Saturday, January 31, 2009

Elmer Gantry

Richard Brooks, 1960 (8.2*)
This terrific expose of organized religion and revivals exploiting the faithful masses was based on Sinclair Lewis’ novel, set in the midwest in the 20’s. Burt Lancaster was never better, winning his only Best Actor Oscar as the title character, a grinning salesman enlisted by a revival preacher, Sister Sharon (well played by Jean Simmons) to help “sell the Lord”. Her minions were in a bar, and heard a sales pitch he was giving and said “this is the kind of man we need”!

I forgot how scathing an attack this was on "the business of religion", arguing over appearance fees, how many people they can add to churches, etc.. One preacher objects, "Is filling churches the aim of religion -there were once only 13 Christians, was it a failure?" - and the greedy materialist totally misses the point, "Kee-rect! today it's a world-class enterprise, successful in every country!" This is an especially appropriate film to see after the Bush-led “Christian right” has led our country to the brink of financial disaster and collapse. It’s a primer on how the masses are duped by the media, business, and government working in collusion to take what little money we have left. Arthur Kennedy is a reporter out to expose the phoniness of the whole industry, and Shirley Jones won a supporting actress Oscar as a prostitute. Down a star for just being so pessimistic. 5 nominations, 3 Oscars (add Screenplay for Brooks to those above)

Quote: "What I great night, I get drunk, then I get saved - drunk and saved!" – a sinner
Quote2: “It’s about time you played ball on God’s team, and that team’s captain is none other than Jesus Christ himself” – Elmer Gantry
Quote3: “but the law allows them to collect money and invest it in real estate, tax-free – and who knows what they do with the money?” – Arthur Kennedy
Quote4: “Can he save people? Boy, I’ll say – standing up, laying down – he’s got a lotta ways to save you!” – Shirley Jones

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Grumpy Old Men

Donald Petrie, 1993 (7.5*)
I didn’t remember liking this so much until I saw it again recently in widescreen (Odd Couple didn’t fare so well, like one long bad marriage argument). Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau play two neighbors who have basically grown into a couple of bickering curmudgeons, without their kids or wives around to keep them civil. Much of the action here centers around new neighbor Ann-Margret, who reminds the two antagonists and their friend Chucky, played by Ossie Davis, what it’s like to be a “young pup”, as 88-yr old Burgess Meredith calls his son Lemmon when he sees Ann-Margret. There are some hilarious scenes here, especially one at the local frozen lake in winter where everyone gathers to ice fish in their shanties. The outtakes at the end are just as funny, but here Burgess steals the show, coming up with about half a dozen euphemisms for ‘romance’ as he and Jack watch Chucky going inside to visit Ann-Margret. Jack and Walter’s kids are played by Darryl Hannah and Kevin Pollack. No one expected a film with "all old people" would be a box office hit, but it was, thanks to the superb cast. The sequel with Sophia Loren, Grumpier Old Men, wasn’t nearly as successful nor as popular.
Quote: Looks like Chucky is taking old one-eye to the optomitrist!
Quote 2: Looks like Chucky is gonna ride the old baloney pony!

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tucker: The Man and His Dream

Francis Ford Coppola, 1988 (8.7*)
This is the true story of Preston Tucker, American entrepreneur, engineer, and inventor. He saved US lives and made his fortune by designing the ball turret on the B-52 bombers that allowed the machine gunners easy mobility. After the war, Tucker, played with joyous optimism by Jeff Bridges, wants to build a radically different auto for the public: one that’s safe, yet also stylish. His design included things like disk brakes, high beam lights, side crash protection, seat belts. This film covers the period of this design when Tucker challenged the big three automakers and offered Americans something different. When the going gets tough, Tucker starts singing the jazz song "Hold That Tiger!" and grins. This feels a lot like a Frank Capra film (just look at the dvd cover), and is one of Coppola’s more enjoyably optimistic yet often overlooked movies.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Twilight Samurai

Yoji Yamada, Japan, 2002 (9.2*)
This is a beautifully simple story of a samurai in 1870's Japan who has grown weary of battle and who now just wants to take care of his family. Seibei, played by Hiroyuki Sanada  is just a low-paid storeroom worker at the clan castle helping keep up with the emergency food supply in case of war or siege, and is derided by his fellow workers as the "Twilight Samurai" because he no longer even goes out drinking and carousing with them.

However, Seibei's wife has died from consumption and he takes care of his two daughters and aging mother by himself, and is content with this. His best friend, whom he grew up with, is a more successful samurai, and his sister also grew up with Seibei, so she becomes involved again with Seibei's family after moving back to her brother's house after a bitter marriage.

This is not an action samurai film, with only two small man-to-man swordfights, but is an intelligent elegy to an entire culture in its last days. There's some beautiful scenery here with Mt. Fuji in the background, flowering cherry trees and azaleas, and classical Japanese architecture. This story will grow on you more and more after you've seen it, one of the best samurai films.

