Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
The Bletchley Circle (2012)
Atmospheric, detailed and fairly gripping drama. I should add that I've only seen the first season so far. I enjoy the look of the show, the historical settings, and the impressive production values.
The leads also impress with their acting chops and the 1950s milieu is richly evoked for the most part, with only occasional anachronisms.
Meanwhile: Horrible, awful males everywhere--each one worse than the one before--and our four modest superwomen must contend with them! I won't belabour the plot details (ably done by others here) but part of the 'perfect pitch' is the "Grrl-power" theme which is masterfully suited to our times and very much on-target when it comes to the pursuit of ratings. Well done!
One small addendum
May I add to the other excellent reviews here, this one slight observation: What a world it was when Hitchcock, during his droll introduction, could dissuade "...those who suspect they've wandered into a production of Salomé, with me playing the part of John the Baptist," because we see only his head above a steam cabinet. Today's producers would never permit any show to assume this level of cultural literacy among its audience. And more's the pity.
While I'm at it: Nancy Olson and Ralph Meeker are totally winning and perfectly cast. It's an above-average episode but not one of the best. Still very much worth watching.
Intelligent, driving, compelling drama. I won't belabor the plot which is already described here. Don't read too much about it before viewing! (Frankly, the less you know about the plot in advance, the better.) I will say how glad I am that the producers permitted this story to stretch over two episodes. It permits detail, texture, and the buildup of suspense normally characteristic of finer motion pictures. Surprisingly, two hours are barely enough.
Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a legend on the order of Robert Duvall in the lead--and the supporting performances are just as strong. But the real credit in my view goes to Seeleg Lester, Sam Neuman, and Ed Adamson, who devised one heck of a cracking yarn, so deliberate and insistent that you aren't really distracted by some minor plot holes, or anything else frankly. On top of its entertainment value, it's genuinely disturbing.
I have no idea if Lester intended this--consciously or otherwise--as an addiction allegory but it most certainly works as one. Men forced to do things against their will, over and over--lying, cheating, stealing, "but for what purpose?...We aren't even aware of what we're doing." Because they are driven by an unseen demon. Of a sort. (A bit more far-fetched, it also works as a Cold War allegory.)
Ever since seeing "Demon with a Glass Hand" (q.v.) I sorted the series to see which other episodes got such high ratings (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056777/eprate). That naturally led me to this. So I was very much interested to see what OL ep would garner an 8.8 rating. Well, it turns out that the Outer Limits fanboys (and girls) on IMDb know what they're doing. Given that TOL includes some really cheesy, kitschy eps it's gratifying to see one as smart as this.
Two hours? There's barely enough time to catch your breath.
Talk to the Hand
An astonishing episode. I've seen dozens of Outer Limits eps and really had no idea one could be as intriguing, profound, and even tragic as this. I've now watched it a second time and the plot was as gripping as the first, plus a lot of details stand in clearer relief now. It certainly doesn't lack for atmosphere either!
No need to belabor the details of the narrative (others have completed that task) but in my view this ep redeems the entire series. It's made with the quality and care one normally associates with motion pictures, and the storyline and theme stand the test of time quite well, unlike so much sci-fi and fantasy-fi from the era.
A pleasant surprise, highly recommended.
PS: Don't read any spoilers!
Epic Texas Soap Opera Devolves Into...
Pretty to look at, with some pretty stars too. You don't need me to tell you the plot--it's just an epic family-based drama of Texans over the early-mid 1900s. You don't need me to tell you how pretty Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean are--you already know.
What you may need me to tell you is how tedious GIANT becomes as it morphs from an epic family drama into an endless harangue about race relations and 'white privilege' although they didn't call it that in the 1950s. Guess what? Racism and sexism are really bad. In case you aren't sure, GIANT spends three hours repeatedly hammering this point home, over and over. Although, it's concerned with Mexicans only and the blacks in the film remain in properly subservient roles. I guess we pick and choose our lessons. By the end (it finally does end), Liz delivers the final speech, wherein she declares that by beating up some evil racists, Rock has finally become her hero. Wow, that took a while.
