his career following the creation of Mickey Mouse and how the Disney empire emerged would have been a more valuable viewing option than what this turned out to be. The film ends right after the Ub Iwerks (Armando Gutierrez) animation 'Plane Crazy' featuring the original version of Mickey, and that's where I thought the story was really about to begin. Ultimately, the film leaves you wanting more, and maybe someday, Disney fans will get a more definitive treatment.
The Water Diviner (2014)
"Because he's the only father who came looking."
The story has only a tenuous connection to the title of the movie. Russell Crowe's character, Joshua Connor, who used his divining ability to locate water wells on his farmland, somehow translates this ability to locating the remains of his three sons missing in battle at Gallipoli, Turkey in 1915 during World War I. I'm not sure if that was the best way to demonstrate his resolve in finding his sons, all presumed to have died during that campaign. The film could have been made without the 'water diviner' connection, as the presence of Major Hasan (Yilmaz Erdogan) was instrumental in locating the exact battlefield where the casualties took place. The mystical visions Connor experienced at the battle site, now a vast graveyard, were too conveniently effective to establish where his sons sere buried, not to mention the overwhelming odds of finding the dog tags of two of the dead sons by his Aussie hosts.
What's effective in the film, as mentioned earlier, is Joshua Connor's resolve to locate his sons as a final promise granted to his wife. Her death is perhaps meant to be purposely ambiguous, as it's called an accident by Joshua, though my thoughts immediately went to suicide in despondency over the family she lost. Which would only be exacerbated if her husband were not to return from his dauntless task. The story also effectively demonstrates how former enemies, Turks and Aussies, could set aside their differences from the war to pay respects to the fallen at Gallipoli. In particular, Joshua, who was not a soldier, was able to suppress his initial hatred for Major Hasan to eventually prove himself a valuable ally.
The hint of a potential romance between Joshua and the Turkish hotel owner Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko) wasn't as distracting from the principal story as it might have been. Again, initial impressions served to foster a dislike for each other, with the presence of Ayshe's son (Dylan Georgiades) a mitigating factor. The film doesn't seek closure on their relationship, though one can probably read between the lines well enough. Joshua's discovery of his remaining son (Ryan Corr) who survived the Battle of Gallipoli was handled with some suspension of disbelief, while his confession of battle field circumstances regarding the death of brother Ed the most heart wrenching aspect of the movie.
Uncle Tom's Cabin (1927)
"A house divided against itself cannot stand."
A little math exercise before I delve into a review of the picture. As I write this, it's been ninety two years since the movie's release, which itself was a mere sixty two years since the end of the Civil War. You could add another thirteen years to each comparison to account for the actual publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel in 1852 about the evils of slavery. At times it seems like we've come a long way and at other times, haven't come very far at all.
Having never read the Stowe novel, I may be at some disadvantage regarding comparisons to the film, although a good handful of reviewers offer significant insight on those points. What kept me off balance while watching was the obvious use of white actors to portray two of the principal characters, Eliza Shelby (Margarita Fischer) and George Harris (Arthur Edmund Carewe). I took that as a reflection of an era which might have considered black actors as not viable to portray historical figures or characters. That in itself I would consider racist, owing to a time that still hadn't come to grips in accepting equality between the races. The description of George as a 'yellow boy' and Eliza as a 'light girl', among other clues offered in the story that they were of mixed parentage was enough to move the story forward, but it sure was disorienting. Just as disorienting as the character of the young girl Topsy, actress Mona Ray in blackface. Her scenes were probably the most embarrassing in the picture, even if she was a friend to Little Eva (Virginia Grey).
From today's standpoint, virtually all the characters in the story are portrayed as caricatures and/or stereotypes, with the messaging in the movie to be entirely off base. As in the argument that the Shelby's represented a 'gentle rule' that was typical of the South. The film obviously wasn't meant to educate or elucidate, in fact it might have done harm to anyone expecting an objective view of history. More accurate was the treatment of racist characters like Lawyer Marks (Lucien Littlefield) and Simon Legree (George Siegmann), thoroughly despicable through and through.
However there are high spots in the movie relative to the cinematography and action sequences. Eliza's escape via the ice floes was stunningly filmed, and the sequences suggestive of angelic spirits was very nicely done. James B. Lowe was an effective choice for the role of Uncle Tom, portraying the character with grace and dignity. What the movie did more than anything else was to motivate me to get my hands on a copy of the novel to get a first person account of what Ms. Stowe was trying to say to her Nineteenth Century audience, unfiltered by the studio and director attempts to put out a commercially viable picture.