37 Awards overall (with just 43 nominations), including going 12 for 14 at the Japanese Academy Awards

Quote: In order to kill a man, you must have the ferocity of an animal and a carelessness for one's own life.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My Left Foot


Jim Sheridan, 1982 (8.4*)
This is one of the most involved and excrutiating performances in cinema history, as Daniel-Day Lewis won his first Best Actor Oscar® (when basically unknown) portraying the true life story of Irish poet and artist Christy Brown, born with cerebral palsy and nearly completely paralyzed, but who learns to use his left foot. Amazingly he writes and paints with this foot in a story that is gut-wrenching to watch, but which is ultimately inspiring as few of us can achieve what Christy did using our complete faculties.

Look for some incredible scenes here, and some heart-warming ones as well, such as his brothers incorporating Cristy into their soccer games as the goalie. Brenda Fricker also won a supporting actress Oscar® as his mother.

When Lewis learned of his Oscar® nomination, it’s said that he ran outside and ran through the streets of London in pure jubilation; that sounds like Lewis who rarely gives a less than Oscar®-worthy performance.

See Gangs of New York for his portait of Bill the Butcher, my favorite villain in any film, for which Lewis won 17 acting awards.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being


Philip Kaufman, 1988 (8.5*)
Kaufman is best known for directing the large budget epic docudrama The Right Stuff, five years after that blockbuster came this erotic romance about a philandering neurosurgeon is set in Prague, during the turbulent years of Russian occupation.

Daniel-Day Lewis, in an early role, plays the doctor, Juliet Binoche, Oscar® winner for The English Patient, plays his wife, and the super-sexy Swedish actress Lena Olin (one of my favorites) plays his main mistress. Perhaps a bit lengthy at over 2:44, it remains one of the most intelligent and erotic romances put on film, and seems especially popular with all the women I know. Need a date film? Throw in this dvd!

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There Will Be Blood


Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007 (7.1*)
Daniel-Day Lewis is one of a handful of great actors working in our generation, along with Gene Hackman, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Anthony Hopkins. Blood is based on the Sinclair Lewis novel “Oil”, it’s a descent into the emptiness of a man without a soul. Lewis is probably the only actor who could pull this off, and deservedly won his second Oscar® for Best Actor.

Here he plays Daniel Plainview, an oil driller around the turn of the century when much western land in the U.S. was undeveloped, the oil yet to be tapped. Like many whose personal greed attracts them to wealth, religion and family become subordinate to the dictates of capitalism. Not a pleasant story to watch, it nevertheless becomes riveting in Anderson’s hands, but down a star for length, could be 30 min. shorter with little change in impact. Three Oscar® nominations, including Best Picture and Director.

Quote: I never found much in people to like; I want enough money to get away from them and be on my own.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Frequency

Gregory Hoblit, 2000 (8.4*)
This terrific SciFi film is also a murder mystery, and it’s hard to believe it gets overlooked on SF film lists with a plot this involving. Jim Caviezal listens to short wave radio as a hobby, and has had his entire life altered by a tragedy. One night he picks up what he thinks is his deceased father’s voice, played by Dennis Quaid. His father may or may not be in an alternate reality or time period, that’s part of the mystery; there's also a potential murder in the works, yet another part of the complex plot. The beauty of good science fiction is that just about anything is possible and if well written, seems natural to the plot. This is hard to describe without any spoilers, so just make sure you watch this film!

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Broadcast News


James Brooks, 1986 (9.1*)
One of James Brooks’ (Terms of Endearment, As Good As It Gets) best films, an expose of how major network news operates from behind the scenes. This is my favorite Holly Hunter performance (Oscar® nominated), as news producer who is so distraught by her job that she regularly takes crying breaks, then she’s ok again.

Her best friend, reporter Albert Brooks, also Oscar® nominated, keeps her and the film from getting too heavy, and has a hilarious scene on camera. William Hurt is an upcoming news anchor, nice to look at but vacant upstairs. Both are interested in Hunter, and all three were nominated for Oscars. Hurt’s idol is Washington, DC anchorman Jack Nicholson, who rarely takes a supporting role this minor, and uncredited.

Kind of a “dramedy” if that’s a word, it’s really a drama with some light touches. Seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Screenplay, but no awards.

Note: James Brooks got 3 Oscars for Terms of Endearment, and created Mary Tyler Moore and Taxi for tv, and has 8 nominations overall.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

The Great White Hope


Martin Ritt, 1970 (8.2*)
This is a hard-hitting and Pulitzer prize-winning play by Howard Sackler about boxer Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight champ. James Earl Jones recreated his Tony-winning Broadway role, and it rightfully made him a star – he even looks like a good boxer, not an actor boxer (like Stallone).

