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Michael Rennie stars as a human like being from outer space who travels to earth to warn us of impending doom due to our nuclear weapons. It is amazing that we have survived fifty-eight years after the release of this film. Patricia Neal is the woman who rents him a room and they become friends. Her young son teaches the martian of human ways. The movie holds up fairly well for an old black and white flick and it is an obvious influence on later works, most especially E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind by Spielberg.
The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962)
Sci fi Camp
This is the ultimate in sci-fi camp. Bad acting, a ridiculous story line, horrible soundtrack and a terrible script make this one of the worst films that I have ever seen. A doctor running experiments with body parts has the great idea of keeping his fiance's head alive in a pan of liquid while he searches for a body to attach it to. This leads to a silly scene at a 1950's strip club and ensuing cat fight between two dancers. Viewed as a comedy it ranks as a three out of ten. A bit of trivia for me as i live in Westchester County and the movie was shot in Sleepy Hollow NY.
I was entertained for the entire two plus hours of this film. It was pretty much the same as the first two movies, but that is not a bad thing. Keanu Reaves is still good as John Wick and Halle Berry was added for some eye candy. She still looks great but is only present for a small segment. The supporting cast is good and evil with unending action as Wick cannot be defeated. The New York City locations include the NYC Public Library and they really work. Just sit back and put your mind on vacation for this diverting flick.
Maria Goretti (2003)
Another Virgin Saint
I was channel surfing and came upon this Italian drama on the EWTN, which is run by the Roman Catholic Church. Being a former RC, I had heard the story of Maria Goretti while attending St. Anne's School in Ossining NY. In the 1960's we were taught by nuns who still wore the penguin like habits. They ruled with iron fists but I did learn to read and write from the sisters. At that age I did not truly understand the meaning of the word virgin. In 1902, at the age of eleven and just days short of her twelfth birthday, Maria was attacked by an older boy with bad intentions. She defended her honor, refusing his advances and succumbed to multiple stab wounds. The killer asked for forgiveness and swore that Maria died intact. A large number of female virgins have been made saints throughout the long history of the Holy Roman Church. As for the movie, it plays like a Lifetime movie of the week, with hammy acting and long ponderous stares. Martina Pinto is fine in the lead but I have not been lured back to the faith of my youth.
I Am Mother (2019)
Clara Rugaard is the lead here as a human teen girl who may be the last one on earth. Her mother is a robot who raises her to be the last hope of our race. It starts off well enough by the end of the almost two hour film it became a silly and confused mess of a story. Hilary Swank is the only other human being in the movie and she is a good actress with not so great material to work with. The visuals are good and the young actress excellent but I did not like the ending. The Twilight Zone did it much better and in a shorter format.
The Wild One (1953)
Marlon Brando is the leather wearing leader of a motorcycle gang who show up in a small town and disrupt the quiet place. The script is dated with the repeated use of the term "square" to describe the uncool citizens of the California sleep village. Brando struts through each scene with a swagger only he could carry off. It is worth watching for the early version of Don Corleone.
Major Plot Holes
I loved Get Out. Us is a major disappointment from the same writer-director Jordan Peele. A family on vacation near a lake house meet some sort of body doubles who seem to be taken from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The film meanders along and the plot holes are enormous. Lupita Nyongo is excellent in the lead but the material is well below her talent. the husband and children are also very good but the two hours just drag on and on. The script lacks the great comedic moments of Peele's Get Out which had much more depth than this overlong film. I hope that Mr. Peele picks up the story of Get Out and makes a sequel. This is a big letdown.
Cold Pursuit (2019)
O.K. this is not high art, but if you wish to sit back for two hours and watch Liam roll, Cold Pursuit is the perfect movie for sheer entertainment value. Liam is a snow plow operator in a ski town in Colorado whose son dies under mysterious circumstances and the big Irishman dispenses justice much like his character in Taken. Lots of bloody violence with enough funny moments thrown in to make it feel like a Quentin Tarantino script. So far, one of my best of 2019.
The Hitch-Hiker (1953)
Talman is Great
William Talman steals this film. He plays a Tommy Udo type psychopath who kills people who pick him up as a hitch-hiker. He channels Richard Widmark's Udo from the classic, "Kiss of Death." I was not aware of his role on the old Perry Mason show. He runs from the law in Mexico with two guys on a fishing trip. It is in black and white and the script is extremely weak but I recommend the movie singularly for the awesome Talman performance as the scowling killer with no conscience.
