Thursday, September 27, 2018

La Marseillaise

My favorite scene in all of the movies is the scene in Casablanca (1942) where Victor Laszlo tells the band “Play the ‘Marseillaise’. Play it.” When Rick says "Play it", you kind of getting the feeling that he has joined the fray.

But this great scene is really based on on a scene in The Grand Illusion (1939) by the great Jean Renoir. This anti-war movie was banned by both Germany and France (by France in 1940 because it was thought the pacifist movie might hurt with the war effort).

Two great scenes in two of the best movies of all time, but the Casablanca scene was really just a copy of the great scene in The Grand Illusion.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool (2017)

My Rating : 7/10

I had wanted to see this movie for quite a while and finally got to see it yesterday. I don't even think it was a 7 because it was pretty depressing and focused on a small part of Gloria Grahame's life; the last two years. But the back material to the movie is fascinating so a 7 it is.

The actors, Annette Bening and Jamie Bell were really good, but the movie chose to explore a rather small, and unexciting part, of Grahame's life.

Gloria Grahame was a real Hollywood movie star. In It's a Wonderful Life (1946) Gloria played Violet, the girl who would have went wrong without George's help. Grahame was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Crossfire (1947), and would later win the award for her work in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) . She also starred in  The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), which won Best Picture, The Big Heat (1953), and Oklahoma! (1955).

Grahame's second marriage was to director Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause, Johnny Guitar, In a Lonely Place). Their marriage broke up when Ray discovered his wife in bed with his thirteen year old son Anthony (her step son). Gloria's fourth marriage would be to Anthony and they would stay together for thirteen years and have two children (one more than she had with his dad).

As you can see, Gloria had a pretty exciting life. The movie focuses on the last year of her life, when at age 57 she was succumbing to breast cancer (she didn't get radiation because she didn't want to lose her hair), and in affair with an English part-time stage actor Peter Turner who she had met a few years earlier. Peter is thirty years younger than Gloria but was in love with the living legend.

The part of Gloria's life covered in this film isn't too exciting, and it is pretty depressing. But it is a fascinating footnote on a little known film star who lived an incredible life.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

My Rating :  9/10

The Crazy in the film title is referring to Rich and not to Asians, although I thought, at times that the movie was going to slip into an Asian Hangover movie. But the director smartly avoided the temptation to go for slapstick laughs, and concentrated on the plot in this light rom-com, with an all Asian cast, that worked for me.

In order to appeal to the American audience the characters spoke mostly English, but did celebrate Chinese culture by looking at the food, culture and lifestyle of the Singapore super-rich. The music was really well done, playing American music sung in Chinese (except for Fools Rush In at the wedding which was done in English). Coldplay's Yellow was especially effective as a closer.

The poor girl not worthy of the rich boy theme has been used before in movies like Coming to America (1988), My Fair Lady (1964) and Pretty in Pink (1986). The movie was predictable; you knew Rachel and Nick would end up together; but that's OK in a 2018  romantic comedy. Maybe we need something to fell good about.

One part I did find interesting was how Rachel used her game theory (and mahjong) skills to win over her future mother-in-law.

There was nothing ground breaking in this movie, except the use of an all-Asian cast in a movie created for the American market. Hollywood could have, and I am sure did consider, changed the screen play based on Kevin Kwan's book, so they had a white starlet in the lead. But thankfully, someone made a good decision.

It was also refreshing to see such a strong female cast take charge of the movie.

Overall, much better than I expected.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Fallen Angel (1945)

I just watched Otto Preminger's Fallen Angel again and really enjoyed it again. Preminger had also done two others of my favorite film noirs, Angel Face and Laura. 

This movie starred Alice Faye, Dana Andrews and Linda Darnell. The back story is sometimes just as interesting and the movie plot itself. Alice Faye was one of the biggest box office attractions in musicals in the late 30's and early 40's. After having a baby in 1943 Alice decided she wanted to try something different. Alice decided to star in Fallen Angel, a dark film noir. She was given top billing and was very optimistic about the film.

