The Invisible Man
The Way Back
Blow the Man Down
Better Call Saul
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Absolutely riveting thriller/character study about a bitter and disillusioned detective (a terrific Robert Ryan) who, after losing his temper one too many times on suspects due to non-stop exposure to the dregs of humanity, is sent to a small mountain town to investigate the murder of a young girl, and soon becomes involved with the killer's blind sister, played by the always brilliant Ida Lupino.
Director Nicholas Ray was never a filmmaker to trapped by a genre - just look at a film like Johnny Guitar - is it a western? Is it a musical? Is it an action picture?. Though many may try and label this as "film noir" (the first portion of the picture does have a noir setting and characters, but the film as a whole does not fall into a tried-and-true noir category) it is really so much more - a character study of a nearly broken man, a crime thriller, a competent examination of the effects of society on an individual (a theme that director Ray would further explore in Rebel Without a Cause).
Decent if not entirely successful Spaghetti Western which has Alex Cord as an outlaw looking to go straight in the town of Escondido which offers fifty dollars and amnesty for past criminal deeds. Of course there are many dangers along the way.
Nicely directed by Franco Giraldi, who stages some terrific action scenes.
Beware of the cut version which runs 98 minutes as opposed to the full-length version which runs 118 minutes.
The title pretty much says it all.
Enjoyable Saturday matinee fun. What the story lacks, director Jon Favreau makes up for with his able flair for directing action, but the film's strong-suit is it's cast. Daniel Craig plays the tight-jawed, stoic hero role to the hilt, Harrison Ford is always a welcome presence and the roster of supporting cast-members, including always reliable talent like Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano and Olivia Wilde as well as seasoned genre stalwarts like Clancy Brown (THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI: ACROSS THE EIGHTH DIMENSION, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, HIGHLANDER) and Keith Carradine (NASHVILLE, THE LONG RIDERS, THIEVES LIKE US) all give strong performances, creating memorable and very likeable characters.
One of the most popular series in cinema (and literature) finally comes to an end.
As usual, the visual design of the picture is terrific and the effects are top-notch, but the script (again by Steve Kloves) is a mess. Like all the films in the series, they seem to be written only for those who have read the books. There is no natural flow to the plot or any sort of logical structuring, and once again "The Deathly Hallows", of the film's title, are hardly even mentioned.
As I have stated in the past, I really think these films should have been made once all the books had been published; they should have been animated with traditional hand-drawn cels (director Ralph Bakshi's rotoscoping style that he employed for his films LORD OF THE RINGS, FIRE & ICE, and AMERICAN POP, would be ideally suited for these films), and written by a writer other than the bland Kloves better-suited for this type of story.
Interesting, if not all-together successful revisionist western about a young boy (Gary Grimes) who, aspiring to be a cowboy, joins a cattle drive to Colorado, but soon realizes, following one hardship after the other, that his romanticized notion of the lone cattleman is pure fantasy.
Interesting side note: this is the first Executive Producer screen credit for Jerry Bruckheimer who would go on to be one of the most successful producers in Hollywood, overseeing such films as BEVERLY HILLS COP and TOP GUN (with former partner, the late Don Simpson) to the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN series.
This is what a fun Summer movie is supposed to look like.
A group of pre-adolescent young boys fresh out of school in the summer of 1979, set out to make a zombie movie with an old super-8 film camera and end up witnessing - and filming - a massive military train crash whose top-secret cargo gets loose and ends up wreaking havoc on their small Ohio town.
The film owes a lot to Steven Spielberg's first picture involving aliens, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (Spielberg was a producer on this picture as well) and also tips it's hat to the early George Romero zombie movies, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and DAWN OF THE DEAD, John Carpenter's THE THING and even gives a shout-out to special effects make-up genius Dick Smith (THE EXORCIST, TAXI DRIVER, THE GODFATHER), and those are all very good things.
Writer/director J.J. Abrams creates a loving cinematic valentine to the carefree pleasures and wonder of youth as well as a bygone era and the no-nonsense, whiz-bang style of exuberant filmmaking that is in danger of being forgotten amongst the junk that is polluting the cinemas today; the countless terrible remakes, reboots, sequels and just plain awful and bloated garbage that rely solely CGI-heavy gags rather than a plausible story and characters.
Like the film stock that the title references, this type of genre film - made up of a cast of mostly unknowns, shot economically and effectively with a script that relies more on its characters and story rather than an effects shot every other minute - is something you really don't see much of anymore, but when you do it makes you happy and makes you wish there were more like it.
Dreadfully dull and wildly inaccurate western about the notorious outlaw John Wesley Hardin, played by Rock Hudson. The usually reliable director Raoul Walsh (THE ROARING TWENTIES, HIGH SIERRA, WHITE HEAT) seems bored with the melodramatic nonsense.
