Thursday, July 30, 2015

302. Forbidden Planet (1956)


Running Time: 98 minutes
Directed By: Fred M. Wilcox
Written By: Irving Block, Allen Adler, Cyril Hume
Main Cast: Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Warren Stevens, Jack Kelly
Click here to view the trailer

NOTE: NON-BOOK UPDATES!

Chicken Run (2000 - Peter Lord, Nick Park) 7.5/10 - I dug this, quite a bit! I'm a fan of Lord & Park and really need to decide on a definitive favorite moving forward, so that I can add it to my personal 1,000 list. I still need to see all the Wallace & Gromit shorts and the movie (or are there "movies", plural?) and I see there's even a new movie coming out called Shawn The Sheep. This was pretty great though and I really dug those nods to The Great Escape.

D.O.A. (1950 - Rudolph Mate) 5.5/10 - Boy, I had REALLY high hopes for this, but I ended up being really disappointed by it. TCM is running a movie-thon all summer long called "Summer of Darkness", where they're airing loads of noirs and I've been wanting to see this one for some time. I feel like what should have been a really simple, really fun movie about a man who was poisoned trying to find his poisoner before he died, got really muddled down with too many characters and too confusing of a plot line. Perhaps I was just too tired that night or something and a rewatch someday is in order.

Beautiful Boy (2010 - Shawn Ku) 6/10 - I feel like this would've worked MUCH better as a short film and that everything that happened past like the thirty minute mark, wasn't anything we didn't already assume was going to happen to these characters anyway. However, that's nitpicking and honestly, the filmmaker's still managed to string together a pretty decent little movie, that didn't ever make me wish it would just end. I expected worse and for the most part, got my money's worth. Wouldn't watch it again or call it a fav or anything, but not bad.

Now then...

STILL HATIN' ON SCI AND FI

Unless you're new here, you SHOULD already know what I thought of this. Actually, that's not fair, because I did try and there were some redeeming qualities, but ultimately my opinion was the same as it is for most sci-fi ventures - *blech*.


The film begins with a group of scientists and doctors, hurtling through space. Their destination? The planet Altair, where an expedition crew was supposed to have landed years earlier, except no one has heard hide nor hair of the expedition - hence the new crew, sent to discover their whereabouts. Upon landing, the new crew finds only a Dr. Edward Morbius (Pidgeon), living alone with the exception of his daughter, Alta (Francis). They also meet the doctor's servant - Robby the Robot, a robot with Issac Asimov like restrictions, meant to serve man. It soon becomes apparent to the crew that there is SOMETHING on the planet causing destruction. The revelation happens when their ship is breached and damaged, causing them to prolong their stay on Altair. Meanwhile, the ship's Commander, John J. Adams (Nielsen), is becoming more and more smitten with Alta, who doesn't help matters by running around in mini skirts were as short as they could possibly be, per 1950s standards.

SPOILER ALERT!


WOW, Ms. Francis! That skirt is short! Seriously though, how did they get away with parading Anne Francis around in such skimp, back in the 50s? And how did I get away this long without knowing who Anne Francis was? I only wish we could have met under better circumstances. Nevermind the short skirts, there's also a scene where she skinny dips, leaving very little to the imagination. It's no wonder Leslie Nielsen was all over by film's end, trying to protect her from the giant cartoon, red monster that was being projected by her daddy's brain! Seriously though, I was all ready to like this, had Robby the Robot just gone ape and started knocking off members of the crew one by one, Alien (Ridley Scott) style. I REALLY thought that's where this film was headed, until Morbius (should've known he was the villain based on that name alone!) turns out to be the bad guy. And then we're to buy that he wasn't REALLY the bad guy, he was just subconsciously projecting the big red monster. Sounds like he had some daddy/mommy issues or something...


I mean, if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: I'm just not that into sci-fi. You know what I really need to do though? I need to find me a good TOP 100 SCI-FI MOVIES LIST and just force myself to get through and find ONE sci-fi movie that I actually can get into. Sure, there are a few - District 9, Alien and The Incredible Shrinking Man come to mind - but I'm talking classic, clear cut sci-fi films, just like Forbidden Planet, filled with massive amounts of cheesiness. I mean, was this a serious entry into THE BOOK or was this another case of the authors of THE BOOK just throwing in an old cheeseball sci-fi flick, just so BOOK conquerors could get a taste of everything? I feel like it's the latter and this is another, shining example of a film being included, when plenty of really good movies were kicked to the curb.

RATING: 4.5/10  It wasn't awful or anything and I feel like simpler would've been better here ie. Robby going berserk. The whole "Morbius' mind is controlling the cartoon" just totally lost me. Francis was smokin' hot though!

MOVIES WATCHED: 940
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 61

July 30, 2015  5:28pm

Sunday, July 26, 2015

493. LUCIA (1969)

Running Time: 160 minutes
Directed By: Humberto Solas
Written By: Julio Garcia Espinosa, Nelson Rodriguez, Humberto Solas
Main Cast: Raquel Revuelta, Eslinda Nunez, Adela Legra, Tete Vergara, Idalina Anreus

THREE, THREE, THREE FILMS IN ONE!

I'll do a "NON-BOOK Movies" update on my next review, as I'm a little pressed for time tonight. For anyone who cares (I'm guessing no one), I no longer have my weekend on Tuesdays and Wednesdays anymore and now have Tuesdays and Saturdays off. Therefore, since my wife is still working Saturdays at her job, I should be able to pound out at least one film every Saturday, from now until the finish line. Let's commence...

So the film is actually three short films, crushed into one movie, all three stories revolving around a girl named Lucia (all different women, they just all have the same name). The first one takes place in the late 1800s and this Lucia (Revuelta) is a proper, bourgeoisie woman, who associates herself with other bourgeoisie personalities. When she meets a man, coming from church, the two fall almost immediately in love. Later, Lucia finds out that he has a wife and child in another town and swears him off, only to fall in love with him again when he comes back and pleads with her to forgive him. The two are married and Lucia takes him to a coffee plantation where rebels (including her beloved brother) are hidden. Chaos ensues...