When Faye saw a screening of the final film, she saw that produce Darryl Zanuck, who was anxious to promote his new protege Linda Darnell, had cut many of Faye's scenes and switched the focus to Darnell. Faye wrote Zanuck a not and didn't make another movie for seventeen years.

The movie itself was a really good noir. Andrews fell for femme fatale Darnell and decided to marry heiress Faye and then kill he to get her money, so he could marry Darnell. Andrews can't go through with it, but Darnell ends up dead anyways.

The movie is flawed, because in the end good girl Faye ends up with Andrews the creep. But it was still a really good film with Darnell shining in her role and stealing the show.

My favorite film noirs:
1. Double Indemnity (1944)
2. Out of the Past (1947)
3.  The Woman in the Window (1944)
4. Scarlet Street (1945)
5. Laura (1944)
6. Angel Face (1953)

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Myrna Loy and William Powell

Probably better known as Nick and Nora, from the Thin Man series, Myrna Loy and William Powell are probably my favorite film screen couple. I just finished seeing I Love You Again, and had watched Libeled Lady a few days ago.

Powell was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times: for The Thin Man (1934), My Man Godfrey (1936), and Life with Father (1947). Powell married Carole Lombard, with who he would star in My Man Godfrey (1936) a couple years after his divorce from her and was engaged to Jean Harlow, with whom he starred with in Libeled Lady (1936), right before she tragically died at the age of twenty six from kidney failure.

Myrna Loy was in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) , Cheaper By The Dozen (1950) and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) .

Powell and Loy starred in thirteen movies together :

Manhattan Melodrama (1934)
The Thin Man (1934)
Evelyn Prentice (1934)
Libeled Lady (1936)
After the Thin Man (1936)
The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
Double Wedding (1937)
Another Thin Man (1939)
I Love You Again (1940)
Shadow of the Thin Man (1941)
Love Crazy (1941)
The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)
Song of the Thin Man (1947)

Manhattan Melodrama was the film which the notorious criminal John Dillinger attended a showing of on July 22, 1934. After leaving the theater, he was shot to death by federal agents.

In addition to starring together in the great Thin Man series, Powell and Loy (along with Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow),  starred in Libeled Lady which is one of the best of the screwball comedies. 

William Powell made his screen debut in Sherlock Holmes (1922) starring John Barrymore. His last role was in Mister Roberts (1955).

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Distant Trumpet

I recently watched Raoul Walsh's A Distant Trumpet (1964). I wasn't expecting too much. It's rating on IMDB was 6.4 and the critics hadn't been kind to it. They liked the color, and some were impresses with the use of subtitles for the Apaches speaking their own language but overall it was seen as dull.

But I decided to watch it myself and I wasn't too impressed. The movie had the obligatory love story as Troy Donahue is tempted by his commander's wife, just as his fiance arrives at the fort.
Early in the movie we see some Apache atrocities as men are buried alive up to their neck to allow the ants to eat out their brains, and we later see some troopers who were burned to death. Lt. Hazard (Troy Donahue) says: "There are the bodies of Kroger and Florita. Piper, tell Captain Gray that we will pursue the Indians as long as we have food and water. All right, now take a good look at them. It's going to make killing Apaches a lot easier They were buried alive. Those ants are eating their brains out!"
Lt. Hazard has an Apache scout, White Cloud, who was once a great chief. But White Cloud was conquered by the whites and then became friends with them. General Quaint, the man who conquered and then became friends with White Cloud, sends Lt. Hazard and White Cloud, to negotiate with War Eagle, the last Apache hold out. The movie does have War Eagle speaking in Apache, and there are English subtitles.

