Sunday, August 31, 2014

Cold War Capers

Film: The Atomic City
Format: streaming video from Amazon Prime on laptop.

The Cold War was an easy go-to for movie plots in the 1950s especially. With the onset of the Atomic Age, there was constant concern about those darn commies getting ahead of us in the space race. From the minute the Soviets launched Sputnik, Hollywood decided that the Russians getting ahead of us in space or stealing the secrets of the bomb was exactly what was needed to get butts in theater seats. Fear, after all, is a great motivator. And more important, when you can regularly show the Americans coming out on top, you reinforce the idea of American superiority. This is exactly what The Atomic City plays on.

The plot here is dead simple. Tommy (Lee Aaker), the seven-year-old son of Dr. Frank Addison (Gene Barry) is kidnapped. Why do we care? Because Frank Addison is one of the top scientists at Los Alamos and is the man in charge of the hydrogen bomb project. The kidnapping is extremely slick—Tommy is taken during a school outing, simply disappearing. Dr. Addison and his wife Martha (Lydia Clarke) are sent a telegram basically giving them instructions not to go to the police. The kidnappers, naturally, want the latest and best equations for the h-bomb, promising that Tommy won’t survive if they don’t get them.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

I Can Handle the Truth

Film: A Few Good Men
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on laptop.

Once upon a time, Rob Reiner was one of the best directors working. A Few Good Men comes right at the end of that period in his career—right before he directed the colossal stinkbomb North, as a matter of fact. A Few Good Men has a lot going for it. In addition to a top-of-the-line cast, including Jack Nicholson in one of his best and most iconic roles, it also has a screenplay from Aaron Sorkin at his best. This is a smart film. It’s one I’ve seen multiple times before, and settling into it today was like putting on a pair of comfortable slippers. I always remember that I like this film. I don’t always remember how beautifully written it is.

At the military base in Guantanamo Bay, two soldiers unexpectedly attack another soldier. Cut to Washington D.C. where Lieutenant JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore) brings the incident to the attention of her superiors. The soldier who was attacked died in the attack. While it seems like a cut and dried case, it is her opinion that it sounds like a “code red,” an unofficial disciplinary action. She advocates for the case to come to trial and a lawyer be assigned to the two soldiers, Harold Dawson (Wolfgang Bodison) and Louden Downey (James Marshall).

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Film: The Whisperers
Format: Internet video on laptop.

Lately, when I’ve watched a film that was nominated only for Best Actor or Best Actress, I’ve found a film that is relatively forgettable save for that one nominated performance. This is more or less what I expected with The Whisperers, a forgotten film from the year of my birth. There is, certainly, some element of truth in my expectations, but The Whisperers is far more than a forgettable film with a great performance. No, this is a film that really should be better known than it is. In addition to the justifiably nominated performance, there is a true darkness in this film and a story that is noteworthy in its brutality. This isn’t a film I’d want to watch if I was already depressed, but it’s a hell of a nice piece of dark theater.

Mrs. Ross (Edith Evans) is an elderly woman with her own series of issues and problems. In the main, she is extremely paranoid, under the belief that people are listening to her through the walls or the sink faucet. She reports things that she believes to the local police. It is her belief, for instance, that the white woman who lives above her with an Indian man is being held against her will. She’s also evidently suffering from dementia. She believes that she is descended from royalty, and that the welfare that she gets to keep her alive is something only temporary, since she is constantly expecting a windfall of money from her father. None of her delusions come close to even approximating reality.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Love and War

Film: The End of the Affair
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

When the Oscars roll around lately, the cry goes up that poor Leonardo DiCaprio has never won a statue for himself. Where are the people complaining for Julianne Moore? She’s gone 0-for-4, but no one seems to be pissing and moaning about that. And really, is there a better un-Oscared actress currently in film? I don’t think so. One of her four nominations happened to have the bad luck of coming out the same year as Boys Don’t Cry, which meant that her performance in The End of the Affair really didn’t have a lot of hope for a win. That’s really too bad.

What I was excited about going in here is that this is based on a novel by Graham Greene, who happens to be a favorite of mine. It’s actually kind of odd that I like Greene, because he was a particularly Catholic writer and I’m a particular heretic and apostate. Nevertheless, I like Greene’s work quite a bit. I like the stories and I like the man’s skill with a phrase. More to the point, Greene often had a particularly interesting moral slant on many of his stories. Morality sites at the heart of his work, and that’s absolutely no different here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

1984 Blogathon: Splash

Film: Splash
Format: DVD from personal collection on laptop.