Part two's Lucia (Nunez), is a naive young girl, who goes to the Keys with her mother, at her father's request. Once there, her mother and Lucia quarrel and Lucia eventually meets Aldo, a young revolutionary who is determined to overthrow the current head of government, a vicious dictator. Lucia begins campaigning against the dictator as well, joining her husband in the fight and the two fall in love and are presumably married (although the ceremony is never shown). Lucia becomes pregnant, meanwhile Aldo is insistent on being a young revolutionary.

The final Lucia (Legra) is a field worker, at a farm. One day while hauling a sack of sweet potatoes, she is picked up by a young man. The two hit it off and are married (this time, we do see the ceremony, as well as the reception that follows). We see a montage that shows the newlyweds' in their happy, early days and then the wedding bells begin to fade and the husband becomes jealous, going so far as to board up the windows, so that he can lock Lucia up when he's at work. He refuses to let her continue working in the field, even though she wants to and refuses to even let other men look at her. When it is decreed that Lucia must learn to read & write, a male tutor must enter the home to teach her, which of course, sets off the husband.

Had a real hard time finding pictures to add to this review. Luckily, however, I managed to nab one of Eslinda Nunez, my favorite of the three Lucia actresses. 

Let's keep it short & sweet tonight, as again, I'm a bit pressed for time. I can't say I really cared for this and again, I'd have to blame culture clash as the dominant reason why. The film is underscored by a theme of Cuban history and Cuba's war to gain it's independence throughout the early 1900s. Therefore, it probably didn't hit me as hard as it did some. However, I didn't hate it and kudos to Solas for at least trying to make it interesting, intertwining three love stories with the Cuban history angle, to at least try to draw in some viewers who may not care as much as he did about the subject matter. Also, I would be hard pressed not to mention the three Lucia's, most notably Lucia #2 or Eslinda Nunez - what a cutie she was and a natural on the screen. I wonder if she's appeared in more stuff - I'll have to check it out for sure. As far as recommendations go, if you want to dip your toe into a bit of Cuban cinema, you could pick worse movies than this. If you're a history buff or a world cinema enthusiast then this is also probably right up your alley. However, if you're just a Joe like me, who likes a good 'ol movie, then take a pass here. This is much more than just a movie, as Solas sacrifices things like plot and character development in exchange for telling a meaningful story to him and the history of his country. Who am I to crap all over that...

RATING: 4.5/10  Just below the average marker and for nearly three hours, there are times when it does go by rather quickly, so that's another one in the plus column.

MOVIES WATCHED: 939
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 62

July 26, 2015  7:33pm

Thursday, July 23, 2015

433 Doctor Zhivago (1965)


Running Time: 197 minutes
Directed By: David Lean
Written By: Robert Bolt, from novel by Boris Pasternak
Main Cast: Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness, Geraldine Chaplin
Click here to view the trailer

Note: Have I mentioned I've recently developed a fondness for thrift shops? My wife and I frequent a decent sized thrift shop in Morgantown, WV - home of WVU and the Mountaineers (Go 'Eers!) and I've taken to traveling there once a month or so and stocking up on paperbacks (which recently went from a buck a bag to a dime a piece). I own a Kindle and all, but I just love perusing through bin after bin of paperbacks, picking some up simply because they LOOK good, knowing nothing about them. Anyway, I snapped a picture of a little gem I found there this past week. I didn't buy it because I already have it on my computer and I don't have a great working VCR, but a few years back I'd have been ALL OVER THIS!


RIP OMAR SHARIF: 1932 - 2015

Omar Sharif passed away a few weeks ago and as soon as I saw his picture on my USA Today news feed, I immediately recalled one summer when me and my wife sat down to take in "Zhivago". More on that story later...


"Zhivago" is one of those "sweeping epics" that clocks in at about three hours and ten minutes and covers a lot of ground during it runtime. The film is told entirely in flashback, starting with a young Yuri Zhivago, who is orphaned when his mother dies, when he's very young. Yuri goes to live with his mother's best friend, her husband and their daughter, Tonya. Grown up, Zhivago (Sharif) now has aspirations of being a general practitioner and later, becomes engaged to Tonya, whom he fell in love after all those years. Meanwhile, there's also Lara Antipov (Christie), who's boyfriend is Pasha, a revolutionary. Later, V.I. Komarovsky (Steiger), a well connected Russian, takes an interest in Lara and later rapes her, making her his girlfriend. This revelation leaves Lara's mother stunned, since she had hopes of marrying Komarovsky herself and she tries to kill herself. This is when Zhivago and Lara first lay eyes on each other - Zhivago assisting the doctor, who rushes to Lara's mother's aid. Eventually war breaks out and Zhivago & his family are forced out of their house. It's around this time that Zhivago meets his brother, General Yevgraf Zhivago (Guinness), who instructs Zhivago and family to flee to Gromeko, where they'll be far away from trouble and the new shift in power. Zhivago obliges and one day, while at the library, notices Lara. The two begin an affair...I feel like that's plenty to get you started, as there's just so much ground to cover here and I could go on for days, plot summary wise.



I'll never forget my first apartment. No one will, right? The one thing I really remember about my our first apartment ("our" as in, me and my wife, of course) is that it was dreadfully hot. We moved in on June 24, 2007 and the place wasn't air conditioned. Despite the fact that I hate the heat, I loved literally everything else about the apartment, not to mention the experience of being a newlywed, going grocery shopping for myself for the first time, decorating OUR OWN PLACE, it was all so wonderful. Anyway - I'm rambling. During that summer of 2007, my wife and I made a decision one day to start chipping away at the IMDB Top 250 list. We printed it and decided to go from 250 to 1, watching in order. Dr. Zhivago was something like #247. It was a miserably hot, August day and we had rented Dr. Zhivago from the library and decided to spend a Sunday off taking it in. We weren't particularly excited to see it, but really, we didn't know what to expect. Long story short, we hated it. It became that movie that we'd always reference whenever we saw a long or boring or just plain bad movie - "Hey, at least it's no Zhivago" or "It could be worse, remember Zhivago?". It was THAT movie for us, for so long. In fact, when I first bought THE BOOK and made the decision to watch my way through it, one of my "do I really wanna do this" moments came when I realized that I'd have to watch "Dr. Z" again. Perhaps it was the heat that got to us that hot, August day, but it just goes to show you, this is why you always give a bad movie one more chance to impress.