War Eagle : For many days my eyes watched you. You followed you like the wolf across many mesas, down the canyons. Why?
Lt. Hazard : I search for War Eagle. 
War Eagle : I am War Eagle
Lt. Hazard : I come from General Quaint. 
War Eagle : I know Quaint
Lt. Hazard : And he knows you. War Eagle : I do not believe you know him
(Hazard hands War eagle a jeweled lizard that Quaint has given him)
War Eagle : The lizard. What does Quaint want?
Lt. Hazard : Your surrender
War Eagle : You say this to me? Do you know I can kill the two of you! I lift my hand and you are dead!
Lt. Hazard : If i do not return General Quaint will find you and you will be dead and all of your people. But if you surrender to General Quaint you will live a long time. 
War Eagle : The hang me? 
Lt. Hazard : No. you will take your people to the border where General Quaint awaits you. You will not be punished. By his word you will live on your own land. On your own reservation in Arizona. And I promise that I will protect you and give you food and clothing. You will live in peace. And you will remain their chief.
War Eagle : How do I know this?
Lt. Hazard: Because you must trust me. 
War Eagle : Why?
Lt. Hazard : Because I'm here. Because I trusted you. 
War Eagle : (Asking White Cloud) You are a brother of the Chiricahua. You trust the Blue Coats?
White Cloud nods yes
War Eagle : You are a snake who crawls on his belly. You think you are one of them. But they will spit on you when they no longer need you. You do not believe me! You are a fool! 
Lt. Hazard : No. He is not a fool. You are. A man is not a man who lets his people die when it is hopeless. These are your children. Will you let them die because of the anger in your heart. Be like a father who loves his sons. Tell them to live. War Eagle : I am a father and I love my sons. Tell me again what I must do. 
Lt. Hazard : You must trust my promises and surrender. 
War Eagle : I hear you speak. I do not hear it in my heart. 
Lt. Hazard : We will camp down the mountain. 
War Eagle : No! He will stay with me! Then he will see who is the fool and who speaks the truth.
Lt. Hazard : By the time the sun comes up I want your answer

The next day War Eagle said : I surrender. Not because I am afraid but because I am tired of war. Always I wanted peace. But your men in Washington, no, they sent soldiers. They killed out women and children. They destroyed our men with bullets and whiskey. They took our land, our freedom. They drove us like animals. 
Lt. Hazard : Those days are over
War Eagle : My heart has found faith in your words. I dream of my Arizona Valley. The trees with nuts, the bushes with berries, the antelope standing where water runs.
Lt. Hazard : That's right War Eagle. You're valley. Let's take your people home.

At the end of the movie we have War Eagle and White Feather riding together in to the fort.
What makes the movie interesting to me is whether Raoul Walsh was commenting on the 1964 Civil Rights situation in America. At this time we had two different approaches that were advocated. Malcolm X led a group that wanted the separation of blacks and whites, and rejected any discussion of integration. Malcolm X wanted to continue to fight, and use any means necessary, to achieve their goals. Martin Luther King, on the other hand was in favor of peaceful integration.
Was Walsh commenting that he felt that the best path for black Americans was to go the way of Martin Luther King, and peacefully integrate? When War Eagle first talks to White Cloud he sounds like Malcolm X. "You are a snake who crawls on his belly. You think you are one of them. But they will spit on you when they no longer need you. You do not believe me! You are a fool!" Lt. Hazard tells him "No. He is not a fool. You are. A man is not a man who lets his people die when it is hopeless. These are your children. Will you let them die because of the anger in your heart. Be like a father who loves his sons. Tell them to live." War Eagle says "I am a father and I love my sons. Tell me again what I must do."
The heroic character in the movie, Lt. Hazard, tells War Eagle that he must think of his people and give up the anger in his heart. He tells him that to fight is hopeless. It was at this time that Martin Luther King was saying "We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools" and "I have decided to stick to love...Hate is too great a burden to bear." It seems that the movie, and Walsh, agreed with the viewpoint of Martin Luther King and used the movie to express that point.
A subpar movies becomes much more interesting if we look at it as Raoul Walsh's commentary on the contemporary Civil Rights movement in the U.S.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Greatest Show on Earth?

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) is on many Worst Best Picture Oscar lists. I decided to watch it again to see what I thought.

I was stunned at how good some of the circus acts were. The real Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's Circus' 1951 troupe appears in the film, with over 1000 of its workers, and with its animals and equipment. I don't think we will ever see anything put together like this again to show what the circus was like back then. It would just be too expensive.