It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to suggest that 1984 was a formative year for me. It was the year I started my senior year of high school. I am very much a child of the ‘80s, as the decade encompasses my high school and college years in the main. So when this 1984 Blogathon was proposed, I jumped in. I decided to go for a film that I knew I could locate easily (as in one I own) and that I hadn’t seen before. And so I picked Splash.

I’ll say right off that one of the things that Splash has going for it is that Daryl Hannah is in it playing something other than a human being. Hannah is at her best in this situation in my opinion. I’m rarely impressed with her when she plays a regular woman, but make her a mermaid or a replicant, and she can pull it off pretty well.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Thankfully, They're not on Screen

Film: A Thousand Clowns
Format: Video from The Magic Flashdrive.

I went into A Thousand Clowns completely cold, knowing nothing about it except that it existed on a flashdrive I got from Chip Lary. I didn’t even know who was in it until it started up and I was treated to the unmistakable face and sound of Jason Robards. This is a film that’s been almost completely forgotten, like a lot of films I seem to be watching lately. It’s kind of a shame, if only for the brilliant performance of Robards and the Oscar-winning performance of Martin Balsam.

This is another film that leaves me in something of a quandary in how to write it up. In terms of plot, it’s pretty simple and straightforward, because it’s far more of a character study than it is a film that has an actual plot. On the other hand, it’s surprisingly intricate in places. There’s a depth here that is surprising underneath the bizarre comedy and strange happenings that occur on screen.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Who Wouldn't Fall in Love with Audrey Hepburn?

Film: Sabrina (1954)
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

The 1954 Sabrina is one of those cases where I’m far more familiar with the remake than with the original. I’ve seen the 1995 version of Sabrina a couple of times, but have never seen the original until today. The remake is extremely accurate to the original, which says a lot for it. I like the remake quite a bit. It’s cute. Then again, the original has Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, and William Holden. It’s hard to compare anything to that cast.

On Long Island sits the estate of the Larrabee family. The Larrabees are a business family with dozens of interests. Father Oliver (Walter Hampden) and mother Maude (Nella Walker) are retired, leaving the business in the hands of elder son Linus (Humphrey Bogart). Linus is all business, letting up for nary a moment. All of his free time is thus taken up by his younger brother David (William Holden), a thrice-married playboy and polo player who has never done a serious day’s work in his life.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Remake? Sorta

Film: La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty)
Format: Streaming video from Hulu+ on laptop.

I wasn’t more than 20 minutes in La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty), winner of the most recent Best Foreign Language Feature Oscar, when I felt as if I had very much seen this film before. I have. The last time I saw this, it was called La Dolce Vita and was directed by Federico Fellini. The parallels between this film and that one are unmistakable and absolutely intentional. This is not the first time director Paolo Sorrentino has been compared with Fellini. My research after the fact indicates that I am not alone in this impression.

This is the story of Jep Gambardella (Tony Servillo), who was an acclaimed author in his youth. He wrote a single book for which he received a great deal of fame and at least one significant award. Rather than following that success up with a second book, though, he took to a life of high life partying in Rome. For income, he writes about art, artists, and famous people for a newspaper. But mostly, he goes to wild parties. As the film opens, we see his 65th birthday party, which involves a number of the beautiful people of Italy, dancing, music, drinking, and presumably a great deal of sex.

New List Entries?

So word is out about the newest edition of the 1001 Movies, although there’s not much of a stir in the 1001 Movies blogging community. No one, for instance, has a new list order or confirmation that the 13 proposed additions are the real thing. Still, rumors like this in the past have been pretty solid and while this is really heavy in the non-English category, I can’t really see why I shouldn’t assign some credibility to this. Here are the movies alleged to be in the new version of the book:

Nostalgia de la Luz (Nostalgia for the Light) (2010)
The Act of Killing (2012)
Blancanieves (2012)
12 Years a Slave (2013)
American Hustle (2013)
La Vie d’Adele Chapitres 1 & 2 (Blue is the Warmest Color) (2013)
Gravity (2013)
La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) (2013)
Inside Llewyn Davis(2013)
Nebraska (2013)
Tian Zhu Ding (A Touch of Sin) (2013)
Wadjda (2013)
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

It seems to me that it I should start watching these despite most of them not being a part of my various Oscar lists. So, I’m going to try to knock out one a week until they are confirmed as being the new entries on The List. If they are, I’ll keep going. If not, well, I’ll deal with that when I get there.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

High Society Never Changes

Film: Auntie Mame
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on laptop.