Very few long films justify their length. GIANT is one of the many which don't. It's fun for awhile but gets a bit worse with every minute that passes. Time is precious--don't waste it. There--a lesson the film does teach, however perversely.
Autumn Leaves (1956)
Cliff does it with his mom
And if you think that's weird, his mom looks exactly like Michael Jackson did just before he died.
But seriously, this sudsy bit of kitsch stars none other than the high priestess of camp herself, Joan C. She gets to perform her trademark overwrought teary thing almost continuously throughout this flick, and the viewer is invited to pretend along with her that Cliff falls head over heels for this freak. The day after they meet he's all "What would I ever do if you left me?" and I'm like "WTF, you just met her dude!" Back in the day, Charles Busch did this act really well in drag. I actually found this film fun to watch though. I laughed along with it but mostly at it. Is that so wrong?
To Rome with Love (2012)
After Woody Allen's surprisingly deft script for 'Midnight in Paris' many had high hopes for 'To Rome With Love' despite its title indicating a retread. Well, a retread would have been more welcome than this meandering, unformed, and undisciplined collection of predictable vignettes.
I won't belabor the mini-plots as a few hundred people have done that already. I'll just point out that a couple of them--starring Roberto Benigni and Fabio Armiliato--are themselves belabored well past the threshold of intolerance. Why? Because each vignette has just one joke behind it and could have been entertaining for five minutes. Not twenty. (At least Armiliato does have a good singing voice.)
Allen, as he never tires of reminding us, adheres to Nietzsche's 'Great Man' theory, wherein mere mortals should hope at most to bask in reflected glory of the Superman, never to question him. And the Superman never follows the rules which apply to lesser mortals. But someone needs to tell Mr Konigsberg that his jokes are inevitably overextended and many fall completely flat. Alas, like most self-styled supermen he appears to have no one around who dares to be honest with him.
Even Woody's visual tribute to 'Roma La Bellissima' falls somewhat flat despite the visual pr0n on display. He consistently selects locales which would have been clichéd and tiresome to an American tourist in 1960. Spanish Steps? Are you serious? I wonder if he knows the city at all.
The film (as so many of his are) is actually a more transparent paean to adultery. In Woody's world, cheating on your lover is a productive, life-affirming, transformative act which improves your life in almost every way. Even your betrayed partner will be delighted at the new you! Woody? This is called self-justification, and you never tire of it. If only the rest of us could say the same.
Who Was That Lady? (1960)
Pernicious, offensive, and worst of all, stupid
All this star power--what a waste. Doubtless in 1960 this seemed a passable comedy, even clever, and it didn't raise an eyebrow that a man's highest goal was to fool his wife into abject devotion so he could have "good home cooking" with "romance on the side" whenever he wanted.
Dean Martin grates on contemporary taste in everything he ever did. Tony Curtis fares better and Janet Leigh suffers through a thankless role here.
By all accounts Norman Krasna was an objectionable little man, out to wreak his revenge on women and on all the world for his own shortcomings. He earned his reputation as someone who could turn out scripts quickly and cheaply for notoriously rapacious producers. His style of 'humor' though simply hasn't aged well.
Spare yourself this particular bit of painful and extremely unfunny misogyny.
God Bless America (2011)
Shooting Fish in a Barrel
This was a film with tremendous, unfulfilled potential. It wants desperately to have a message but muddies it with multiple internal contradictions and ends up traversing well-trod ground, channeling (among others) American Psycho, About Schmidt, American Beauty, Network, and of course Bonnie and Clyde. Only here, the target is people who aren't "nice" enough. Seriously.
What could have been a sharp critique of a decadent, materialistic, celebrity-besotted society instead ends up being 100 minutes of preachy, overwrought, simple-minded liberal agitprop. (And I'm generally liberal.) Shooting fish in a barrel, the targets are right-wingers, anti-semites, mass-media blowhards...the usual suspects. Despite leaving no cliché unturned, the film still offers a couple good and funny moments. Cartoonish at best (and admits this explicitly) but in the end not nearly as subversive as it pretends to be.
As a final insult, much like in American Psycho, we're treated to the repeated and irrelevant apotheosis of third-rate musical talent, in this case Alice Cooper. Please, spare me.