The 300 Spartans (1962)
"Mere cities don't matter now. It is Greece that counts!"
I became aware of this movie after seeing the Zach Snyder directed film "300" but it's taken a long while to get around to seeing it. You might consider this the 'realistic' portrayal of the siege at Thermopylae as opposed to the highly stylized treatment of the later movie, which itself was based on the graphic novel work of Frank Miller. Miller saw "The 300 Spartans" when he was a mere five years old, and the impression it made remained firmly etched in his mind. It gave Miller the luxury of years of research into the customs, traditions, training, weaponry and military strategy of the ancient Greeks, which he adapted into his award winning writing.
The thing that always impresses me with these older films is the elaborate and ostentatious presentation of the ancient armies and their colorful military gear. Those bright red war cloaks and fancy tunics of the Spartans makes me wonder if that's how fashionably attired a Greek army might have been back in 480 B.C. It doesn't seem quite possible to me, but who's to say. As the story progresses, a degree of emphasis is placed on the idea of the Greek city-states coming together to face the threat presented by King Xerxes (David Farrar) and the Persian army, even if Leonidas (Richard Egan) was less than successful in establishing that union.
As for the battle action, I thought it was just a bit too organized in the sense of the military on both sides marching in lockstep to face each other for each individual skirmish. Everything occurs right out there in the open with the sheer numbers of the winning side dictating victory. Though in this case, the Spartan defeat won some time for the Greeks to stave off the Persian threat at Salamis and Plataea, thus successfully ending the Persian invasion.
The Trouble with Harry (1955)
"You never know when a dead rabbit might come in handy."
Speaking of dead rabbits, this is the second movie in a row now I've seen in which a dead rabbit appeared. There's a humorous scene in the French short film "White Mane" in which a young boy playfully chases a rabbit around a large open field without catching it. In a later scene however, the rabbit victim is seen skinned and slowly roasted over an open fire. The deceased bunny in this picture appeared to have a severe case of rigor mortis, probably gone for a while since the Beav..., I mean Arnie (Jerry Mathers), carried it around for a while showing it off to anyone he came across.
But that wasn't the trouble with Harry. Harry had his own peculiar case of the recently departed, yet without the same constraint of rigor exhibited by the hapless hare. This wasn't Alfred Hitchcock's only foray into black comedy, though it would be another two decades before he directed "Family Plot" in 1976. I think he might have overlooked a fairly significant plot point here the first time Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe) inspected Harry's corpse with Captain Wiles (Edmund Gwenn); he was aware of every person who had passed by the dead body. How would he have known? No one had told him and he didn't have first hand knowledge, and they all couldn't have been lucky guesses.
Now I don't know what a dead body could possibly look like after it's been buried and dug back up a total of four times, but it does seem like it would be pretty gruesome. With four different people taking dubious credit for the fatal blow that killed Harry, it shouldn't come as any surprise that none of the guilty suspects are in fact guilty. Heck, they weren't even suspects when you come to think about it. That's what I like about a good non-murder mystery. Everyone gets off scot-free.
When I insert this title into my IMDb list of thirty eight Hitchcock films I've seen and reviewed, this one comes in at just below the middle point at number twenty three (as I write this). So that's a little bit better than most reviewers on this board give it credit for. Personally, my whoa! moment occurred right at the opening credits when I saw 'Introducing Shirley MacLaine'. This was obviously some time before she looked like Shirley MacLaine, and I had some trouble warming up to her character. All the rest of the players looked like who they were, although I enjoyed Edmund Gwenn much better when he was Kris Kringle in "Miracle on Thirty Fourth Street". His banter with John Forsythe regarding 'yesterday, today and tomorrow' sounded like an attempt at an Abbott and Costello routine, but it fell kind of flat. And for the record, Harry had no speaking lines.
Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
"Want to see something really scary?"
If I were evaluating this film on it's own I'd likely rate it a '7', but with all the cool references to TV programs of the past and to earlier episodes of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone itself, I'm calling for a bonus point to bring it up to an '8'. Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks have some fun recalling TV theme songs of an earlier era in the prologue before Aykroyd's sudden transformation, and he's set up for a return engagement in the final scene as an ambulance driver. That was a neat way to book-end his appearances.