Auntie Mame is a film I’ve seen before, so when I found it on a library shelf, I figured it was a painless choice. I’m still trying to watch longer films when I can, and Auntie Mame is a good length. What I forgot, since it’s been years since I had seen it, is that there are large swaths of this film that I don’t like very much. As it happens most of the things I dislike are specifically Mame herself.

We open as a man writes his will, suggesting that should he pass away, custody of his son will revert to his sister, Mame Dennis (Rosalind Russell), of who he evidently disapproves. Of course, he promptly dies and the boy, Patrick (Jan Handzlik) is promptly whisked off to Manhattan to live with his eccentric (to put it mildly) aunt. This is our introduction to the force of chaos theory that is Mame Dennis.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Go West, Young Man

Film: In Old Arizona
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

I’m often of two minds when I watch a film from the very early days of Oscar. On the one hand, the majority of the films I’ve seen from this era are, at the very least, incredibly dated. Most of them are pretty wretched from a modern perspective in part because people were just figuring out how to do sound in the movies. I dread them a little bit because of this. On the other hand, if I’m going to see all of them, or at least as many as I can, knocking them out on a regular basis is important so I don’t end up with a bunch of them at the end. So when In Old Arizona showed up today, I was both pleased to knock out a film from the second Oscar ceremony, I was nervous about it as well.

I had every reason to be nervous about it. Aside from our lead actor, this is almost a farce with how overacted it is by every other character. What we have here is a basic love triangle complicated by the fact that one of the men is a wanted criminal and the other is a military officer charged with capturing said criminal. Stick it in the West at some vague time that could be after the Civil War or vaguely in the film’s present and we have a movie. Sorta.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Return to Sender

Film: The Letter (1940)
Format: TCM Watch on laptop.

It’s interesting to consider the 1940 version of The Letter a film noir even though it is a solid early example of the style. The reason it feels weird is that this is a remake of a film first made in 1929. I haven’t seen that version yet, so I don’t know how much it conforms. My guess is that it probably doesn’t much. This version, though, is very solidly a noir, having all of the main elements that the noir aficionado looks for. What makes it unusual is that in this case, the femme fatale isn’t the pursuit of the main character, but the main character herself.

The Letter has one of the better openings of a film I’ve seen in at least a year. We open on a quiet Malay night. The moon is high. Rubber drips from a tree into a waiting bucket. The plantation workers are preparing themselves for bed. A shot rings out. A man staggers out of a building onto a porch and stumbles. Leslie Crosbie (Bette Davis) follows him out, watches him fall, and empties the gun into the body on the ground. I couldn’t help but think I was in for a treat after the first minute or two.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Nick's Pick: My Neighbor Totoro

Film: Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro)
Format: DVD from Byron Public Library through interlibrary loan on rockin’ flatscreen.

This is the eighth in a series of monthly reviews suggested by Nick Jobe at YourFace.

Nick really hates it when people say that they don’t like anime. I get that. Anime isn’t a genre any more than foreign is a genre, no matter what NetFlix has to say about that. However, I find that most anime passes over me without making much of a favorable impression. Even the critically acclaimed stuff like Akira leaves me cold. Sure, I’ve liked a few, but I generally feel like I’m missing something culturally, like there should be something I’m getting that I just don’t. So it was not with a little trepidation that I put Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro) in the spinner. I was also interested in it; I’ve heard good things.

That being said, Nick’s given me something of a poser with this film in terms of writing up a review. Why? Because Tonari no Totoro doesn’t have a vast amount of plot to deal with, and dealing with plot is sort of my thing. I’ll do my best, but I’m guessing this might run a little short. For the purposes of this review, I watched the Disney release of this film rather than the original Studio Ghibli or the original English release.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Ties that Bind (and Choke)

Film: Mrs. Parkington
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

There is a particular weird little subgenre of film that attempts to encompass a person’s life. We typically start with the person at the end of his or her life and then experience the movie in a series of flashbacks. This is exactly the sort of film we get with Mrs. Parkington, which earned Greer Garson the fourth of her five consecutive Best Actress nominations. Of course, it wouldn’t be that interesting if the film were just a woman reminiscing about her life. No, we’re going to have a major conflict happening in the film’s present, and the flashbacks serve specifically as a way for us to understand the choice that Susie Parkington makes at the film’s close.