Footlight Parade (1933)
Only one part I could not believe...
Thoroughly fun early musical, whose plot I need not belabor (it having been elaborated here by many others). Only two things I want to mention: how amazing it is that this film is made concerning the transition to talkies and early musical prologues in the cinema--barely three years after the real thing happened.
And then the part I simply could not believe! Cagney's character gets his inspiration for a Busby Berkeley musical number by watching young black children playing in the spray of a fire hydrant. All it needs it to have them replaced with 'beautiful white bodies' he says! And a splendiferous number it is... but oh how times have changed!
The Innocents (1961)
Atmospheric, Attractive, Strident, Boring
THE INNOCENTS is quite beautiful to look at and never fails to develop and maintain a series of truly atmospheric settings.
Can't imagine why anyone thinks this is a horror film, much less a scary one. Despite portentous music, a threatening turtle and a screaming brat there's nothing fearsome about it.
Little Miles does a good job of trying to appear mysterious and insolent but the real story here is an overwrought Deborah Kerr portraying a woman losing her mind. Or is she?
Hard to care really. This film is passable as entertainment but vastly, almost cruelly overrated. I've written these lines to warn you.
What? *These* nice boys?
Recidivism or rehabilitation? The whitest, most clean-cut bunch of hoodlums L.A. has ever seen attacks Perry's Lincoln Continental for parts rather than just steal the thing (and car theft was easy in those days!). Perry won't press charges because, well, the boy is only 17, and cute besides (irony alert, Raymond Burr).
Considerable comic relief is provided by Victor Buono as the evil henchman Huggins (rotund and in a bathrobe) managing the 'clean-cut' boy gang. "How many pairs of bucket seats can you use?" he coos to his fetching Mexican fence, and pronounces "penchant" in the manner francais. Good thing the gang goes to an expensive prep school so they can understand things like that. Oh for the days when petty criminals wore jackets & neckties...
The exceptionally vivid color, the jazzy score and the silly 'Oliver Twist' theme separate this from most PM episodes. It's definitely not one of the strong, tight Perry Mason plots (see the early seasons for those), but it's fun and scenic.
12 Angry Men (1957)
Convenient or otherwise...
This stagebound potboiler has a plot which is a matter of shooting fish in a barrel. Racism, to use the prime example, is used as an instance of a rush to judgment and then it's used to excuse a rush to the opposite judgment.
Still it's important to realize that this is entertainment. The equivalent of advocacy journalism, I admit, but no one denies that the creators of this entertainment have agendas. To the extent that the film affected me, it emphasized again in my mind how fallible our system of justice is. One should steer clear of it at all costs (The justice system, not the film).
And having said that, we've arrived at our system of justice through centuries of trial and error. And the advocacy system still seems superior to any previous arrangement.
But back to the film: it's respected because it's tightly plotted and exhibits impressive characterizations on the parts of several actors. I'm sorry that several characters are stereotypes when stereotyping itself is the 'crime' the jury (as opposed to the accused) is so guilty of. But the fact is that stereotyping is how messages are conveyed through the mass media, and it's a matter of whose stereotypes are being retailed. Rose & Lumet have their own, and they indeed add up to shooting fish in a barrel. (Immigrants=good, Nativist Americans=bad, etc.)
There's also an implication that with enough consideration, no one would ever be considered guilty of anything, especially if we consider extenuating circumstances. Separately, it's scary to consider that the lack of air conditioning in jury rooms led to a lot of hasty verdicts!
Finally, though, I can readily imagine how bracing this entertainment was in 1957. It was probably very much like a lightning bolt.
The Ladykillers (1955)
A sweet little bit of Heaven
Try and see this bit of heaven without expectations. It takes place in its own little world, carefully circumscribed and delicately delineated.
Funny to me to read that it's a color film, as I remember it in black-and-white! Has to do with the setting, of course. As another contributor remarked, I'd be tempted to attenuate the color saturation on viewing. Has to do with the setting ;)
Mrs. Wilberforce is a character you'll never forget. "I'm *very* angry" she exclaims at one point. In context, one of the funniest lines you'll ever hear.