I have to advise the reader that "The Twilight Zone", the original series, is my favorite TV program of all time. There was just that certain something in the writing and execution of the stories that made so many of them memorable, even with more than a half century gone by now. For that reason, the three remakes in this film were particularly noteworthy. "Kick the Can" is one of my Top Ten favorites from the original series, and Scatman Crothers was a perfect choice for the role of the ever optimistic resident attempting to bring cheer to residents of the Sunnyvale Rest Home. His message is a timely one that should resonate with anyone about to step out of middle age - "The day we stop playing is the day we start getting old..."
The segment modeled on "It's a Good Life" ought to stimulate the memory banks of Twilight Zone fans. In the story, school teacher Helen Foley (Kathleen Quinlan) states to the shop owner that she's from Homewood, and traveling to Willoughby. There's also mention of a town named Cliffordville. In the TZ episode "Walking Distance", actor Gig Young portrays a man who travels into the past to his hometown of Homewood. Willoughby is the idyllic town setting for another episode titled "A Stop at Willoughby". And in yet another story, actor Albert Salmi attempts to rearrange things when he visits his old home town in "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville". The theme of each of these stories had to do with a wistful yearning for the past, maybe not so much as a particular place, but a state of mind that went with growing up in a simpler time without the stress of modern day pressures. That seemed to be a favorite Rod Serling theme, one which he revisited over the course of the series.
It would have been neat if William Shatner could have returned to reprise his character from "Nightmare at 20,00 Feet", but I have to say, John Lithgow did an admirable job as the airline passenger caught up in his own delusion. He looked like he was really losing it with the gremlin out there on the wing of the plane. I think Dan Aykroyd showed remarkable restraint on that drive to the hospital.
Now even though the first segment titled "Time Out" was an original and not a remake, a case might be made that it at least touched on a couple of Rod Serling originals. "Deaths-Head Revisited" was the story of a Nazi concentration camp officer forced to relive the horror of his past, while the Vietnamese jungle setting of the segment had some similarity to a TZ World War II story called "A Quality of Mercy", in which a military officer was forced to exchange places with the enemy, in that case, a Japanese soldier. The only thing in the first story I couldn't make a connection with was the Ku Klux Klan lynching, an idea that might have made for a unique Rod Serling story.
Be that as it may, I had some fun with this flick. The only thing I didn't care for was the goofy special effects with the monsters in "It's a Good Life", but then again, they were the constructs of a youngster's imagination, so anything goes I guess. Oh yeah, and in the "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", the pilot made an announcement at one point that the plane was flying at 35,000 feet. That's where having Shatner on hand might have come in handy.
A horse of a different color
I was drawn to this film after having watched director Albert Lamorisse's "The Red Balloon, a whimsical tale of a young lad's friendly relationship with an inanimate object. So I was already predisposed to another film with exceptional cinematography and distinctive imagery. There is no doubt that the filming is gorgeous, a high contrast black and white palette that sets off the stunning scenery of the Camargue, a marshland ares of southern France that borders the Mediterranean. The story is actually quite similar to that of Walter Farley's Black Stallion, both the novel and the film adaptation. A young boy admires a stallion in the wild and wishes to befriend the regal animal, even as herdsmen in the region attempt to capture it and perhaps do it bodily harm.
Observing the story objectively, there's a lot here that's disturbing, notwithstanding the young boy Falco's (Alain Emery) fascination and loving relationship with 'White Mane'. The fight between White Mane and the new leader of the herd is rather brutal, one can actually see White Mane biting into the flesh of it's opponent, and those violent kicks would certainly be enough to kill a human. That would probably be something too intense for a young child to watch, and while I thought the rabbit chase was a pleasantly humorous diversion, I had to do a double take when that same rabbit was observed somewhat later, skinned and roasting on a spit, on tap for Falco's luncheon menu. Not that it bothered me personally, but how would you explain that scene to a six year old?
But the thing that rather upset me was the conclusion of the film. Although the imagery in the closing scene suggests that Falco and White Mane have discovered a new found freedom having escaped the rabid herdsmen, if one is of rational mind extending the scene to it's ultimate conclusion, one would have to consider that both drowned in the turbulent waves of the Mediterranean. I hate to be a downer here with my analysis, but what else is one to expect? Otherwise though, it was a beautiful film.
A mystery solved?