Yes, this time I actually really enjoyed Dr. Zhivago. It surprised me even more considering last week, I watched Lawrence of Arabia to my utter disdain and that the two movies were directed by Lean. To say I dreaded Zhivago going in, would be a gross understatement. However, I still went in with an open mind and it was once again the photography of Freddie Young which got me to dip a toe in. Before long I was doing dog paddles in the cinematic sea that is Dr. Zhivago! Sure, I wouldn't go so far as to call it perfect (not yet), as the history stuff still threw me (in case you're new, my attention to films about history that I'm unfamiliar with....well, it isn't good), but all in all, I'd call it a VAST improvement over my initial impressions. No longer can I or will I reference "Zhivago" when trying to find an adjective to describe a bad film. Perhaps when trying to describe a beautiful film? "Well, the photography was great, but it was no Dr. Z!".



It's funny, because as I was checking into this movie on the various sites I frequent (IMDB, iCheckmovies, etc.), I noticed a lot of people saying that this was tougher to endure than "Lawrence". I found my opinion to be the exact opposite. This was a cinch to tackle, especially compared to the almost impossible to get through Lawrence of Arabia. While "Lawrence" is one that nearly required toothpicks to hold up the eyelids, "Zhivago" is one where I was hesitant to blink, for fear that I'd miss the next breathtaking frame a la Freddie Young. Or perhaps I'd miss yet another cheesecake shot of Julie Christie, her beautiful blue eyes, her luxurious blonde hair framing her face perfectly. I think I'd have to put Julie Christie in the TOP 5 on a list of "Actresses who I barely knew going into THE BOOK, but now LOVE!". The whole cast was really fine, from Sharif to Courtenay, but one that I'd have to point out particularly would be Rod Steiger. It's baffling to me how good he is and I sincerely want to see the rest of his filmography sooner, rather than later. To think that Komarovsky and Sgt. Gillespie ("In the Heat of the Night") are THE SAME PERSON is just unbelievable to me. There are literally no traces of one, in the other. In fact, even though I KNEW that Steiger played alongside Sidney Poitier in In the Heat of the Night, I actually questioned that fact as I watched him perform in Dr. Zhivago. It takes fine actor to completely eliminate any previously seen roles from the audiences mind and put on an entirely NEW show, no reminisces of their former selves.

Anyway, I'll wrap by preaching, once again, to please always give movies two chances. A movie you hated yesterday, may one day become your favorite (and vice versa, really). Thanks to THE BOOK, I've come to see the greatness in movies like Dr. Zhivago and Requiem for a Dream, two movies I once hated, did complete 180's on and now love. It's a beautiful film, with a gorgeous leading lady and a fine cast all around, all, I think, fully aware that they're in something that's going to make big bucks and win big awards, therefore all are ready to turn in performances that will get them recognized. And even though David Lean and I didn't see eye to eye, as I watched my way through THE BOOK, it was Dr. Zhivago that made me wish Hollywood had more directors like Lean. David Lean is someone who you can see REALLY cared about the movies he put out. He wanted to make the best picture possible, using all of his natural abilities, send the audience home happy. The word "grandeur" comes to mind. It's talents like David Lean who make me wish there really was a fountain of youth. We could really use Lean (with photographers like Freddie Young by his side) to continue telling stories that shaped the history of the world - to tell us about revolutions and uprisings, downfalls and tragedies, world changing events and life altering tales. Despite never giving one of his films a rating higher than an '8', I still look forward to seeing the rest of Lean's filmography and I'll go on wishing that more director's like him come along, wishing that more director's like him would have never gone...

RATING: 7/10  WOW, that was a lot of writing and a lot of praise for a simple '7', but bear with me. The film went from a '1' to a '7' in one viewing, so that's actually a huge improvement.

MOVIES WATCHED: 938
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 63

July 23, 2015  5:35pm

Sunday, July 19, 2015

526. Le Chagrin et la pitie/The Sorrow and the Pity (1971)


Running Time: 262 minutes
Directed By: Marcel Ophuls
Written By: Andre Harris, Marcel Ophuls
Main Cast: Georges Bidault, Maurice Buckmaster, Emile Coulaudon, Emmanuel d'Astier de la Vigerie, Jacques Duclos
Click here to view the trailer

MARCEL OPHULS: STILL ASKING

My good, lord, was this a chore or was this a chore! I'm just going to jump right into it tonight, because I really don't think I'll have a lot to say. I'm going to be blunt, I'm going to be short and to the point and we're going to wrap this one up, hopefully in record time.


It's a documentary, kids and that means that I"m probably either going to love it or hate it. Well, I'll put your wondering to an end right away - I hated it. I wanted to be one of the cool kids, who really liked this doc, which gets an 8.4 on IMDB and is pretty much liked by everyone, including Woody Allen, who I think had something to do with the DVD restoration, not to mention the fact that the film is featured in Annie Hall. Oh how I wanted to like the film that Woody likes, but Woody and I have different tastes (he doesn't even like his own movies, which I love and I don't hold Ingmar Bergman in nearly as high regard as he does). I started The Sorrow and the Pity yesterday morning and I managed to tackle three hours, throughout yesterday, saving the final hour for today. In fact, I was only able to tackle an hour of this at a time, before having to take a break.

Look guys, I'm just not a history guy. For the unaware, the film is about the German occupation in France during World War II. Marcel Ophuls (much like he did in Hotel Terminus), interviews people who lived during the time of the occupation, mostly everyday people, asking them to recall their memories of this horrific time period. I feel like, and I've said this before, that it's the responsibility of a documentarian to make me interested in the topic that their asking me to be interested in. Make me think, make me wonder, make me curious, make me thirsty for knowledge. The Sorrow and the Pity DID NOT make me do any of those things. Now that's a fact - not an opinion. So if you're reading this and calling me out - the truth is that I tried hard with this movie and I wasn't curious, interested, filled with wonderment, nor did I thirst for anything, except maybe a stiff shot of morphine to take away my sorrow and pity for having to sit through this. I hate to be so harsh, but these are my opinions.


