Occasionally, I'll be asked "hey, have you seen anything good lately?" Well, yeah probably. There's always stuff that
I've recently watched or rewatched and am willing to commit to the suggestion for folks to check it out if they hadn't
seen it or even heard of it. So maybe you'll find something here that peaks your interest.
If you would like to see some more of my reactions to a variety of films, you can find more short reviews,
along with a variety of ramblings
at my blog.
My BLOG...Right here!
Gun Crazy (also known as Deadly Is The Female) is a low-budget film noir that could have ended up as just another simple, rushed together affair that relied on a memorable title and a suggestive poster to lure audiences into the seats and would be quickly forgotten. However, thanks to the confident and stylish direction of Joseph H. Lewis, along with the performances by his two leads, Gun Crazy has ended up as one of the best low-budget film noirs ever and has endured as a classic film that continues to hold up.
John Dall plays Bart Tate who as been obsessed with guns since an early age. However, his passion for firearms ends with the weapon itself and he has no desire to ever turn the gun barrel to any living thing. He learns of the repercussions of this in a poignant moment in his youth after killing a young chick in the beginning of the film. It's a wonderful scene and it really sets up that this movie is going to offer up something special.
After leaving reform school Tate meets Annie Laurie Starr played by Peggy Cummins. Laurie is a sideshow sharpshooter and is as expert with a gun as Tate is. Their first meeting results in another excellent scene of them demonstrating their skills with guns in a competition. It's tense, suspenseful and beautifully executed. We can see immediately these two are kindred spirtis. Tate joins the carnival, but soon he and Laurie leave together, get married and try to make a future for themselves. After the honeymoon period is over however, Laurie's reveals her appetite to live the good life can't happen with Tate getting an honest job. So she gives him the ultimatum of the pair using their gun talents for a life of crime or she will leave him. Guess which one Tate agrees to?
Gun Crazy is an excellent film. You really like Tate from first meeting him as a young boy. You believe he's a good person, but once he makes that fateful decision to be with Laurie under her conditions you know this will rule out any happy ending for the two of them. Dall conveys Tate's reluctance to going along with this plan the whole time, but crumbles when he looks in the eyes of Laurie who he just wants to be with no matter what. However much he tries to plan their jobs and try to make sure nothing terrible happens, we can see Tate is not meant for this way of life. The decision to use their guns for crime will force Tate to face the possibly of having to shoot another person at any time and go against his own beliefs of taking a life. There's no way of getting around that.
Cummins looks gorgeous wearing a beret and holding a pistol. Laurie is strong, stubborn and greedy, but she also has moments of vulnarability and sincerity. She's not a typical 'femme fatale' in a noir film. She's not completely coldblooded and uncaring. She does actually love Tate and genuinely wants to be with him. It's just her desire for money gets in the way and it's something she can't help. Cummins is very good in the role and creates an extremely rich female noir character.
The direction by Lewis is the third star of the film. Lewis stages scenes in a simplistic way, but uses very unique shots and ways to tell this story. I was struck by the unusual camera angles the actors are photographed from under the steering wheel in a getaway sequence. A young Tate witnessing a gun being fired at a mountain lion, we don't see his face but the camera stays on his hands that clench into fists at every sound of a gunshot. On the run in the woods the foreground of the shot filled with branches whizzing past the camera and the actors sporadically appearing through the foliage. It all gives the film a realistic feel that not a lot of productions at the time have. At one point Tate and Cummins are barreling down the street and Cummins slips and it really look like she takes a hard fall.
The most famous scene from Gun Crazy is the one-take bank robbery. The camera sits in the back seat while we watch as Tate and Laurie drive into a small town, find the bank, Tate goes in, Laurie distracts a policeman, Tate comes back out with the money and they speed away. It's a very economical way to show the robbery. But it's also very unique and just as thrilling as if we got to get out of that car and followed Tate into the bank. Maybe even more so. It's another excellent scene.
Inevitable comparisons will be made to Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde and what the possible influence Gun Crazy had on it. Tate and Laurie were modeled after the two real life bank robbers, so it's not surprising to see the similarities between the two films. I wouldn't be surprised if Penn had drawn some inspiration from it.
Gun Crazy is a wonderful film all by itself and can stand on its own. The creative direction, the performances by the cast and the exciting story of this pair of lovers shooting through life with each other all come together to make a terrific movie.
Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are two hitmen from London. They're instructed by their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) to lie low in the town of Bruges in Belgium until they hear from him with further instructions. Ken is the older, wiser veteran who has workd for Harry for a long time. Ken is the younger, inexperienced hitman who just had finished his first job for Harry. Unfortunately it didn't go as smoothly as it was supposed to, hence this unexpected time spent in Bruges.
Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, In Bruges is a black comedy set in a very picturesque town. Our two main characters are as different as they can be. Ken is the quieter, more reflective of the pair. Bruges begins to grow on him and he genuinely enjoys his time sightseeing, learning the history of the city, appreciating the arts and the views. He falls in love with the 'fairy tale' aspects of this midieval town. Meanwhile, Ray is despondent over his botched hit and has no interest in his surroudings. He's surly, rude to tourists and has to get dragged along like a difficult child. He's filled with guilt and being stuck in Bruges just adds to his depression. He views this trip as a punishment.
Things perk up for Ray when he meets Chloe (Clemence Poesy) who is working as a production assistant on a movie - which is filming a midgit! Ray is smitten by Chloe and is intrigued by the diminutive actor Jimmy (Jordan Prentice). They both now have him more captivated than anything in this city. However, he doesn't have too much time to enjoy himself as Harry calls and reveals why he sent the pair to Bruges in the first place.
The relationship between Ray and Ken is what makes In Bruges so special. This could simply have become the cliche of the older hitman schooling the younger rookie in the ways of life, but it becomes much more special than that. There is a relaxed back and forth bickering between the two and both the actors excel at delivering some very good scenes together. Not to mention the film is incredibly funny. The laughs don't exactly come from the situation they're placed in, but more from how these two characters are reacting to it and each other. It started to remind me of the dynamics and chemistry DeNiro and Grodin had in Midnight Run.
There's an emotional core to the film as well. In Bruges doesn't simply focus on this odd couple relationship, but also gives each character hefty decisions and motivations that run throughout the film and the sacrifices that each man must make. At points it's a heartbreaking story. When things get violent, they really do get violent. In Bruges does get graphic when the situation intensifies.
It's a very well made film. It looks gorgeous, the story and characters both suck me in - including the supporting characters they meet. The actors, especially Gleeson and Farrell are both very good. This is unquestionably my favorite performance by Farrelll I've seen. Plus, Fiennes is hysterical and menacing as the guys boss. In Bruges should certainly have gotten and should get more attention than apparently it does.
Quentin Tarantino's newest western film Django Unchained, or as the director refers to it 'a southern', has some referring to it as another masterpiece on his resume. It's garnered a lot of attention, a bunch of award nominations and a decent sized box office take.
I'm not sure I would call it a masterpiece, but it is awfully entertaining.
Going into a Tarantino film by now you should know what to expect to get. Some style, witty dialogue, good performances, tributes of films past and sudden shocks of violence that punctuate scenes. And that's all here.
Jamie Foxx stars as Django a slave in Texas who is bought by Christoph Waltz's Dr. King Schultz, a former dentist now bounty hunter. Django can identify some prospective bounties, so being such a good-natured affable fellow Schultz offers Django a deal - help him find these guys and he'll give him his freedom.
Soon this partnership turns into a friendship and after having a successful run of knocking off bad guys and collecting the cash, they set about tracking down Django's wife and to free her. They're led to notorious Candie Land, owned and operated by the evil Calvin Candie (Leonard DiCaprio). As our two heroes formulate a plan to free Django's missus, they're faced with dangerous adversaries who will play hardball to protect their interests.
The film plays out like another comeuppance revenge tale. Similar to Inglorious Bastards where WWII-era Jews were allowed to get payback against their Nazi persecutors, here it's the black slaves who get a taste of justice. Tarantino really makes you hate the villains. They're heartless, brutal and the whole time I was itching for our bounty hunters to give them what they deserve.
The cast are all excellent. I've never been a big fan of Foxx, but here he makes it easy for you to root for him. He's a sympathetic character and you can understand the anger he has inside him that's he's very willing to unleash. DiCaprio delivers another great performance as the sadistic Candie. I think it's the first time he's played a bad guy in a film and he delivers the goods on all levels. Samuel L. Jackson I thought was fine as Candie's elderly house slave, although it was hard for me to accept that he was this crochety old man. I just kept hearing Jackson and all the violent, showy roles Jackson has done in the past coming out of this guy. He's got such a strong onscreen personlity he'll always be Sam Jackson to me no matter how much old age makeup they put on him.
All the supporting actors are very well cast in their parts. It's funny how Tarantino can sprinkle in actors who most filmmakers seem to ignore and they end up having indelible little scenes. I do however think Tarantino showing up in a small part was distracting. He wasn't very good and it might be better if he just stayed behind the camera.
The real star, the one actor who really made me love this movie and I couldn't take my eyes off him the moment he non-chalantly moseyed on screen was Christoph Waltz. He was such an interesting, relaxed, articulate character I couldn't get enough of him. Naturally he's good with his gun, but he's also awesome with his words. The calm way he talks while whether pouring a beer or being surrounded by an entire agitated town, won me over.