Some of the animal acts, the trapeze acts and the clowns were just tremendous. really, really entertaining. It was great to see the best clown of all time, Emmett Kelly and the flying trapeze scenes were done by some of the best trapeze artists ever. if you look at the film credits you will see all the famous acts who appeared as themselves. You will also see many the famous people who were spectators in the film, including Bing Crosby and Bob Hope who came to watch their friend Dorothy Lamour.

I think the circus scenes were great, and I don't think we will ever see anything like it again on the screen (without using CGI)), but ultimately the plot let down the movie.

There were a few plot lines going on. The main was the romance between Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde and Charlton Heston. There was also the subplot of James Stewart, as Buttons the Clown, always in makeup and hiding from something in his past. Then there was Lawrence Tierney, playing a gangster and trying to muscle in on the show.

None of the plots were interesting and that really hurt the movie. The worst scene was after the train crash, and people were dying all around, and Charlton Heston was trying to rally people to put the show on. Betty Hutton soon joined in as the Show "must go on" became the rallying cry, even though people were dying all around them and lions and tigers were wandering around loose. A really terrible scene that a good director would have handled much better.

But, the movie is still worth seeing for the great circus scenes, but it definitely was not a good Best Picture Oscar winner.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Carole Lombard in Warsaw

Carole Lombard died much too young. She died in a plane crash in 1942, while returning from a war bonds tour. She was only 33 years old.

She was great in Twentieth Century (1934) and in My Man Godfrey (1936), but two of my favorite movie with her were both set in Warsaw.

Nothing Sacred (1937) is a comedy  about a young girl from Warsaw, Vermont who pretends to be dying from radiation poisoning so she can see the big city. To Be or Not to Be (1942) is set in Warsaw, Poland and is a comedy about Nazism and the war. It was Carole's last film, and she died before she ever got to see it.

These were not your typical Hollywood movies. A comedy about a girl pretending to be dying, and a comedy about the Nazis, while World War 2 was still going on, were risky, to say the least. But they both became classics because of Carole.

Monday, February 16, 2015


I really liked American Sniper. It was really controversial, with some people seeing Chris Kyle as a villain while others see him as an American hero. I thought the scenes where the camera looked through the rifle's scope and had the viewer deciding whether Chris should take the shot were tremendous. Bradley Cooper was really good.

And how about Clint? He has probably made himself in to the best actor / director combination in history. As an actor he was in the iconic Dollars Trilogy. He was Dirty Harry and starred in Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, The Outlaw Josey Wales and  Gran Torino. Iconic roles for a really good actor.

But then Clint also directed thirty seven movies including The Outlaw Josey Wales, Unforgiven, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, Gran Torino and American Sniper.

Who else has had such a distinguished acting and directing career? Case can be made for Charlie Chaplin, Woody Allen and Orson Welles, but Clint is right up there with the best.

John Cazale

John Cazale was only in five movies. All five were nominated for Best Picture (The Godfather (1972), The Godfather Part Two (1974), The Conversation (1974),  Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and The Deer Hunter (1978)

Three of the movies (both Godfathers and The Deer Hunter) won Best Picture Oscars.

John Cazale died on March 12, 1978.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Thomas Mitchell

In 1939 Thomas Mitchell had a pretty good year. He won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for playing Doc Boone in Stagecoach. He also appeared in the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Gone with the Wind, Only Angels Have Wings and Mr. Smith goes to Washington. Not a bad year.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Alejandro Inarritu is looking pretty good to get the Best Director Oscar for Birdman, which has a pretty good chance of getting the Best Picture Oscar. Innarritu is not a newcomer to the scene, having made five movies since 2000. He is 52 years old and has made some really good movies.

Amores Perros (2000)
Imdb Rating : 8.1
Image result for 21 grams

21 Grams (2003)
Imdb Rating : 7.7

Babel (2006)
Imdb Rating : 7.5

Biutiful (2010)
Imdb Rating : 7.5
Birdman (2014)
Imdb Rating : 8.1

Secret of the Incas (1954)

I had heard about this movie and when it recently popped up on YouTube, I thought I would give it a try.