Whatever you do, avoid the recent and execrable U.S. remake.
Grumpy Old Men (1993)
Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Burgess Meredith, and Ann-Margret. This movie could be called "Four Hams"... and I'm sure to infuriate their fans with this review, but really, only the most rabid ones are going to enjoy this dim-witted, hackneyed, foul-mouthed embarrassment.
The endless "schtick" from these four stars could almost be bearable if only they were given a decent script to work with. No such luck here. A bunch of tired stereotypes on parade, chiefly having to do with adolescent geriatrics. If that's your cup of tea, enjoy! Clearly, many do and I've no objection: to each his own!
Meanwhile, on the plus side, Ann-Margret still looks great ;)
Absolutely captivating. Who knew?
Please, take it from one who, until tonight, foolishly and ignorantly pigeonholed Russ Meyer as a Grade-B Soft-Core cult hero. What did I know? He's so much more than that. Think really good John Waters crossed with really bad Fellini (which is good, of course, in its own way) and you have just a hint of the inspired wickedness here.
Three mean chicks in sports cars, on a road trip from hell, back in a blistering hot, black-plate California desert. The script is undisguised genius and the performances (particularly, of course, the sadistic, sneering Tura Satana) cross most known bounds. But you know what? Even with that firebrand in the lead, the others hold up incredibly well. Meanwhile, the cinematography is spot-on for the theme here, tilted and trenchant. The overall effect: bracing--blinding, almost--and more than a little surreal.
FASTER, PUSSYCAT KILL! KILL! It's hideous and hip. Nightmarish, and nasty. Scathing and scabrous. Insane, but inventive. It's not a film for everyone. Some will call it sick, some will dismiss it as camp. It's all that and more. Hardly a wrong note, and with *so* many opportunities too... I was glued to the screen from beginning to end. Wicked fun. Captivating. Can you tell I liked it?
PS: Also recommended for fans of NHB, male/female bare-knuckle boxing. You know who you are ;)
Noises Off... (1992)
Noises Off, D.O.A.
Fortunately, enough of the stage script survives its transfer to film that attentive viewers can tell why "Noises Off" remains one of the funniest farces ever to visit the Theatre.
But somewhere along the way from stage to screen, "Noises Off" became calcified and entirely lost its edge. It's played broadly here by an able cast, all of whom clearly loved it on stage as well and now share the blame for this thoroughly noisy, but unfortunately moribund comedy show.
Clearly, the film's severest critics in this conference are those (like myself) who enjoyed the show on stage in London or New York. If you didn't have that privilege, it may actually work to your advantage as you can come fresh to the film--and many, clearly, have enjoyed it tremendously. For myself, however, I remember laughing so hard in a Broadway theatre one night that my eyes flooded with tears. Didn't happen here, alas.
The Seventh Victim (1943)
Mysterious and Enchanting
"The Seventh Victim" is a rare and wonderful find. Gently paced as it is, after just a few minutes I was fairly glued to the screen. The superb and understated acting--no pyrotechnics here, thankfully--and the modest and unassuming production cement the credibility of a slightly weird tale of urban satanists and their prey.
The plot is nonetheless frustrating at times, for reasons which other contributors have offered here, and this aspect is explained to some degree by the "missing scenes". But the film remains a truly unusual delight.
Not least because of the notable civility of every character--not only speaking of a more civilized time, but also forming a pronounced counterpoint to some of the hideous business at hand.
Along with at least one other observer here, I'll eat my hat if it's ever demonstrated that Hitchcock didn't see this film. Because, among other things, his famous shower scene seems an homage to a very creepy one here; a good part of it lifted almost directly.
Don't even glance at the clock while watching this film, because that gentle pacing will surprise you more than once.
Among the film's many visual treats is the setting: a perpetually darkened, old-fashioned, vacant and nearly silent Greenwich Village--not so much of another era as out of one's dreams....or nightmares...
The Big Knife (1955)
For collectors only...
Wow...overwrought, overacted, over-the-top melodrama trying ever-so-hard to be *about* something. But it's really not about much, despite the putative 'Corrupt-Hollywood' theme. Just a series of intermittently-entertaining, scenery-chewing set pieces in a Bel-Air living room.