If you want real sorrow and real pity, rent Shoah and bring a box of Puffs, because that's the World War II/tragic documentary that deserves all the acclaim. That's the talking head documentary that will really make you sit up, take notice and wonder how evil men came to be. There are some tragic stories throughout The Sorrow and the Pity. One particular is with an old woman, who recalls being wrongfully imprisoned for writing a letter that she did not write, beaten and nearly drowned by S.S. officers. It's horrible. However, mostly we're subject to stories about the occupation, not tragic, personal stories and the occupation stories are just downright boring. I wanted this to end by the time I was thirty minutes in and I'm glad it's over and done with. I told my wife, "If I had watched this really early on in my journey through THE BOOK, I'd have called it quits". That's the truth.

RATING: 1/10  I simply can't go higher and anything higher, would simply be me trying to pander to the popular opinion. I personally didn't like it one bit and wasn't interested in it's subject matter.

MOVIES WATCHED: 937
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 64

July 19, 2015  9:00pm

Saturday, July 18, 2015

254. The Band Wagon (1953)


Running Time: 112 minutes
Directed By: Vincente Minnelli
Written By: Betty Comden, Adolph Green
Main Cast: Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Oscar Levant, Nanette Fabray, Jack Buchanan
Click here to view the trailer

NOTE: NON-BOOK UPDATES!

Band of Outsiders (1964 - Jean-Luc Godard) 6/10 - Another TCM one. Seriously, if you live in the states and aren't constantly raiding Turner Classic Movies for film, you need to be. I was less than thrilled with this one. I think I expected more, after hearing Tarantino talk about it so much and even him naming his production company after it. I liked it fine, just not enough. Perhaps two or three more viewings sometime down the road would sweeten me. 

They Live by Night (1948 - Nicholas Ray) 6/10 - TCM again. Not entirely crazy about it. It got a lot better in the second half. I would've liked to have seen less complications early on and just gotten Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell into their wooded cabin ASAP. Still a pretty good little movie and nothing terrible on display. 

The Lucky One (2012 - Scott Hicks) 5.5/10 - So, my wife has been trying to compromise a lot lately and she's sat through some BOOK stuff with me, just to help me get finished. SO I figured it was my turn to sit through something with her. She's a Nick Sparks fanatic, but had yet to see The Lucky One, so I agreed. Not quite as atrocious as I expected and the presence of Taylor Schilling actually made me want to finally check out Orange Is the New Black. She was great here and looked great to boot. Efron isn't bad himself, but some serious roles would help to refine him, I think. 

The Threat (1949 - Felix E.Feist) 6/10 - Yeah, so all of my TCM ventures this week got a '6' - mediocre affairs, the lot of them. This one was only a little over sixty minutes and also dealt with a band of fugitives (like They Live by Night). This one was a lot simpler and just gave us the meat & potatoes of a band of crooks, trying to outwit the law and stay on the lam. Nice conclusion too. Probably the best of the three classics I saw, or at least tied with Band of Outsiders. 

Now then...

GOTTA' DANCE...AGAIN!

I also nabbed this one off of Turner Classic Movies as well - one less disc to get from Netflix, I thought. Can you believe, as of this writing, there are only forty-one discs on my Netflix queue!? Everything else that's left I either have access to on the computer or have recorded off of TCM. I can remember when I first started THE BOOK journey and put all THE BOOK movies on my queue. I maxed out my queue at 500 films and still had a handful that I had to leave off, because it wouldn't let me add anymore. Nitty gritty indeed...


Another musical from the minds of Comden and Green, The Band Wagon dusts off Fred Astaire (who probably didn't need much Pledge) as Tony Hunter and displays him as a has been song & dance man, who can't hang with the current crop of stars. When his stage writer pals, Lester Marton (Levant) and Lily Marton (Fabray) (supposedly the onscreen incarnation of Betty Comden and Adolph Green), write a new musical, however, Hunter looks to get back in the spotlight. The Marton's take their script to famed stage director, Jeffrey Cordova (Buchanan), who claims to love it, but then proceeds to change everything about it - turning it into a modern day retelling of Faust. Cordova plans to remake Tony Hunter a star and nab a leading lady who's worthy of his tap shoes. The one he has in mind, upstart star Gabrielle Gerard (Charisse). The two stars quarrel at first, Hunter still bitter that he's not in the limelight anymore, Gerard a youngster to the stage scene, who doesn't quite know how to take him. Eventually, their show opens and bombs (think The Duelling Cavalier), but Tony Hunter has ideas to redeem the show and tour with it, to all the major cities and repackage it as a variety show, using The Marton's original script as the entree.


Think The Duelling Cavalier, I said. It makes you think - at the heart of it all, isn't this movie much the same as Singin' in the Rain? Okay, there's huge differences of course, but the main story about a production flopping and then being rebranded as something else, that's an idea stolen by Comden & Green from Comden & Green, from Singin' in the Rain. Also Astaire & Charisse quarreling for the first half, reminded me a lot of Kelly & Reynolds feuding for the first half of Singin' in the Rain - only to make up and fall in love a la Astaire & Charisse. It kind of makes me want to see other Betty Comden/Adolph Green productions and see if they just kept recycling the same ideas, over and over.

Anyway, I didn't like this near as much as Singin' in the Rain. For one, the songs in The Band Wagon just weren't good. I enjoy musicals, to a certain extent. They're not my favorite, but I can certainly get behind them, but the music must be good. Every time Astaire or Charisse or someone would break into song, it would be this awful number and I just wanted to get back to the super thin plot - which is saying something, considering the plot wasn't anything to write home about either. How bout the song, "I Love Louisa". Just an awful number, that made my ears want to bleed. In fact, I feel like the first really decent song, was "Louisiana Hayride", sung with gusto by Nanette Fabray. And then, of course, "Triplets", which I'll admit, I rewound and called my wife into the room so she could see it. Loved that number. THE BOOK raves about the big finale, which is Astaire and Charisse starring in an eleven minute piece called "Girl Hunt", a film noir, with Astaire as the dick and Charisse as the dame. I'll admit Cyd Charisse looked fabulous in it (but then again, she looked fabulous throughout), but I wasn't totally thrilled with it. It was okay.