Of all the pro wrestling personalities highlighted in the "Dark Side of the Ring" series, Gino Hernandez is the only one I never saw wrestle and have no real knowledge of, other than his brief association with Chris Adams in the mid Eighties. It appeared that he had a real bright future in the entertainment sport, but his flashiness in the ring was matched with the same sort of lifestyle outside it, and this episode explores how it might have contributed to his untimely death. On-camera notables for this program include promoter and booker David Manning, manager and booker Bruce Prichard, wrestlers Jake 'The Snake' Roberts and Kevin Von Erich, along with Hernandez's ex-wife Janice Gillespie and their daughter Lisha. Much of the story involves Gino's life outside the ring as a gambler, hard drinker and drug abuser, who's intense paranoia derived from an association with underworld characters and drug traffickers. Having died in February 1986, a long held opinion by his mother Patrice Aguirre, was that Hernandez was a murder victim due to his unsavory relationships. For example, a shady character named John Royal, unknown to his mother and ex-wife, showed up at Gino's funeral and paid the expenses for his burial, while at the same time seeming to threaten the mother about pressing the murder angle. The end of the program suggests that another unknown person knew how Hernandez really died, and his altered voice proceeds to assure Ms. Aguirre that her son's death was strictly the result of his drug use. The actual death certificate states the manner of death as acute cocaine intoxication, after the police dropped their homicide investigation into the fatality.
One shouldn't expect to be surprised by the inconclusive nature regarding the death of Gino Hernandez. There are enough testimonials from both sides to consider both the murder angle and the overdose theory. I found the statement by the unnamed, unknown character near the end of the program, particularly since it's now three decades gone by, to almost seem like another wrestling angle to explain what happened to Hernandez. The mother seemed reasonably assured by this obscure character, and I hope for her sake she's found some closure, but for this viewer, the case of Hernandez's death is still pretty much an open question.
"...occasionally, we have to do wicked things."
A world weary British spy undertakes one last mission after refusing a desk job, and becomes enmeshed in a duplicitous agenda to take out the East German head of their own intelligence forces. Richard Burton portrays a disaffected operative by upping his alcoholic intake and initiating a disturbance with an East German shop owner, designed to send a signal to the Communist bloc that he's ready and willing to defect. Alec Leamas's (Burton) only mistake is falling in love with an attractive librarian (Claire Bloom) who comes on to him, she a member of the Communist Party with an idealistic vision of world peace if only the right people were in charge. The stark black and white photography only adds to the noirish atmosphere of this engaging espionage thriller, which isn't tainted by running gun battles, elusive car chases, or Bondian type gadgets that were just beginning to gain traction in the early Sixties with films like "Dr. No" and "From Russia With Love". Even at the film's conclusion, one might be left conflicted regarding the identity of the mysterious Hans-Dieter Mundt (Peter van Eyck), deemed innocent of charges that he himself was a double agent feeding information to the Brits, but in the shady underground of Spy versus Spy, his final act meant to save Leamas actually results in the British agent's undoing, preferring to join his German lover in a fate that insures he'll never be compromised again.
Company of Heroes (2013)
"Let's go and start a fight, boys!"
Based on a video game series is all you need to know about this movie. Unfortunately, that message comes during the closing credits after you've watched the whole thing. Of the seventy three World War II films I've watched and reviewed on IMDb up to this point, this one comes in second to dead last. The only one worse is a West German war flick with the American title "Desert Commandos". Taking place during the closing chapter of the war with the Battle of the Bulge as a backdrop, an American military unit gets lost behind enemy lines and stumbles upon a plot by the Nazis to develop an atomic bomb. There's a line in "Inglourious Basterds" that goes "We will be cruel to the Germans." There's also a scene that takes place in an opera house. This movie has both of those features as well, but without Tarentino to guide the action. You can afford to take a pass on this one.
A Cock and Bull Story (2005)
"After all, am I not the hero of my own life?"
For starters, 'Tristram' has no business being a real name. It's impossible to pronounce, that second 'r' in there throws everything off when you're trying to say it. 'Tristam' would make more sense, and 'Tris' is even better. I first came across the name as it related to character actor Tris Coffin, who appeared in a whole slew of 'B' movies in the Forties and Fifties, mostly in Westerns but in other genres as well. Every now and then I'll catch one of his early flicks where he's credited as Tristram Coffin, and when I see it, I'm reminded of this particular little rant I'm going through here, primarily for my own amusement.