Anthology pictures can be a tricky business in film, especially when more than one director is involved. More often than not, they tend to be middling (TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, NEW YORK STORIES) or just a schizophrenic mess (see, or rather DON'T see, FOUR ROOMS).
This picture is one of the elite few that managed to get it right. Released by Britain's famed Ealing Studios, known mainly for their outstanding comedies, of both the black and the dry variety, and directed by a roster of their strong in-house directors - Charles Crichton, Alberto Cavalcanti, Basil Dearden, and Robert Hamer - this is a foray into an unusual genre for the studio; Horror.
The stories are mainly of the supernatural variety involving hauntings and possessions of humans by departed souls as well as a ventriloquist dummy that is possibly acting on it's own accord, all of which are linked by an architect who arrives at an English Country House and swears he has dreamed about the house and it's guests in great detail, which prompts them all to relate their eerie tales.
The expertly structured film maintains a fairly creepy tone for it's entirety but it just wouldn't be an Ealing picture without bits of gallows humor peppered throughout.
This is made all the more apparent by the appearance of actors Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne, a comic duo who first appeared together in Alfred Hitchcock's brilliant 1938 thriller, THE LADY VANISHES (along with fellow cast-mates Googie Withers and Michael Redgrave). The two proved so successful a pairing that they went on to reprise their roles in Carol Reed's terrific spy thriller, NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH along with four other films, including this one, as well as several radio programs, always playing variations on the characters they made famous. Here, playing a pair of quarreling Golfing buddies, they have terrific fun tweaking horror conventions and milking the dark humor for all it's worth with a grand bit of cheek. Of course it helps to have a filmmaker like Charles Crichton - director of such marvelous black comedies as THE LADY KILLERS,THE LAVENDER HILL MOB and A FISH CALLED WANDA - maintaining the delicate balance of humor and dread, just as the rest of the picture does masterfully.
This mad scientist/slasher movie is easily one of the worst excuses for a horror film.
Everything about it, from the ridiculous story (which cribs a few ideas from Fritz Lang's DR. MABUSE films) to the terrible performances, the clumsy direction, right on down to the shooting locations - while the story takes place in rural Illinois the film was actually shot in New Zealand, which looks nothing like the American midwes - is so slap-dash and unengaging it's on the same level of painful ineptitude as THE ROOM.
Blame this asinine garbage on Oscar-winning writer/director Bill Condon (GODS AND MONSTERS, DREAMGIRLS) who served as writer and producer, and the late actor David Hemmings (BLOW-UP, GANGS OF NEW YORK) who was an Executive Producer.
Interesting fact: one of the dancers in the party scene is Costume Designer Ngila Dickson who won an Oscar in 2004 for her work on LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING.
(By the way, I rated this move 1/2 a star because this site doesn't have a setting for zero stars or BOMB. If I could, I would give this pile of shit BELOW A BOMB)
Randolph Scott stars as an ex-Confederate spy for Quantrill's Raiders, who, while hiding out in a small Arizona town, gets mixed up between two rival gangs looking to rob a fortune in gold from the local stagecoach line.
Despite the generally reliable presence of Scott as well as Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine playing heavies, and director AndrÃ (C) De Toth who usually was able to do something interesting with the low-budget, B picture pulp he directed, this is a really bad western.
Everyone seems to be stiffly going through the motions, both in front of the camera and behind, especially De Toth, who normally had a knack for staging quick and exciting action scenes. Not here. Instead he relegates himself to just having extras shoot guns into the lens and tossing various objects directly at the camera in order to make ham-fisted use of the 3D process in which the film was shot (and very poorly I might add), a technique that he didn't need to resort to in his previous 3D picture, the excellent HOUSE OF WAX.
Most of the blame however lies in writer Kenneth Gamet's dreadfully awful script, which has a ridiculously thin narrative, mind-numbingly dumb characters (Alfonso Bedoya's character of Degas, the leader of the rival gang of Banditos and what I assume is supposed to be comic relief, is so painfully annoying and embarrassing that I was turning away in shame), and some of the stupidest and cloying dialogue I have heard in a long while (example: Scott's character to Claire Trevor - "Guns never settle anything... the right way. I'm through with 'em, Josie". Who talks like that?).
What is of mild interest is that the basic narrative structure of the picture - an anti-hero riding into a lawless town and pitting two rival gangs against one another - is a plot that can be traced back to Dashiell Hammett's 1929 book RED HARVEST, featuring his great amoral private investigator, The Continental Op. It was this story that inspired Akira Kurosawa when writing his 1961 samurai masterpiece, YOJIMBO, which in turn inspired filmmaker Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Western masterpiece from 1962, A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. Was screenwriter Gamet familiar with Hammett's book? It's possible. And was Kurosawa and/or Leone familiar with De Toth's film when theirs went into production? Again, that is possible, for both directors loved American movies and had a great knowledge of cinema.