As the film opens, around Christmas, we are initially introduced to Susie Parkington’s family, and they are a miserable collection of people. None of them like each other, and it’s quickly evident that they only like their grand dame Susie Parkington because of her enormous wealth. In fact, the only decent people in the group aside from Susie are her great-granddaughter Jane (Frances Rafferty) and the new rancher husband of one of her descendants (Rod Cameron). The rest of them are exactly the stereotype of people raised on money and inherited entitlement, and every one of them is a swine, which becomes increasingly evident every time we flash back to the film’s present.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Smoke 'Em if You've Got 'Em

Film: The Insider
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

It’s interesting to see the moment an actor’s career makes a change. For Russell Crowe, one could argue pretty successfully that that moment came in 1997 with L.A. Confidential. For my money, though, you need to go a couple of years further into the future and his role in The Insider. There was always a touch of dirt on his characters before this role, but here he plays a man who puts his life, his family, his career, and everything else on the line for principle. I think it’s a stronger argument to suggest that Hollywood started taking him seriously as an actor rather than just a leading man who sells tickets when he finally took a role that wasn’t playing an inherently sexy character.

And strangely, the whole time I watched this film it felt like a Ron Howard film in everything but the soundtrack. I’m not sure why I had to constantly remind myself that this was a film directed by Michael Mann, whom I typically love. I have no reason for this—it’s just the way it is.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Calm Down

Film: The Last Angry Man
Format: TCM Watch on laptop.

I know that in general I’m writing for a movie geek crowd. It’s sad in that respect that Paul Muni is so little known and little remembered. This is a guy who was nominated for five Best Actor Oscars. Five, with one win. For reference the fact that Muni is so little remembered now would be like other five-time nominees being forgotten. Guys like Gary Cooper, Daniel Day-Lewis, Robert De Niro, Tom Hanks, Al Pacino, and James Stewart. So why don’t we remember him?

The Last Angry Man was Muni’s fifth and final official Oscar nomination (he was an unofficial write-in in 1935) as well as his final film appearance. A great deal of Muni’s career was, more or less, turning character parts into leading roles, and his work here is no different. Dr. Sam Abelman (Muni) is a Russian immigrant and a doctor who lives in a downscale Brooklyn neighborhood. He treats patients, most of whom can’t pay and many of whom are ungrateful, out of his home. As the film opens, a group of young thugs drops off an unconscious woman (played by no less a luminary than Cicely Tyson) on his doorstep and drive away.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Beautiful Balloon(s)

Film: Up
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin;’ flatscreen.

When Pixar puts out a dud of a film, like Cars 2, it’s both understandable and incredibly frustrating. On the one hand, not everyone hits a home run every time. On the other hand, expectations are so high for Pixar films. Over and over again, they seem to do the impossible. Up shouldn’t work. This is a movie made for kids and the main character is in his 70s and uses a quad cane. And yet it works because Pixar is smart enough to stick to what works for them: they write good stories that touch on something real and human in everyone. Up defies expectations because it lives up to what we expect from Pixar.

The reason their films work is because they avoid stereotypes as much as possible. Oh, they’ll play with them now and then. Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner) is very much the stereotype of an old curmudgeon. His putative sidekick, Russell (Jordan Nagai), however, is not what we’ve come to expect. Jordan is chubby, excitable, earnest, and Asian. But he’s a kid before he’s any of those things, which makes him completely believable. He’s a real kid, not an Asian stereotype forced into a movie.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Is It Tsar or Czar?

Film: Nicholas and Alexandra
Format: DVD from Mokena Public Library through interlibrary loan on rockin’ flatscreen.

Epic films aren’t always my thing. There are, of course, epics that I really like and there are epics that I wonder why I’ve watched. With a stack of movies near or exceeding the three-hour mark on my current list, I figured it behooved me to go about my old strategy of trying to knock out a couple of the longest films on the list every month. With that in mind, I requested Nicholas and Alexandra from the library, and here we are.

As might be deduced from the title, this is the story of the end of the Romanov Dynasty in Russia. Put a different way, this is the story of how the Bolshevik revolution happened and Russia became a communist state. And, as befits the title, it is told from the point of view of the Romanovs themselves rather than from that of the revolutionaries or from a more general historical perspective. What that means for us is a lot of pomp and finery coupled with scenes of the revolutionaries plotting their overthrow and a lot of shots of the suffering peasants. That’s often the way this sort of thing works—juxtapose the rich people with the poor people, in part to show why the poor people revolted. Here, by focusing on the Romanovs, we get a chance to see why that revolt is supposed make us sad. Or something.