Charlton Heston plays Harry Steele, an American living in Cuzco, Peru who has been searching for a fabled Incan treasure at Machu Picchu.

Also after the treasure is Ed Morgan (Thomas Mitchell), who will do anything he can to get his hands on the lost Incan starburst.

Robert Young plays an archeologist who is working with museums and with the Peruvian government.

The movie has been acknowledged as a major influence on Raiders of the Lost Ark. The plots of the two movies is very similar as our hero battles the bad guys as he tries to solve the clues left about a fabulous treasure. The map room sequence where a ray of light enter a room, and then is reflected to show the location of the treasure.

Raiders' costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis noted that the inspiration for Indiana's costume was Charlton Heston's Harry Steele in Secret of the Incas: "We did watch this film together as a crew several times, and I always thought it strange that the filmmakers did not credit it later as the inspiration for the series" and quipped that the film is "almost a shot for shot Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Not a great movie, but really interesting when you see the influence it had on Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Killer of Sheep (1977)

I watched another of Roger's Great Movie picks, Killer of Sheep from 1977. I had seen it before and really enjoyed it , and I liked it even better this time. Roger says in his review : What he captures above all in Killer of Sheep is the deadening ennui of hot, empty summer days, the dusty passage of time when windows and screen doors stood open, and the way the breathless day crawls past. And he pays attention to the heroic efforts of this man and wife to make a good home for their children. Poverty in the ghetto is not the guns and drugs we see on TV. It is more often like life in this movie: Good, honest, hard-working people trying to get by, keep up their hopes, love their children and get a little sleep."
There are so many things I like about this movie. In the way the days just unfold it reminds me of the day in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing. But it is even more realistic than that. It almost looks like someone's home movies. The film is grainy and the scenes are true. The movie is well worth watching just for the music alone.
Killer of Sheep is to 1977 Watts what Rome : Open City or Germany Year Zero were to Rome or Berlin in the 1940's. It is a neorealistic look at a society with all the glamour stripped away. But unlike those societies, which were the result of the World War, the society portrayed in Killer of Sheep, is the result of the complex historical and societal events that led up to it.
There probably isn't much of a market for great movies like this. The people who are going through this kind of life want to escape from it, not be reminded of it, and others don't want to admit that it exists. However, the critically acclaimed movies of Ramin Bahrani, (Chop Shop, Goodbye Solo and Man Push Cart) do have the style and feel of Killer of Sheep.
A fascinating movie, really well done movie. Another great pick from Roger.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Leolo (1992)

I watched another of Roger's Great Movies. This was from French-Canadian writer/director Jean-Claude Lauzon and was about a boy Leo Lauzon who preferred to be called Leolo. He lives in a disturbed fantasy world that is shared with the viewers. He thinks his mother was impregnated by an Italian tomato, which makes him Italian too.
The normal things that occur in Leolo's life are not examined, but every bizarre thought that crosses his mind is thoroughly dissected.
The movie is very well done and has an excellent film score. The music is as bizarre as the scenes it complements.
This is not a movie for all tastes. It pushes the envelope way too far for me. Bestiality, insanity, drugs, voyeurism, suicide; you name it, it's in here. Another coming of age movie, Breaking Away, where the main character also has a love for all things Italian, is more my style.
I know that this movie was really well done, and beautifully composed by a very talented writer, but it just made me feel too uncomfortable. But, for those who are a lot more twisted, and enjoy bathroom style humor, Leolo could become one of their "Great Movies."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Vengeance is Mine (1979)

I watched another one of Roger's picks for his Great Movies III Book. This was a very, very disturbing movie based a true story about a serial killer on the run in 1960's Japan. the movie is filled with sex and violence.

The movie, directed by Shohei Imamura, is beautifully filmed and has great style. The movie jumps from the present to the past as the serial killer, Iwao Enokizu, looks back at the events of his life with a calm detachment.