Zac Efron is OK as Ted Bundy, but Mark Harmon was better in the 1986 two part drama back in 1986. This film focuses on the relationship between Ted and Liz Kendall and is based on the book "The Phantom Prince." I have read it and six others on the killer. As a true crime aficionado, Extremely Wicked is just an average entry. I followed the case from 1981 with Ann Rule's excellent book, "The Stranger Beside Me" to Bundy's execution in 1989. The movie skips around too much for my taste. The structure is extremely uneven. The clips of the real Ted show a man with extraordinary charisma. It is easy to see how he fooled so many women with his charm and good looks. The cast is fine but I would still recommend the Harmon version over this one. P.S. Zac should have done his homework. Ted was left-handed. We lefties always notice one another.
A couple driving through remote Scotland break down and are forced to stop at a farm where they encounter a religious husband and wife who welcome them with open arms. The young tenants include a pregnant wife who is immediately suspicious of their hosts. Plenty of bloodshed follows but the story is not a great one with only competent acting from the cast. The Scottish countryside is colorful but in the end the movie is at best a 5/10.
The Professor and the Madman (2019)
It is only April as I write this review, but Sean Penn can begin preparing his Oscar speech for best actor next year. He is absolutely riveting as Dr. William Minor, an American surgeon who lost his marbles during the Civil War and wound up in England for a little r & r. Under severe delusions he killed a completely innocent man and ended up at Broadmoor, Britain's infamous asylum. Through a series of improbable events, Minor connects with Professor James Murray, a man obsessed with the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. The pair combine for the creation of the great book. The movie is based upon the book by Simon Winchester, and it is faithful adaptation of the excellent read. Mel Gibson is Murray and he is as equally believable as Penn is as Minor. The supporting cast are also excellent. So far, The Professor and the Madman is the best movie of the year.
Strangers on a Train (1951)
The first 3/4 of this film is great but the ending was not as good as the lead up to it. Robert Walker is Bruno, a man with no conscience who meets Guy (Farley Granger), a tennis pro with a domestic problem involving a cheating wife who is making his life miserable. Bruno comes up with the idea of killing the troublesome spouse in exchange for the murder of his domineering and wealthy father. Naturally, one of them is offed and this leads to the usual Hitchcock twists and turns in the story. I love it until the final scenes which I thought to be to unrealistic to be believed. Even with that criticism, the movie is worth watching for Robert Walker's riveting performance.
The House That Jack Built (2018)
Melancholia was a rather silly film with an absurd Kirsten Dunst relieving herself on a lawn while wearing a wedding dress. All is forgiven for Lars Von Trier. This time around we have Matt Dillon as a philosophical serial killer who dispatches men and women with alarming efficiency. The script is both sick and funny at the same time. The director has a field day with the emotions of the audience on a roller coaster ride of humor and violence. I have not had so much fun since my favorite film, A Clockwork Orange. Those who appreciate Kubrick's masterpiece will surely enjoy an updated Alex in Dillon's modern day murderer. Matt is a whirlwind as a man inspired by such individuals as the Ice Man, Richard Kuklinski. Lar's world is an extremely dark and uncaring one. This ain't Marry Poppins and no one will live happily ever after. The ending is a good one with our hero encountering a nether world which must be seen to be believed. The House That Jack Built is one of the best films of the year.
Simindis kundzuli (2014)
I am astounded by the 7.7 rating here. A man and his granddaughter settle on an island formed by a river in Soviet Georgia and plant a corn crop. There is almost no dialogue and the scenery is nice but the story ends rather abruptly. I can appreciate the beauty of nature but the lack of any conversation between the two main characters was maddening to me. At least there are not many subtitles to read here but I need more of an interaction to hold my interest.
Dial M for Murder (1954)
An oldie but goodie. Grace Kelly, Ray Milland and Robert Cummings star in this love triangle. Based on a play, the film mostly takes part in a living room with Grace Kelly as a clueless wife of the gold digging Ray Milland, a former tennis star now just a man of leisure living off of his wife's money. Cummings falls for Kelly and her husband decides to murder his wife in order to collect her fortune. He meets an old college classmate and blackmails him to do away with Kelly. The best laid plans go awry and Hitchcock steers the viewer in several directions, as expected. The cast is terrific and the less said of the story the better. Just sit back and watch how a thriller should be done.