An interesting if not entirely successful musical (based on the 1978 BBC series by Dennis Potter) set during the depression, about a sheet music salesman, played by Steve Martin (this was the film he made right after THE JERK, if you can believe that), who falls in love with a meek school teacher played by Bernandette Peters, an affair that sends both of their lives into a downward spiral - but it's the upbeat music of the era that keeps them blissfully carefree.
The picture looks fantastic - Art director Bernie Cutler designed some extraordinary sets that reproduced iconic paintings by Edward Hopper and Reginald Marsh which were shot by master cinematographer Gordon Willis (THE GODFATHER trilogy, MANHATTAN, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN) - and the musical numbers are grand throw-backs to the lush musicals from the 1930s (this picture was released by MGM, the studio responsible for the majority of those films from that era) with the twist that instead of actually singing the tunes the actors just lip-sync and dance to the original recordings, a feature that I was quite sold on.
But the main problem with the film is that the majority of the upbeat musical numbers never quite gelled with the story, which was itself so damn bleak. None of the characters are in the least bit likable, especially that of Martin's character, Arthur Parker, who is a spineless prick that upends the lives of all that come into contact with him. In fact, the only character with any sort of charisma is an oily pimp terrifically played by Christopher Walken, whose only scene is a brilliant show-stopper of a dance to the song "Let's Misbehave". I thought films that dealt with the depression usually had it in for the banks. Instead, this film paints the banks in a slightly more favorable light while placing blame on it's lead characters. Not the best way to win over an audience.
Plus the picture is really the antithesis of what the films of the 1930s, or what is known as The Golden Age of Cinema, were all about - which was to try and entertain; to lift the spirits of the viewers if only for a short while before returning to the struggles of the real world.
I admire the picture for it's technical achievements, but perfectly composed images and lively song-and-dance numbers to the wonderful songs of the 30s aren't enough to elevate a simple and dismal narrative into the pantheon of the art it is so desperately trying to imitate.
Filmmaker Jules Dassin (Night and the City, Rififi, Topkapi) returned to the United States after a nearly twenty year absence (being blacklisted, he fled the country in the wake of the notorious HUAC trials) to make this riveting portrait of betrayal and guilt set amidst the Black Power movement in the days following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.
Working from the Irish novel The Informer by Liam O'Flaherty, published in 1925 and ten years later turned into an extraordinary film by director John Ford, and transplanting the action from 1920s Dublin to late 60s Cleveland, Ohio, the film follows Tank Williams (Julian Mayfield) a down-on-his-luck unemployed steel-worker who, desperate for money, decides to turn his close friend Johnny (Max Julien), who is wanted for a botched robbery and the murder of a white security guard, over to the police for a $1000 reward.
What follows is a portrait of a guilt-ridden man who feels, and is, dejected by his younger peers. They view him as being a drunken relic; a man past his prime, ineffective to fight along side them in their revolution. Tank's betrayal of his friend could be viewed as either the last act of a desperate man or a retaliation to being shunned by a community that once showed him respect.
No stranger to witnessing first-hand, the fighting and violence during the Civil Rights era, Mayfield's performance as Tank, while somewhat rough around the edges and a bit broad at times, is nevertheless very effective. He imbues in Tank a sad humanity that the audience can sympathize with despite the fact that he sold his friend to the cops.
It is this theme of betrayal and being cast out by ones peers that probably hits closest to home for director Dassin. It was, after all, his close friends and fellow filmmakers like Edward Dmytryk and Elia Kazan who informed on him to HUAC which ultimately led to his exile from Hollywood and America (Dassin did find steady work in Europe as a filmmaker, directing several highly regarded pictures like Rififi and Never On Sunday). Dassin displays an interest in his examination of a turncoat, he even puts him on trial by his fellow Black Militants (reminiscent of Peter Lorre's trial in Fritz Lang's M) and has another character who is against violence as the means to an end (Frank Silvera) argue in Tank's defense, but ultimately never lets him off the hook.
And it is this kind of duality that Dassin demonstrates throughout the picture, shifting between the gritty, honest reality of Cleveland's ghettos and the powder keg of anger and frustration of it's black inhabitants (Dassin co-wrote the script along with co-star Ruby Dee and lead actor Mayfield so the dialogue has a palpable urgency and ferocity that rings true, as well as powerful visuals such as a scene where the tenants of an apartment building rain glass bottles from their balcony's down on the police below, who have come to take Johnny to jail) and Tank's point of view which is an off-kilter hyper-reality represented by a vivid color-palate, the use of painted studio back-drops of the city-scape rather than on-location photography, the groovy-yet-melancholy score by the great Booker T. and The MG's (the film's theme Time is Tight was appropriated by The Blues Brothers as part of their intro music) and an overall stylized direction.