One event, when he is very young shows a naval officer embarrassing his Catholic father in from of the village. From then on we see a very angry young man who turns in a sociopath. Is the vengeance he is taking on the world because of the incident involving his father?

The movie has a Hitchcockian feel and tone. It is disturbing the same way many of Hitchcock's movies were. It is also disturbing because we find ourselves identifying with the psycho killer. We never really find out what makes Enokizu tick. In some ways it reminded me of No Country for Old Men. Evil is out there and you maybe unlucky and run in to it : there is nothing you can really do about it.

A very good movie. One of the "Greats?" Maybe.

Friday, October 8, 2010

After Dark, My Sweet (1990)

I'm watching some of Roger's Great Movies, Book III, that I haven't seen. This movie, with its 6.5 IMDB rating was one of them. I admire Roger for going with a movie that not too many others would consider great.
To me, the movie was just OK, definitely not great. Bruce Dern 's acting was great, however. One thing that bothered me was that in the voice over they made it seem like Kevin was mentally impaired. He came off as a simpleton as he talked about himself.
The plot also moved along very slowly, although I did enjoy watching Bruce Dern, Jason Patric and Rachel Ward eat up the scenes.
I love noir, and this was a good attempt at neo-noir, but overall the whole thing was just OK for me. Well worth seeing, but great? Not in my book.
Great twist ending, almost rivaling 7even, but once again, not consistent with the voice overs.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

2012 (2009)

- 1 1/2 Eberts

If you are going to make a bad movie please keep it short. This disaster of a movie went on for 158 minutes. I was really cheering for the world to end much, much sooner.
I very seldom see a movie with this low of a rating on IMDB (5.9), but Roger gave it 3 1/2 stars so I figured I had to see it.
I like sci-fi and I especially like apocalyptic movies. I also really like John Cusack, so I was hoping to like this movie, but I didn't. It was slow and boring.
In his review Roger said : "This is fun. 2012 delivers what it promises, and since no sentient being will buy a ticket expecting anything else, it will be, for its audiences, one of the most satisfactory films of the year. It even has real actors in it. Like all the best disaster movies, it's funniest at its most hysterical. You think you've seen end-of-the-world movies? This one ends the world, stomps on it, grinds it up and spits it out."
I know I can't get my 158 minutes back, but I wasn't satisfied and I think Roger owes me a $1 for the money I spent at Redbox.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kargaran mashghoole karand (2006)

- 3 Eberts

Men at Work, is an Iranian movie based on a story by Abbas Kiarostami, but directed by Mani Haghighi.
The movie is about four men who come upon a large pillar like rock, standing on the side of a cliff. They are on their way to watch a soccer game but decide that they should push it over the edge first. The movie is mostly dialogue, with very little action.
They tie a donkey to the rock and try to pull it. They cut down a tree, which is against the law, to use as a lever. Another group comes by and tries to succeed where they have failed. The groups join together and tie one of the cars to the rock and try to pull it over. In their attempts one of the men gets injured. His friend then begins ramming the rock with his car, risking his life? Why? For what? Why try to topple something so beautiful, so true, so natural? Is it in our nature just to tear things down? Old technology, new technology - some truths things stand up against the tests of time?
Political allegory, character study, drama, comedy, religious allegory, gender politics .. I don't know. The movie talks about the human condition. Why are we, as a people, in the situation we are now. It's not rational. It makes no sense. Yet here we are.
I found this film very interesting, beautifully filmed and very well done. I don't think Roger has reviewed it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Julia (2008)

- 2 1/2 Eberts

I've been watching some of Roger's 4 star reviews. This particular movie had a 4 star performance by Tilda Swinton but I would only give the movie 2 1/2. The story is about a nutty, alcoholic who sleeps around and wakes up all over the place.
She comes up with a scheme to hit it rich by kidnapping a rich guy's grandson whose mother is nuttier than she is.
Although Swinton performance as Julia was great I didn't really care about any of the characters.
It was well worth seeing if you enjoy watching great performances, but don't expect much from the story.
Roger liked it much better than I did. In his review he said "It’s good enough to be an art film, but don’t let anyone pigeonhole it for you. It’s one doozy of a great thriller. And the acting here is as good as it gets — not just from Swinton, but from Saul Rubinek as her one remaining friend, and by Bruno Bichir as Diego, who she meets in Tijuana. You want to be careful who you meet in Tijuana."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Shutter Island (2010)