So just as 'Tristram' shouldn't be a real name, this probably shouldn't have been a real movie. I go for this quirky stuff most of the time, but every once in a while I have to stop and consider if I'm getting anything out of a film like this. It was OK watching for a while and then it just got to be tedious. The chronology and self referential stuff didn't bother me all that much, it's just that it seemed to wear itself out. Also, I didn't care much for a foul mouthed Gillian Anderson using the 'f' word randomly, it just seemed to be beneath her character as an actress.
That's not to say I didn't find the humor in the story; I did laugh now and again but I really couldn't tell you where at this point. So for all that, I couldn't come out and offer a recommendation to watch this 'cock and bull' story, which upon some reflection, is probably a pretty good way to describe it. If you think you'd like to give it a try, you'll get a pretty good flavor for the whole thing in the first ten minutes. After that, you're on your own.
"Let me give you a piece of advice. Don't go home."
I thought this was a pretty good Hitchcock film although I seem to be in the minority on this board. Out of the thirty seven movies I've seen directed by Hitch at this point, this one ranks #31 according to IMDb voters, and all the ones rated lower were made prior to 1932 including the short "Bon Voyage". For an espionage picture, I especially liked the hook with Henri Jarre (Philippe Noiret) cleverly thinking on his feet by stating that Russian defector Boris Kusenov (Per-Axel Arosenius) died a year earlier, temporarily sidetracking Andre Devereaux's (Frederick Stafford) attempt to find out who the head of the French cabal was working with the Russians. The movie's title, "Topaz", was the code name for that French group.
I also liked the way the story was woven around the very real Cuban Missile Crisis of the early Sixties, with occasional snippets of New York Herald newspaper headlines commenting on that threat to America. The paper ceased publication in 1966 under that name, so one might question if those headlines were real or not, but they did seem to convey the correct tone of the times and the imminent danger posed by Russia. Except for John Forsythe and John Vernon in the cast, I didn't know any of the other actors, mostly foreign, and this might go a long way in explaining the unpopularity of the movie against some of Hitchcock's better regarded works. Vernon actually struck me as quite comical as the bearded Cuban strongman, resembling Fidel Castro a bit, until a stock shot of Castro appeared to put that idea to rest.
The only thing I didn't care for about the picture was it's abrupt ending with the French mastermind Jacques Granville (Michel Piccoli), code named Columbine, seemingly making a clean getaway. One would think that with his identity exposed, he'd never make it back to France safely, but his fate is left up to the imagination of the viewer. Deveraux's hasty reconciliation with his wife Nicole (Dany Robin) also seemed incongruous given their respective affairs. As I think about it, what might have helped this picture is the casting of Hitchcock regulars like Cary Grant and James Stewart in key roles. Their popularity as actors would probably have been enough to get more audience into theaters, and an IMDb rating at least a point higher.
Robin Hood (2010)
"Rise and rise again, until lambs become lions!"
The movie doesn't seem to be held in high regard by a lot of the reviewers here but I found it entertaining enough; the 6.7 IMDb rating as I write this seems kind of low. With Russell Crowe's presence in the title role, and Ridley Scott directing, the comparisons to "Gladiator" are probably to be expected, but I saw more Braveheart in Crowe's performance here than of Gladiator. I haven't particularly been a Robin Hood fan growing up, so I'm not that invested in the character, but I can say that this was a much darker version of the English folklore hero than Errol Flynn's take on the character in 1938's "The Adventures of Robin Hood". That movie was brilliantly colorful and displayed an astonishing array of outstanding swordplay, whereas this film dealt more in the political intrigue between England and France, and the fighting sequences were more in tune with audience expectations of the current era. All the names of Sherwood Forest lore are here - Maid Marian, here called Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett), Friar Tuck (Mark Addy), Little John (Kevin Durand), Will Scarlett (Scott Grimes) and the Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen). One expects a nominal amount of humor from some of the players but it's not overdone in keeping with the overall tone of the picture. There's not a lot here in the tradition of literature's Robin Hood robbing from the rich to give to the poor though the theme is broached in one particular sequence. This story's Robin Hood is more concerned with his fellow men living a life endowed with freedom and liberty, with the picture's final battle meant to insure that outcome, though by the time it's over, the newly crowned King John (Oscar Isaac) reasserts his divine right to tax the poor and declare Robin Hood and his merry men a band of outlaws. It felt like the template for the traditional version of Robin Hood was set right at the end of this picture.