Monday, August 11, 2014


Film: Coquette
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

When I first started working specifically on Oscar films, it seemed like such a good idea. For the most part, it has been a pretty good idea. And then I come across something like Coquette, and I wonder what the hell I was thinking about. Sitting through Coquette was like a root canal without painkillers. And to think, Mary Pickford won a statue for this thing.

So here’s our paper-thin plot. Norma Besant (Mary Pickford) is the sort of girl who won’t commit to a guy but instead revels in collecting multiple bouquets of flowers every day. This is despite the fact that she has been almost constantly pursued by Stanley (Matt Moore), an allegedly young man (the actor was in his 40s) who has her father’s approval. That father (John St. Polis) is the local doctor and wants Norma to marry someone with some potential. Sadly for him, Norma has decided that she’s got a thing for Michael Jeffery (Johnny Mack Brown), who her dad thinks of as a ne’er-do-well.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Rabble Rousing

Film: I Compagni (The Organizer)
Format: Streaming video from Hulu+ on laptop.

Fifteen minutes into I Compagni (The Organizer) and I paused the film. I was sure that this was made by Vittorio de Sica since quite a bit of it reminded me of Ladri di Biciclette. No soap, though. This is a film by Mario Monicelli, so any similarities to de Sica are either coincidental or homage.

Evidently, the world needed more films about the poor and oppressed workers of the world, because that is precisely where we’re going to be for the vast bulk of this film. Specifically in this case, we’re going to be in Turin, Italy, and dealing with the workers of a massive textile factory around the end of the 19th century. As with many factory workers during all stages of the Industrial Revolution, the workers here are the very definition of oppressed. We see young Omero (Franco Ciolli), a teenaged boy who by all right should be in school, getting up before the sun to get to work. The workday starts at 6:00am and ends at 8:30pm, with a half hour break for lunch. It’s not specifically brought up, but I’d suspect that it’s also a six-day work week. Our first day in the factory with the workers concludes with an old man getting his hand caught in one of the massive machines.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

I'm Weary, Too

Film: Weary River
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

One of the downsides of working off any list of movies is that I know for a fact when I’ve reviewed one that won’t get many hits or comments. Weary River is just such a case. If I cared about page views more than completeness, I’d have never bothered with a dipstick of a film like this one. Weary River may have been what people wanted in 1929, but I can’t imagine that anyone would be lining up for it now. I’m the third person to tag this film as viewed on Letterboxd, and that’s saying something.

So why isn’t this worth your time? I’ll try to make this brief. Jerry Larrabee (Donald Barthelmess) is a hoodlum who spends his spare time singing and playing the piano to entertain his mildly speech impedimented girlfriend Alice (Betty Compson). Jerry’s gang is running afoul of a gang run by a man named Spadoni (Louis Natheaux). What Jerry doesn’t realize is that Spadoni is aching to get rid of his rival. He pays someone to take a bullet in the 1920s equivalent of a drive-by and the guy names Jerry as the trigger man. We don’t find this out until later, but we know that Jerry isn’t guilty of this particular crime.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

What's with the Dog?

Film: Come Back, Little Sheba
Format: Internet video on laptop.

Strap in folks, because this one is going to hurt. For whatever reason, the DVD I got from NetFlix yesterday wouldn’t play in my laptop, so I was stuck with internet videos if I wanted to get something watched. And for whatever reason, I selected Come Back, Little Sheba. Honestly, I’m sure my rationale was that I’m the furthest behind on Best Actress nominees, mostly because they are underrepresented on the 1001 Movies list. I’ve got it as a minor goal to get to 50% done by the end of the year, so I’ve been hitting them pretty hard of late, and the Best Actress nomination (and, in fact, winner) is the only reason that film is on my radar.

Continuing my current inadvertent theme, this is another film that was originally based on a stage play, and it has all of the earmarks of that despite having a couple of scenes away from the main set. It’s also a film that is heavy on drama and meaning without being of anything earth-shatteringly important. No, this is a domestic drama by definition, and it doesn’t really go that far outside the home.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno, Sword

Film: The Longest Day
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

In the annals of military history, there is probably no single day more important or meaningful, at least in the last 100 years, than June 6, 1944. For a modern movie watcher, Saving Private Ryan, or at least the opening of that film, is the quintessential cinematic depiction of D-Day. The Longest Day, from three decades earlier, though, is a true cinematic depiction of the invasion of Normandy by the Allied forces. There is no plot here beyond the invasion, no Private Ryan to rescue, just the story of getting a mass of soldiers onto a beach and getting them inland to start liberating Europe.