- 4 Eberts

I wasn’t expecting that much from this movie. Most of the critics seemed like they were down on it. Some said it was too predictable and others said it was too hard to follow. I thought it was really well done.
As a mystery, as a thriller, as a Hitchcock homage – it all worked for me. The tone of the movie was really a like lot Vertigo. For most of the movie I really had no idea what was going on.
I thought it was beautifully filmed and the acting was tremendous. Leonardo DiCaprio just keeps getting better and better and I can watch Ben Kingsley in anything. And I loved the performance by Max von Sydow.
I also really, really liked the ending.
I think I even liked the movie a little bit more than Roger who gave it 3 and 1/2 stars in his review.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Serious Man (2009)

- 4 Eberts

The movie opens with a scene in 19th century Russia where Velvel is helped by a man on the road and then invites him into the house. Dorais convinced that the man is a dybbuk, or a spirit, because the man died three years ago. She thinks they are cursed for inviting him in. When she stabs the man the husband thinks she has killed him, but she thinks he is just an evil spirit. What to believe? Where do we get our truths from? The spiritual world or the world that we can see and investigate?This scene sets up the movie and the story of Larry, who might be descended from this (cursed?) couple. Larry Gopnik is a physics professor and he is first shown at the board explaining Scrodinger’s Paradox to his students, which says there is a state in which a cat can be both alive and dead, according to the laws of physics. Larry thinks he has good life going but things are about to fall apart. He also has a student who is failing his class because he can’t do the math. Larry is worried about a neighbor who might be encroaching on his property. His wife has decided that she wants a divorce; she would rather be with their neighbor Sy. The kids are going through the typical, trials and tribulations of the teenage years. Uncle Arthur, who lives with him, is making a probability map of the universe.Larry moves out to a motel. As his world comes crashing down his son complains because F Troop is still fuzzy on the TV. Larry’s tenure committee is getting negative letters about Larry. When Sy dies in a car crash, Larry’s wife is really broken up. Uncle Arthur gets picked up on a morals charge and the police are after him for gambling. The failing student’s father shows up and threatens to sue Larry. He tells him to “Please. Accept the mystery.” Larry says to a friend “Everything that I thought was one way turns out to be another.”
Larry tries to find out what was going on by visiting some rabbis. The first rabbi tells him that “You have to see these things as expressions of God’s will. You don’t have to like it, of course.” The second rabbi tells him a story about the message in Hebrew a dentist found on the back of a patient’s teeth. It said “Help me, save me” in a goy’s (non-Jew) mouth. The rabbi says he doesn’t know what the story means, but Larry wants an answer. He really wants to see the busy rabbi, Marshak. He tells his secretary ”I’ve tried to be a serious man.” The rabbi won’t see him because he is too busy thinking.
When Larry erases the grade of the failing student, for money, you get the feeling his world will really fall apart, and it soon does. His doctor calls to have him come in to discuss his x-rays from his checkup. As the movie ends a tornado heads towards them.Some movies get better with each viewing and this is one of them. After I first saw it I wanted to see it again right away. It is a movie about ideas, about life, about spirituality, about what we believe. A really good black comedy from the Coen brothers.
Roger also liked it and gave it 4 stars.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Drag Me To Hell (2009)

- 2 1/2 Eberts

I'm not that big on horror flicks but I had heard some pretty good things about this movie so I picked it up.
Overall, I thought it was well done. It was a well done creepy, scary movie. It wasn't on the level of The Exorcist, but it was made with that kind of shocking style.
If you are a fan of movies like The Exorcist and The Omen then you will probably enjoy this.
Roger thought it was OK and gave it 3 stars in his review. He said "Drag Me to Hell is a sometimes funny and often startling horror movie. That is what it wants to be, and that is what it is."