The violence is extemely brutal. The dialogue scenes range from touching to suspenseful. There's a self-referential sense of humor the film has. Tarantino's affection for old spaghetti westerns is clearly on display from everything to the soundtrack to the images unfolding onscreen. It all ends up being a real fun Tarantino ride.
The year is 1954 and the most popular television program in American is preparing to have swashbuckling movie star Alan Swann (Peter O'Toole) appear on its latest broadcast.
Unfortunately, Swann is not exactly the emblem of class and sophistication that comedy writer Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker idolizes. Benjy admires the onscreen Swann who saves the damsel in distress, says the perfect line and be someone to aspire to be. However, the Swann who shows up to the Comedy Cavalcade television show is a notorious aging alcoholic, troublemaker and womanizer who doesn't seem to care about anything other than satisfying his own carnal urges. He doesn't seem able to cross the street on his own let alone work on a live television program.
Benjy gets assigned to look after Swann for the week and make sure he's ready to perform in front of the twenty million people who will be tuning in. Getting to spend time with his idol isn't what Benjy ever imagined.
My Favorite Year is one of those movies that always makes me feel really good while watching it. I have a smile on my face from the opening credits all the way to the end. There's a bunch of reasons for this.
First, the whole setup. The world of 1950's live television presented here is so much dang fun! Decades before Tina Fey made 30 Rock a popular address, My Favorite Year used it to tell this entertaining story. This is my ideal vision of how working on a television comedy show would be. There's this excitement and glamor associated with being on television at the time. Television is a young medium, there's a freshness and enthusiasm by the audience for it and an innocent charm by the sketches the show presents.
However, behind the scenes there's a biting, cynical edge to all of it. Benjy is walking down the halls and he's constantly trading wisecracks with a weary wardrobe woman, worn down comedy writers and an egotistical star. This might sound routine today, but the juxtaposition with the excited wide-eyed 1950's live-television atmosphere makes it all funnier to me.
Then we have the characters. I love watching and spending time with all these people. This was one of Linn-Baker's earliest roles and he's very good here. He immediately establishes his funny put-upon-everyman persona that would define his most popular roles in his career - Perfect Strangers.
The supporting roles are all memorable and well played by the actors. The cast in this are all really good! I'm not even going to waste the time listing them all, but everyone from Benjy's co-workers to his family in Brooklyn to Swann's limo driver are all given their own nice little moments. My Favorite Year could have easily just focused on our leading characters, but it spreads the quality around with the smaller roles as well and I think that's one of the key things that makes it so enjoyable.
And yes - O'Toole. He seems to be having a lot of fun spoofing this respected movie star image and doesn't hold back. He's more than happy to flail around in his underwear and drop to the floor drunk. I still find it hard to believe his performance was actually nominated for an Academy Award that year. It's the complete opposite of the heavy-duty dramatic performance that the Oscars love to take notice of. It's nice to see they actually acknowledged how good O'Toole was here.
Between all the laughs there's also some very touching little moments throughout the film. Alan Swann dancing with an elderly woman (Gloria Stuart) celebrating her 40th anniversary at the Stork Club, Benjy having a late night date in the offices of 30 Rock with K.C. - the fellow staffer he's sweet on. Swann paying a silent long overdue visit to his daughter. Some heart to heart scenes between Swann and Benjy. Really nice little scenes that make the movie richer than just a straight out belly laugh comedy.
Fans who know their television history should have fun thinking of all the influences that inspired My Favorite Year. Obviously, it's a Your Show of Shows-type of show. Swann is clearly meant to be Errol Flynn. Linn-Baker is perhaps a young Woody Allen. With Mel Brooks being an uncredited executive producer these connections become obvious.
However, even if you have no idea about any of that you should still enjoy My Favorite Year. It's just a very entertaining comedy with some heart to it. It's pretty refreshing to watch a comedy that doesn't have to get by with gross out gags and annoying characters. A good story, likable characters and some very funny dialogue is what continues to make My Favorite Year an ageless comedy to go back an rewatch.
One of the joys of the 1980s was turning on your cable box and reveling in
gratuitious, teen, sex comedies. Most were very poorly made, but that didn't
stop a generation from tuning in and watching them countless times.
I take a look back at that nostalgic period of movie watching
and revisit some of the movies the genre gave us
BACHELOR PARTY - BLAME IT ON RIO - HOT DOG THE MOVIE - MISCHIEF -
PRIVATE LESSONS - PRIVATE SCHOOL - REVENGE OF THE NERDS -
SCREWBALLS - ZAPPED!