A whole lot of talent wasted here--acting, writing, not so much directing. Fans of the film's several excellent actors will survive this viewing more readily than others. Everyone's finest chops--and then some--are on display, over and over, desperately in search of significance. Even the music is ridiculously overdone. "Pay attention! This is wrenching drama!" Only, it's not.
"The Big Knife" reminds me of nothing so much as a lame stage play where shouting and noisemaking take the place of genuine dramatic tension. This whole mess was generously forgotten in a couple years, thanks to 1957's vastly superior "Sweet Smell of Success" --check that one out instead.
The Age of Innocence (1993)
Ramp it up, Mr Scorcese?
It's worth mentioning at the outset that I am a complete Martin Scorcese fan; however I do not agree with an apparent consensus here that this is among his best films.
For me, the biggest hurdle is the (mis)casting of the endlessly effete Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead role. So: if you like Daniel Day-Lewis, you may well love the film--he's in nearly every scene. For my part, I find him almost unbearable to watch, never more so than here. It's hard to imagine him as an object of desire, even in this period piece. And saddling his character with feminist political philosophy, while it may enhance his appeal to some viewers, is a stretch from the novel's characterization and quite anachronistic besides.
However, the other leads are notably fine (especially Michelle Pfeiffer and even the endlessly variable Winona Ryder) and there are knockout performances in the supporting roles, particularly Siân Phillips, Jonathan Pryce and Miriam Margolyes.
Otherwise, the film's pacing is the problem. The film is simply overlong; boring and tedious at times (and I'm a person who loves Bergman), although never less than stunning visually. That last fact alone carried me through several scenes. It's a treat to look at, no doubt about that. And if you like period films, decoration, and fashion, so much the better for you.
Scorcese has done better, though. Much better.
The Hitcher (1986)
Gripping throughout, yet...
Murder Spree Road Flick. Contains many fairly stupid moments ("plot holes") and yet remains gripping throughout its length. Graphic, stunning violence; be warned.
Howell is slightly vapid yet pretty and his relations with Rutger Hauer verge on the homo-erotic. Hauer is a near-perfect villain, demonstrating the steely resolve and psychological impenetrability that have made him a favorite "bad guy" in other films.
A great movie for the paranoid who wish to feed their fantasies. Owes something to Spielberg's "Duel" but remains its own film. Relatively spare visual style well-suited to the theme. Recommended, but not for the faint of heart.
Night Into Morning (1951)
Deliberate, authentic, intelligent
Material which all-too-readily lends itself to melodramatic and/or hackneyed treatment is handled in a deliberate and truly intelligent manner in this surprising sleeper of a film.
The acting of the leads is beyond reproach but to my mind it is the script which wins you over. There are a couple of typical Hollywood clichés (young, wide-eyed midwesterners and earnest, virtuous eastern-European immigrants) but for the most part, the writing is unaffected, original and convincing.
Several subplots weave neatly into the story and are just as convincing themselves. I had never heard of this film before (as opposed to the legendary "Lost Weekend") but I won't forget it soon. Highly recommended
What a dreadful piece of crap!
What a dreadful piece of crap!
Apotheosis of the Hollywood Blockbuster:
Insipid story line, big-name stars, major logical lapses and stunning special effects.
If you want to see this subject matter treated intelligently and movingly,
see England's "A Night to Remember"...
Cure for Insomnia
As a big fan of Peter Weir since "Picnic at Hanging Rock", I was shocked to discover that the creators of "Master and Commander" had neglected to give us a story or even characters to care about. This is one of the most boring films ever made. I went because of the effusive praise in the Washington and New York papers, and learned my lesson. My friends wanted to walk out but I made them stay until well into the second hour, when I finally gave in. Technically, the film is well-made. But that's it. You've been warned!
Green Dolphin Street (1947)
Sneaks Up On You
Classic Action-Adventure-Romance-Morality Play and nearly anything else you'd like to see in a film, but presented in such an understated way that you'll find it sneaking up on you partway through.
Not sophisticated, not stunning, but full of human truth and including convincing performances in the leading roles. An overlooked, romantic chestnut, highly recommended.