Seriously, I'll have to look into Cyd Charisse and see what else I can find her in. She looked marvelous. I also really dug Fred Astaire in this and it made me want to see the rest of his filmography, especially the ones he did side by side with Ginger Rogers. It made me want to go dig out Top Hat and Swing Time and rewatch them (I bought an Astaire and Rogers set after watching those for THE BOOK - wonder if I still have it?).

RATING: 5.5/10  We'll leave it at that. The end numbers (Louisiana Hayride, Triplets) and the appearance of the gorgeous Cyd Charisse and the uber talented Fred Astaire gets this otherwise bad musical over the average marker.

MOVIES WATCHED: 936
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 65

July 18, 2015  8:48am

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

387. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)


Running Time: 216 minutes
Directed By: David Lean
Written By: Robert Bolt, from memoir by T.E. Lawrence
Main Cast: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Omar Sharif
Click here to view the trailer

NOTE: Apparently I'm the worst person in the world to give a plug. Yesterday, after I plugged JD's 1001 Movies blog, I forgot to include a link. SO...click here to visit JD's page. Sorry about that...For future reference, I'll also be adding JD's page to the BlogRoll on the sidebar, where I've also recently added a Goodreads widget for anyone curious as to what yours truly is currently reading. Now then...

BLADE RUNNER ALL OVER AGAIN?

It's no secret that when I reviewed Blade Runner last month, I got crucified for my opinions. Okay, maybe that's too harsh a word, but certainly everyone who dropped by shared a different opinion than me. However, I defend my opinions and I'll continue to defend my opinions when/if the Lawrence of Arabia lovers come out to defend the epic. Read on...


I'm not even going to PRETEND to bullshit my way through a plot synopsis for "Lawrence", because, to tell you the truth, I was pretty lost past the ninety minute mark or so. All I can tell you is this: T.E. Lawrence (O'Toole) was a member of the British Army, who campaigned to be reassigned Arab Bureau, during World War I. He intends to speak with a Prince Faisal (Guinness) about aligning himself with the Arab nation against the Turks. There's a lot of desert wandering, a lot of "boy, it's hot out here" talk and a lot of history that I'm not familiar with. T.E. Lawrence eventually goes borderline mad, almost begging to be restationed, but always being assigned to return to the desert, due to his good rapport with Prince Faisal and his familiarity with the region. I was doing pretty good throughout the first ninety minutes, like I said, but the final two hours was me simply earning the tick and somewhat trying to stay interested, all the while knowing that this clearly wasn't my cup of tea. I find it familiar that my favorite David Lean picture is EASILY Brief Encounter, probably his shortest picture and easily his least grand, at least as far as what I've seen of his work.



I really don't know what else to say other than this was just downright boring to me. It felt like Lean was talking to a select group of moviegoers, the type of audience who also enjoyed getting extra homework when they were in school. At no point was there, as far as I'm concerned, an attempt to make this history lesson fun, entertaining or even, somewhat interesting. Sure, maybe it was interesting to you, but not to me - not in the slightest. When I popped in the DVD and saw a train blowing up on the DVD menu, I though, "Okay, well at least there's a train explosion - can't be all bad, right?" WRONG!


If you put a gun to my head right now and forced me to pick something out that I liked, it wouldn't be a hard choice. The sole reason that this movie will get any points in my rating column, falls on the shoulders of Freddie Young - the film's cinematographer. In the words of Christopher Walken, "WOW! Wowie wow wow wow!". You could've picked up the remote and randomly hit the pause button throughout and anywhere you stopped, you'd have stopped on a breathtaking shot. He's also the man who shot Doctor Zhivago, which I'll be watching soon, so at least I have that to look forward to. What I don't look forward to, is another David Lean epic. I think we've established by now that I just don't like Lean's brand of storytelling, stretching mildly interesting affairs, into three plus hour ordeals. I will say, this is easily the worst Lean I've seen, with Bridge on the River Kwai at least having some interesting bits and main event ending and A Passage to India being solid throughout. By all means, see this and form your own opinions, but you have been warned.

Bring on the ridicule for my taste in film....

RATING: 3.5/10  I'm just glad it's over. Seriously, if you disagree with me, let me know and tell me why I'm so ignorant. What'd I miss? Now if you'll excuse me, I have a Dairy Queen chicken strip basket to prepare for!

MOVIES WATCHED: 935
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 66

July 15, 2015  5:11pm

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

245. Singin' in the Rain (1952)


Running Time: 103 minutes
Directed By: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Written By: Betty Comden, Adolph Green
Main Cast: Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen, Millard Mitchell
Click here to view the trailer

NOTE: Couple things this week:

In addition to an update of NON-BOOK movies I've watched in the past seven days, I also wanted to give you guys a heads up and point you to another 1001 blogger. It's JD's 1001 Movies and "JD" himself was kind enough to give me a shout out on Twitter, naming me as one of his inspirations for starting the blog. I'm so appreciative of that, that I knew I had to, at the very least, give him a plug. So head on over and watch someone do it all over again, from the beginning. The cool thing about JD's blog is that he's not confining himself to one 1001 BOOK, but rather tackling all incarnations. That's a good idea...

NON-BOOK UPDATES

I Love You To Death (1990 - Lawrence Kasdan) 7/10 - Solid comedy, with a great performance from Kevin Kelly, backed up by a pretty great cast, including William Hurt, Keanu Reeves (he's solid here), River Phoenix, Joan Plowright and Tracey Ullman. This is actually an old favorite of mine, as I discovered it on Comedy Central when I was a kid.

Lady In the Lake (1947 - Robert Montgomery) 6.5/10 - Again, I've been recording stuff off of TCM left and right and this one sounded good enough for me to set it up. The gimmick is that the whole thing is shot as a POV shot, from the point of view of our main dick, played by Montgomery himself (directing and starring). However, his screen time is nil, as we only see him when he looks in a mirror, or interrupts the story to give us first person updates. I felt like the POV gimmick actually took away from the movie. It was a fun idea and they pulled it off semi-successfully, but I've seen much better noirs. Thumbs in the middle.

Antoine and Colette (1962 - Francois Truffaut) 6/10 - This is my problem with short films: they're just too short to amount to anything notable. That's really the only problem I had with Truffaut's second installment of his "Antoine series". I could've sat through a feature length production of this, I think, but at only twenty some minutes, it came off as almost pointless. Still good enough to warrant a '6' and have me wanting to see the next Antoine film.