What makes The Longest Day particularly interesting is that it looks at both sides of the conflict and attempts to bringin as much as possible. We spend time on each of the five beaches, we spend time with the glider troops and paratroopers, and we also see some of the planning and defensive measures put in place by the German army. In other words, it’s more or less a comprehensive look at the buildup on both sides of the channel and then the invasion itself.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Aid for AIDS

Film: Dallas Buyers Club
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

So let’s get one thing straight right off the start: I am not a major believer in Matthew McConaughey. I feel about him about the same way I do Clive Owen or Colin Farrell. I’m suspicious of anything he’s in until I have a good reason not to be. So when McConaughey won the Best Actor Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club, I had hopes that I might like him in this, but I didn’t know for sure.

This is the allegedly true story of Ron Woodroof (McConaughey), who was diagnosed with HIV and eventually AIDS in the mid-1980s, back when the disease was still considered both a gay disease and was almost completely misunderstood. Woodroof is given 30 days to live by Dr. Sevard (Dennis O’Hare) and Dr. Saks (Jennifer Garner). Convinced at first that he has been misdiagnosed, Ron eventually comes to understand that his condition almost certainly came through unprotected sex with an intravenous drug using prostitute. Determined to outlive his 30 day death sentence, Ron learns of experimental trials of AIDS drug AZT and bribes a hospital worker to give him the real drugs.

Monday, August 4, 2014

They're Guarding Their Box Office Receipts

Film: Guardians of the Galaxy
Format: AMC Showplace 16.

When I first saw the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy, I thought pretty much what everyone else did: this is going to be the best superhero movie ever made or the biggest piece of garbage since Battlefield Earth. In truth, it’s neither, and fortunately for the movie lover and kid in all of us, it comes a hell of a lot closer to the first option than the second one. A hell of a lot closer. I don’t go to the theater often, but this one was absolutely worth the price of admission. (And more, actually. You’ve gotta love $5 matinees.)

Despite the fact that everyone I know has been singing the praises of this film, I have to say that for the first 20 minutes, I was pretty worried. There’s a boatload of back story here, and if you’re not a comic book fan (and I am not), it’s pretty opaque. Assuming that you know even less than I do and that you can’t keep your Skrulls straight from your Kree, expect the exposition portion of the film to be extremely confusing.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Deja Vu All Over Again

Film: Love Affair
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

So I’ve been having the weirdest feelings of déjà vu. For the first 20 minutes or so of Love Affair I felt positive that I had seen this before. An aristocratic playboy and a former singer meet on a cross-Atlantic cruise and romance blooms despite the pair each being engaged to other people waiting for them. It seemed so familiar and I just couldn’t figure out what it was. And then, the boat docks for a short stay in Madeira and our two main characters go for a sojourn at the top of a hill where his grandmother lives…and it all clicked. I haven’t seen Love Affair before, but I’ve most definitely seen An Affair to Remember. As it turns out, the film from the late 1950s is a direct remake of this one, as in shot-for-shot and line-for-line in places. I knew it seemed familiar. They’re even both directed by the same guy.

And, as it turns out, An Affair to Remember really is Love Affair with more detail added in. The one is a remake of the other. This time, our flamboyant playboy is named Michel and is played by Charles Boyer. Our shipboard romance is named Terry McKay, just like in the remake, and is played by Irene Dunne. Here’s the thing—I’m not going to wrap up this review too quickly (because I never do), but if I ever could, this is the place. If you enjoy An Affair to Remember, you’ll appreciate Love Affair. However, if you have to choose only one of these two films, go with An Affair to Remember.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

So the Predicate Was Violets?

Film: The Subject was Roses
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

Well, this should be fun. Looking for something to watch today, I decided to hit the DVR and pretty much at random selected The Subject was Roses. I knew nothing going in, and what do you know? It’s another movie based on a stage play. I’m getting to the point where I’m starting to think that 90% of the movies ever made started out as theatrical dramas. Anyway, I have no complaints about the cast here. While a few other people show up, our principles are Patricia Neal, Jack Albertson, and Martin Sheen.

We’re in New York just after the end of World War II. Timothy “Timmy” Cleary (Martin Sheen) has just returned from the war, and as the film opens, it is the day after Timmy’s welcome home party. His parents, John (Jack Albertson) and Nettie (Patricia Neal) are arguing, pretty much as usual. They argue about Timmy, about too much drinking, and pretty much anything else. It soon becomes evident that this is a normal state of affairs.