It's the sort of delicate balancing act that would hamstring a lesser filmmaker, but not Dassin has always been a maverick willing to take extreme chances, such as when he decided to shoot his 1948 film, The Naked City, entirely on location in New York City rather than shoot on a studio back lot and in sound stages. Here he found a story that not only spoke the truth about tumultuous era of the late 60s, he also found a story that resonated with him and his own personal experiences. What a terrific homecoming it was.
Director/co-writer Bernardo Bertolucci's vast epic story about the rise of fascism and communism in Italy, set over nearly half a century from 1900 to 1945, is incredibly ambitious and extraordinary looking, but story-wise leaves much to be desired.
Bertolucci attempts to humanize the events in the film by centering on two friends, played by Robert DeNiro and Gerard Depardieu, born on the same day in 1901 (the day of Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi's death), DeNiro's character representing the wealthy landowner who turns a blind eye to the rise of fascism and Depardieu as the peasant farmer who preaches the edicts of socialism, but never effectively makes any sort of point due to the rambling nature of the script and the incredible running time of the picture (at nearly five and-a-half hours one could make the joke that the title of the film is actually it's running time).
It's not to say the film is a complete failure. Bertolucci and the great cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Apocalypse Now, Reds) compose some beautiful shots creating compelling mise en scenes that work independently in and of themselves, but as a whole don't quite work.
It's like too small an amount of paint spread over too wide of a canvas.
If anyone could step into the iconic role that John Wayne made his own (and won him his only Oscar), and make it uniquely their own, it would be Jeff Bridges.
And Bridges' portrayal of gruff, hard-drinking U.S. Marshal Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn, hired by 14 year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld, who does a fine job as well as the precocious and head-strong young girl) to enter the Indian Nation (what is now Oklahoma) to track down the man that killed her father, is just as pitch-perfect and comically effective as that of Wayne's.
And though there really isn't any change in the basic character, it's how both actors chose to physically inhabit the role.
The same can be said for filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen's approach to the material. They follow Charles Portis' novel rather faithfully, just as screenwriter Marguerite Roberts did for the 1969 version of the film. So they are telling the same basic story concerning the contentious relationship between the film's three main characters, but each come at it from a different angle.
In their first foray into the Western genre, the Coen Bros. have crafted a rousing adventure story not unlike, dare I say, something like Huckleberry Finn, full of humor, swift action, and beautiful but foreboding landscapes.
The trailer for this picture would have you think that the Coen's have made another grim, depressing, blood-drenched conundrum-of-a-movie like No Country For Old Men - which I still absolutely despise - or something snarky and mean-spirited like Burn After Reading or A Serious Man. But don't be fooled - this is a terrific return to the more light-hearted and expertly crafted work that the duo excel at.
And best of all, there is no deep meaning here or Freudian analysis to be had, which is bogging-down way too many films of late. It's just a straight-forward adventure story populated with many colorful characters. And a damn good one at that.
A pretty poorly executed film (which was no fault of the usually brilliant director Sam Fuller - the picture's shyster producers took the picture away from him and butchered Fuller's intended vision) about a down-on-his-luck gunrunner in the Sudan (played by Burt Reynolds) who gets hired on by a shady American to help dive for sunken treasure in shark-infested waters.
Besides Fuller having disowned this picture (he had nothing but venomous and unkind words to say about the entire experience in his autobiography), this film is remembered mostly for the fact that a stunt man was actually attacked and killed by a shark while the cameras rolled.
Only for die-hard Fuller fans (like myself) whose curiosity gets the best of them.
(Also, the print used for this DVD is GOD-AWFUL - it is faded, scratched and battered to the point that some of the scenes are rendered unwatchable)
A wonderful bit of Southern Folklore set in the 1930s, about an aging hermit (Robert Duvall) who decides to throw his own funeral party while still alive, in order to hear what the townsfolk think of him as well as tell his own version of his troubled past.
The exceptional cast, which includes Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, Bill Cobbs, Gerald McRaney, and Lucas Black (the young boy from Sling Blade), the solid, clever script by Chris Provenzano (one of the writers for Mad Men) and C. Gaby Mitchell, and the elegant direction of newcomer Aaron Schneider, all make this one of the best pictures of the year.
The tag-line: Bad Things Happen For a Reason.
Yes, because M. Night Shyamalan is still allowed to work in Hollywood.
A sequel? Seriously?
There can be only one Andy Kaufman and even he was infuriating at times.
I am sick and tired of these uber-meta documentaries that blur the line between fact and fiction, and treat the participants in the film as well as the audience as punchlines.