The Bakery Girl of Monceau (1963 - Eric Rohmer) 7/10 - Okay, so I spoke too soon about short films, as this one is only twenty-three minutes and I felt like it was the perfect length. Clearly not enough material here to go much longer. The Six Moral Tales set has been sitting on my desk for weeks, dare I say MONTHS waiting for me to view it and I've been pecking away at it, like a bird does roadkill. A couple months ago I tackled Love in the Afternoon (which was so good, that I added it to my SINS OF OMISSION list, also adding it to my personal 1,000 films list), so when my wife was working the other day and I took the day off for my birthday (31 now, yee-haw), I decided to tackle the very first of the SIX MORAL TALES. Not bad at all. It seems that all of these deal with men who either ALMOST have affairs or feel like they've had affairs when actually they didn't. I'd call I Love You to Death the best NON-BOOK I saw all week, with this coming in as an extremely close second.

Now then...

GOTTA' DANCE!

If you've made it this far, kudos to you! Sorry you had to sledge through so many updates, just to get to the main course, but I hope it was worth it. I actually watched Singin' In the Rain on FRIDAY NIGHT! Saturday I was too tired, Sunday was my birthday which I spent being extremely lazy and Monday I took a sick day from work, being lazy again. So here we are and hopefully we can get back on the right track now.


I feel like a lot of people know that this is the movie where Gene Kelly sings (and dances) in the rain, but I think a lot of people only associate this film with that one, albeit iconic, scene. So sit back and I'll fill you in on the "deets". The film is set in the 20s, right around the time that talking pictures came to be a reality. It's the end days for silent films and the top silent stars Don Lockwood (Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Hagen) are going to be forced to dust off their vocal chords and start talking. After the success of The Jazz Singer, producer R.F. Simpson (Mitchell) decides to turn the lates Lockwood and Lamont picture into a talkie. It's called The Dueling Cavalier, however, because Lina Lamont has such a thick New York accent, no one onset wants her to be heard - ever. So Don and buddy Cosmo (O'Connor) come up with the idea to turn The Dueling Cavalier into a musical, dubbing Lina's voice with the voice of upstart actress Kathy Selden (Reynolds). Meanwhile, Don is falling for Kathy and EVERYTHING has to be kept a secret from Lina Lamont, who hates Kathy Selden, stemming from an earlier incident involving a pie in the face. And yes, the film itself is a musical, with great numbers such as: "Good Morning", "Moses Supposes" and of course, the very rewindable "Singin' in the Rain". Those are a few of my personal favs. The whole movie ends with the tad overlong Broadway Melody Ballet, which runs for what seems like twenty minutes or better.

SPOILER ALERT!



I've probably seen Singin' in the Rain something like five times in my life and I don't think I've ever seen it without rewinding and rewatching the Singin in the Rain number, at least once. I did the same thing when I watched it on Friday. It's a bold statement, but I'd have to say that it's one of my all-time favorite scenes, in any movie. It's a scene that ALWAYS makes me smile, always makes me tap my toe or clap my hands, it makes me want to see more Gene Kelly movies and it always reminds me of why I love movies. It' sheer entertainment, but in fact, the whole film is sheer entertainment, which is why I have to give it a positive review, despite a handful of flaws.

Man, how annoying was Donald O'Connor in this. THE BOOK notes his "Make 'Em Laugh" performance as one of the highs of the picture, but I'd call it easily one of the most annoying things I've ever seen and I don't think I laughed once. I, for some reason, just really, really disliked Donald O'Connor's character here. Also, as I mentioned in the plot synopsis, the ending musical number was just way too long. It got to the point where I just didn't think it would ever end and I had to push the "display" button on my remote to see how much of the film was left (that's sort of the measuring stick for me to know when a film is dragging, whether or not I push that button). I'd also say that the plot is a little thin. I mean you have this close to two hour film that all hinges on whether or not they'll let this annoying woman talk on film.


Other than those things though, how can you not, at least a little bit, love Singin' in the Rain. It's a smile inducer of a film, one that I'll happily watch periodically for the rest of my life. It's a fun watch and one where the flaws are easy to overlook, just to get to the good parts. If you don't smile (at least a little) watching Kelly sing (and dance) in the rain, then I'm not sure we can be friends.

RATING: 7.5/10  One that will probably land on the next (and last) TOP 20 list, just because it's one that I know I could watch over and over, always overlooking the flaws and ALWAYS rewinding to see Gene Kelly sing (and dance) in the rain, one more time.

MOVIES WATCHED: 934
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 67

July 14, 2015  10:10am

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

325. Bharat Mata/Mother India (1957)


Running Time: 172 minutes
Directed By: Mehboob Khan
Written By: Mehboob Khan, Wajahat Mirza, S. Ali Raza
Main Cast: Nargis, Sunil Dutt, Rajendra Kumar, Raaj Kumar, Kanhaiyalal

BOLLYWOODLAND

Continuing on with watching all the long stuff, we come to Mother India. For the record, I still have four films that are OVER three hours and then everything else is officially UNDER three hours. This one was long enough that I decided to knock it out now, before I got stuck with it at the tail end. However, being stuck with Mother India wouldn't have been a bad thing.


The whole movie is told in flashback, as an old lady being urged to inaugurate a new irrigation canal, looks back over her life. The old lady is Radha (Nargis) and we flash all the way back to her wedding day, decked out in jewels and silks, she prepares to marry Shamu (Raaj Kumar). The wedding is funded by Radha's new mother-in-law, who borrows the money from a the film's villain, a cunning money lender, Sukhilala (Kanhaiyalal), who tacks on enough interest to ensure the family will be paying him back for decades to come. The marriage proves a success, as Radha and Shamu love each other dearly, singing songs as they work in the fields side by side. However, when a couple of kids start to pop out, the family faces financial difficulties, nearly starving to death. When Radha suggests that they plow the barren land, Shamu reminds her that the land is covered with rocky terrain and soil that would surely kill any ox that tried to cultivate it. They try anyway and when Shamu's ox tries to movie a boulder, with help from Shamu, the yolk breaks and Shamu's arms are trapped and eventually amputated. Not able to bear with the shame of no longer being able to provide for his family, Shamu runs away, leaving Radha to raise her two sons alone. Flash forward many years and the boys are grown up and the financial difficulties ares till present, but to a lesser degree. Radha's youngest, Birju (Dutt), however, is a menace to the village, terrorizing the girls and still swearing revenge against the money lender, who still collects interest from the family. At the halfway mark, the film turns from being about the family's peril as a whole, to Radha's difficulties dealing with Birju.