The Academy got it all wrong this year with the selection of Roma for best foreign film. It is not even a close call for me. Capernaum is not only the best film of the year, it is a masterpiece. A twelve year-old boy is in court with his parents present' at least physically. They are emotionally distant and we see how he ended up in such a bad situation through flashbacks and the story is absolutely riveting. The less said the better. The acting by the twelve-year-old and his counterpart, a beautiful Ethiopian actress is mind boggling. Please see this awesome movie for yourself. It is one of the best films I have ever seen.
Shake Hands with the Devil (1959)
James Cagney plays a IRA commander who also happens to be a surgeon and medical professor. Don Murray is an Irish-American medical student who attends school in war torn Dublin. It is the 1920's and Cagney's men are fighting for independence from England. Murray must decide whether to join the radicals are remain neutral. Events dictate his ultimate decision and there are women to deal with along the way, played by Dana Wynter and Glynis Johns. The script is good and the acting tremendous. The Irish locations are filmed in black and white and although a 1959 film, it is worth watching.
A Dog's Way Home (2019)
Nice Doggy Tale
I usually watch Tarantino style crime films and so this is a radical departure for me. Once and a while I will turn human and watch something nice. As sappy as this film is I still love watching dogs in surroundings that make the humans more human. The acting is wooden, the script totally predictable but even through my cynical eyes I was able to escape for an hour and a half into a talking dogs world, so sue me. I have no children but I can safely recommend this light-hearted feature for those with offspring.
Never Grow Old (2019)
Good vs Evil
John Cusack and Emile Hirsch make this film worth watching. Hirsch is an Irish carpenter and undertaker whose business has taken a severe hit due to a fire and brimstone minister's campaign to clean up an old west town's tavern and brothel. Along comes Cusack's sinful character who brings both ladies of the night and booze to liven up things a bit. Dead bodies turn up at an alarming rate and the undertaker makes a killing. Of course it is a Faustian bargain with unforeseen consequences. An excellent script and fine Irish countryside as background make this a top notch movie. A solid 8/10.
Mary Queen of Scots (2018)
Throw away the complaints for historical inaccuracies; this a a movie and not a history lesson. Saoirse Ronan as Mary and Margot Robbie as Elizabeth make the movie worth watching. The costumes and sets are beautiful and the story line a bit campy for my taste but I still recommend the film for two hours of entertainment. After all, everything happened over four hundred years ago and much of history is mere speculation anyway. Just sit back and enjoy a colorful ride to forget your everyday troubles.
Manbiki kazoku (2018)
Sad and Depressing
A non nuclear family with a boy as the lead shoplifter is the main premise of this depressing film. Grandma is on a pension which pays the rent for this strange gathering of children and adults. One young woman works as an internet chat girl in a sex room and the father works at construction while teaching his boy to steal from local stores. The actors are excellent but the story is a real downer. Anyone looking for a happy ending, forget it. Although extremely well made, I was thoroughly exhausted by the final scene.
I do not know how this bizarre and disjointed mess of a film has received a 7.1 rating on IMDB. An extremely ugly young woman works at a checkpoint using her sense of smell to stop suspicious people from proceeding onto their destinations. She meets what appears to be a twin who is even stranger than her. What follows is a story which makes no sense at all. Avoid this stomach churning disaster like the plague.
Den skyldige (2018)
One Man Movie
Jakob Cedergren plays a police officer assigned to a 911 call center who receives a call from a woman who has been kidnapped. The call center is the set for the entire course of the film. The tension is Hitchcock like with enough twists and turns to keep the viewers attention. At 85 minutes the movie moves quickly and the conclusion is a bit disappointing but I recommend The Guilty.
At Eternity's Gate (2018)
Willem Dafoe makes this sad but painful portrayal of Vincent van Gogh worth watching. The style is almost dreamlike and the painters struggles with sanity are difficult to watch. Dafoe is totally believable as the troubled artist. Most of those around Van Gogh did not recognize his genius and now the paintings sell for more than fifty million dollars a piece. His days at a lunatic asylum are cringe worthy, reminding me of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The paintings are beautiful and the story a tragic one, but real life is never easy in the long run.