What a great film! And what a terrific downer of a movie, to boot. I mean, for real, Khan didn't let his foot off the depression accelerator the whole time and there was about a half an hour spurt where terrible thing after terrible thing just kept happening: grandma dies, there's a great flood that ruins the land, dad loses his arms and runs away - damn, Mehboob, let me catch my breath before you sock me in the gut again!


I had to track this one down via the internet and honestly, with these movies that I end up having to watch off of YouTube, I don't expect much. Usually the rarities are the worst ones. The way I used to figure it, is if they were any good, they'd be on DVD somewhere. However, with Mother India and other recent ones that I've had to hunt for (Tampopo, Rocco and His Brothers, The Fourth Man, Turkish Delight), it's proving that Criterion needs to get on the ball and get some of these terrific films out there, for easier access. THE BOOK notes that if you're a newcomer into discovering cinema of the world, you should start your trek through India with Mother India and I really couldn't agree more. I'm finding with this and even The Brave Hearted Will Take the Bride, which I watched years ago for THE BOOK, that I really need to see more Bollywood cinema. And I swear it has nothing to do with the songs. Usually the stories are easily accessible and from my experiences they are epics that don't feel like epics. This was almost three hours, but I really didn't even begin to feel the running time until we got within twenty minutes of the whole thing being over - meaning the pacing was pretty much spot on.

I'll leave you with two questions: Why are there so many Indian actors with one word names? And if you have Bollywood recommendations, please leave them in the comments section.

RATING: 8/10  Yeah, I went there. I just feel like anything less than an '8' just wouldn't be fair and this comes along with a high recommendation from me.

MOVIES WATCHED: 933
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 68

July 8, 2015  10:56am

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

498. Z (1969)


Running Time: 127 minutes
Directed By: Costa-Gavras
Written By: Jorge Semprun, from novel by Vassilis Vassilikos
Main Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Yves Montand, Irene Papas, Jacques Perrin, Charles Denner
Click here to view the trailer

Note: NON-BOOK UPDATES:

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1963 - Vittorio De Sica) 7.5/10 - Always love Marcello Mastroianni and how is there no Sophia Loren movies in THE BOOK? In the words of Johnny Cochran - "This an OUTRAGE!". This was great fun and I really enjoyed it. Thanks TCM!

The Fighter (2010 - David O. Russell) 4.5/10 - Ugh - Oh how I hate Mark Wahlberg with a passion! I honestly think if anyone else had been in the main role, I'd have liked this one a lot more. Then again, I seem to dislike David O. Russell and his style of storytelling too, so who knows...

Under the Skin (2013 - Jonathan Glazer) 4/10 - I was intrigued, that's about it. Great cinematography, but I didn't know what was going on. It does get a LITTLE better, so if you make it to the halfway mark, stick with it. I think you'll find your interest pique at around the 1:10, 1:20 mark. Still, mostly this was a big disappointment, especially considering I'd been wanting to see it for a while, after hearing good things.

HE LIVES

Been catching TONS of stuff off of TCM and as long as my DVR holds up, I plan to catch a lot more. I currently have a handful of films - Forbidden Planet, Lady In the Lake, Band of Outsiders, They Live By Night, The Threat and The Band Wagon - two of which are BOOK movies, if you didn't notice or know. The other night, I also had Z, so I decided to make a movie night of it and "earn another tick". Shall we?


So here's the thing (he said, preparing yet again to sound like a broken record), I'm not a history guy, nor am I a politics guy, so this movie lost points right away when it started talking about "the left" and "the right" and all that jargon. So I'll do my best to fake my way through a review, but bear with me. The film revolves around a popular leftist, a doctor (Montand) who is never named in the film, but is meant to represent real life democrat Grigoris Lambrakis. We start out with the doctor's staff, who are also his friends, making last minute preparations for a rally that is to be held when the doctor's plane lands. The staff have trouble securing a location, no venue operator wanting to feel the wrath of the right wing government for hosting the popular leftist. Eventually a venue is secured, the doctor makes his way into town and despite death threats, plans to deliver his speech, as planned. Upon finishing his speech, the doctor exits the venue, only to see a truck speed past him and someone pop out of the back with a club, whacking the doctor. The "doc" receives serious brain injuries from the attack. Meanwhile, an investigation is assembled to find out who attacked the doctor, with culprits leading all the way up to high ranking, right wing military officials. Meanwhile, the examining magistrate looks into the whole mess, sniffing down leads and prepared to hand out indictments to anyone who may be involved.

SPOILER ALERT!


Again, I ask you to bear with me, as it's nearly 1:00 am and I've been up since 6:30 am. I'm yawning, with heavy eyelids, so a short & sweet review filled with spelling and grammatical errors is certainly a possibility right now.

I really didn't expect to like this, but like so many BOOK movies before it, it surprised me. It wasn't a big surprise - a friends and family jumping out from behind your sofa and book shelf, on your birthday, kind of surprise - but it was a surprise nonetheless, because usually the words "political thriller" are a real turn off for me, when it comes to my movie viewing habits. I'm just not the political type, as I reiterated in the synopsis portion, so usually anything having to do with politics, especially foreign affairs, is something that I try to avoid. However, this goes far beyond political thriller and actually acts as both history lesson and murder mystery. Even if you know nothing of Grigoris Lambrakis or his assassination, the film does a dandy job of acquainting you with the man (or at least a fictional representation of the man) and detailing his situation in layman's terms, without using political mumbo jumbo to alienate the audience. Watching Z is like getting a history lesson from that cool, fun history teacher - you know, the one who used tater tots and chicken nuggets to reenact the Civil War. The whole thing eventually breaks down into a murder mystery, where we, the audience, already know the perpetrator and it's up to the characters to find out what we already know and, while the director still tries to keep it all interesting for us, who already, sort of, know the ending.


Such a great cast too, from Jean-Louis Trintignant (Three Colors: Red, Amour, My Night at Maud's) to Francois Perier (Le Samourai), plus Irene Papas, whom, although her character barely speaks, says so much with facial expressions and carries heavy, burdening eyes to show that her character is filled with a waterfall of emotion. Plus there's Yves Montand, whom I dug in The Wages of Fear and although his screen time here is very short, it's still fun to see people you liked in other things, show up in new things. The whole movie ends with probably the most interesting pieces of the whole film - by telling us what the Greek government banned, following the death of the leftist and the regaining of power by the right, which included the letter "Z", which means "he lives" in Greek. It also fills us in on what happened to the real people, most of those high ranking military officers getting off with a little more than a slap on the wrist and seemingly, the reporter who broke the case wide, getting the most severe of all the punishments. One of those things that makes you sit back and say "Wow".

RATING: 6/10  Again, "political thriller" isn't right up my alley, but this one did fine by me, with not enough to REALLY complain about, but not enough really good stuff to get it into a higher echelon of ratings.

MOVIES WATCHED: 932
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 69

July 7, 2015  1:15am

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

349. BEN-HUR (1959)


Running Time: 212 minutes
Directed By: William Wyler
Written By: Karl Tunberg, from novel by Lew Wallace
Main Cast: Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Stephen Boyd, Hugh Griffith
Click here to view the trailer

DIG THAT CHARIOT RACE!

Man, what a chore this was! My wife and I started this last night, but after about thirty minutes, I was dozing. We picked it back up this morning and scooted through it pretty effortlessly, but it's still a damn long movie, that barely provides enough reward. Read on...


Because it's nearly four hours in length with over 100 speaking parts, I certainly can't be asked to relay the whole plot here. So I'll give you the cliff notes version and we'll all get on with our lives. Judah Ben-Hur (Heston) is a Jew from Judea - a humble, kind man, who adores his sister & mother and holds his fellow people in high regard. Ben-Hur grew up with a boy named Messala (Boyd), who, now grown, is a Roman tribune. After several years apart, the two reunite and don't miss a beat of their brotherly love (early versions of the script actually had the two engaging in a homosexual relationship). However, when Messala asks Ben-Hur to become his informant and betray any Jews who even speak ill of the Roman empire, Judah refuses and the two are almost immediately sworn enemies. In fact, when a ceramic tile accidentally falls off of a roof and kills a Roman governor, Messala orchestrates the imprisonment and death sentence of Ben-Hur. On his way to his death, via ship, Ben-Hur is admired by Roman Consul Arrius (Hawkins) and when their ship falls under attack and sinks, it is Judah who saves the life of the Roman Consul. The two are eventually rescued and Arrius pledges his life to Ben-Hur, naming him his new son and dubbing him Arrius, the younger. The two are thick as thieves, but Ben-Hur decides to return to Judea and find his mother and sister (who were also imprisoned at the same time Ben-Hur was). On his way home, Judah meets a horse owner named Shiek Ilderim (Griffith), who begs Ben-Hur to race his four prize, white horses in an upcoming chariot race that Messala will also be involved in. Yada yada yada, we'll leave it at that...

SPOILER ALERT!


Look, I know you film snobs turn your noses at those who are fans of professional wrestling, but here's the deal: I'm a big professional wrestling fan - ever since I was a little kid - and one of the reasons I liked this is because it's basically all one big professional wrestling angle! In one corner, you have Judah Ben-Hur, the Jew with a heart of gold, firm but fair. In the other corner, you have Roman tribune Messala, wanting to make a name for himself and make examples of the Jews. Boyhood friends, turned bitter enemies. I mean, this is the same type of thing that I've been watching since I was a kid. If you're completely unfamiliar with pro wrestling (which most reading this probably are), I promise this is just the types of stories that they were telling on a weekly basis, on Saturday mornings, in the squared circle. In fact, you could book Ben-Hur, changing a few things so that they'd transfer from the days of Caesar to current times, but almost word for word and build the whole thing to one big showdown at WrestleMania! Here, WrestleMania is the chariot race, which serves as the big blowoff to the feud, complete with handshake from the loser to the victor (that scene where Messala is dying, but tells Ben-Hur where to find his mom & sister). Okay, okay, I'll stop with the wrestling talk.


With all that being said, I still can't go too terribly high on the rating here. I mean, this damn thing is long and that's an understatement. Another thing I really, really didn't care for was all the Jesus stuff. I mean, was it really relevant? Especially at the end, it was so uncalled for. The big ending SHOULD have been the chariot race and then maybe Judah going back home to reunite with Esther and his mother & sister. However, after the chariot race ends, we still get something like forty more minutes of movie, with Ben-Hur going to the leper colony not once, but twice to search for his family and then the whole Christ crucifixion scene. It all felt so tacked on and unnecessary and completely irrelevant to the main story, which was the life of Ben-Hur and the feud between he and his once friend, now enemy Messala. The scenes depicting Jesus Christ throughout are fine, as they don't take away from the main story that much, but then it comes down to the end and it should and DID make this audience member say, "What, I thought we were done at the chariot race?". Let's look at it like this: Suppose there's SOMEONE out there who doesn't know the about the Bible AT ALL. Doesn't know who Christ is, doesn't know anything about it. If that ignorant son of a bitch watched this movie, then that ending would be REALLY unnecessary. I mean, they took the most minor character in the movie (in the context of the film, Jesus Christ was a very minor character) and revolved the whole ending around him. I'll end by saying that chariot race was freakin' awesome!! Had they just ended there, I'd have been hard pressed to get this movie into '7' territory. As it is...

RATING: 6.5/10  Can't get it higher than that. Not something I'd really ever want to see again, however, I'll happily watch clips of the chariot race anytime you want to show em.

MOVIES WATCHED: 931
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 70

July 1, 2015  7:49pm

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #63: ALADDIN (1992)

Running Time: 90 minutes Directed By: Ron Clements, John Musker Written By: Ron Clements, John Musker, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Bu...