Jones was nominated for an Oscar®, and should have won. Jane Alexander as his mistress was also nominated. The film is primarily about the racism throughout American that brought up each new “great white hope”, or inferior Causasian boxers, in attempts to dethrone Johnson. This is really a tough film to watch, especially with liberal use of the N word (even from Johnson himself), because you know this man will not get equal treatment or respect, no matter what. Johnson also flaunted his celebrity, with Caucasian girlfriends, expensive coats, taunting chatter to the fight crowds, which made the hatred even worse. (To paraphrase 48 hours, he was everyone's worst nightmare, a black man with a title..)

Martin Ritt (Hud, Norma Rae) bravely exposes social injustice in his films, and was once blacklisted, which he covered in the film The Front, with Woody Allen playing a dramatic lead for Ritt. When I tried to see this film in Georgia just after release, the theater was evacuated for a bomb threat, so the racism exposed in the film still brought out the worst in people half a century later. This is a great sports and boxing film, which must be seen in widescreen, if you can withstand the hatred you’ll witness.

Quote: (when he weighed less then Brady) Can you believe that? The man says I’m lighter than you!

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Burn After Reading


Coen Brothers, 2007 (6.5*)
This is an odd sort of Coen Brothers film, marketed as a comedy but a lot more serious, and it has a low energy level. Health club trainer Brad Pitt is given a CD by a janitor who found it on the floor, and its filled with some CIA information. He and fellow employee Frances McDormand both need money and decide to get a reward from the owner.

This turns out to be CIA analyst John Malkovich, who is extremely upset and feels that a 50k reward is extortion. Meanwhile George Clooney is sleeping with Malkovich’s wife, while his own wife, Tilda Swinton, is perhaps being unfaithful as well. Things turn worse after they make personal contact with Malkovich, and eventually everyone gets tangled up together in this thickly plotted excursion into general mayhem. Great actors here, including three Oscar winners (Clooney, McDormand, Swinton), but they unfortunately don’t have much acting to do in this, its mostly plot, and an incisive satire on the intelligence community, one that starts out funny but turns serious.

Listen to the incredible closing credit song, CIA Man by the Fugs – its got terrific lyrics, still relevant today.

“Who can kill a general in his bed, even a dictator if he’s red,
F-g A man, C-I-A man…
Who has got the secretest service, that makes the other service nervous,
F-g A man, C-I-A man…”

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying


David Swift, 1967 (8.4*)
Window cleaner Robert Morse, in a career-making musical comedy role, buys a book with shortcut methods to get ahead in the business world and applies them with hilarious success. One of the pointers is to create a name with an initial, so he comes up with J. Pierpont Finch, and joins the poorly run multinational Worldwide Wicket Co.

He starts in the mailroom, then uses the book’s tips to quickly rise to vice president in charge of advertising, and falls for secretary Rosemary Pilkington (Michele Lee). Frank Loesser wrote the songs, Bob Fosse choreographed the dances in this screwball satire of corporate capitalism. Silly, fun entertainment

The Coen Brothers did their own variation of this as The Hudsucker Proxy, without the music, as Tim Robbins is promoted from the mailroom to CEO to drive the stock price down so the board could take over all the shares cheaply.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

30 Rock


Adam Bernstein, Don Scardino, Gail Mancuso, 2006 (9.3*)
Emmy, GG for Best Comedy

I’m hesitant to watch any commercial tv, so I hadn’t seen 30 Rock until checking it out on dvd, and it’s brilliant. Tina Fey as show head Liz Lemon, has never been this funny on SNL, in fact, producer Lorne Michaels (SNL creator) has never done anything this funny, so I assume all the credit goes to Fey. Her multitude of awards for this so far (four Emmys alone for her, 9 overall, plus Golden Globes) are all well earned, for acting, writing, best comedy awards as creator/producer.

Emmy-winner Alec Baldwin has always been funny, now he’s in the perfect role as GE executive Jack Donaghy sent to oversee Fey’s show, starring Jane Krakowski (Ally McBeal, the bra inventing receptionist), called “The Girlie Show”. Tracy Morgan has also never been this funny, brought in to make the show more hip (in another era, 'tokenism') – his character and dialogue both suit his style perfectly.

It’s even more fun that they satire their own industry, including both NBC and GE – nothing is sacred here, even product placement. When Donaghy wants Fey to promote GE industrial turbines in the show, Fey says “I’ll not prostitute my show to include product plugs”, we immediately see about five for Snapple (a show’s sponsor), including a guy getting off the elevator dressed as a bottle of Snapple. You’ll find yourself laughing out loud, rare for network tv since they act like we're all about 11 years old. Eventually even GE's CEO does a cameo appearance..

Even the guests are great:
Isabella Rosselini has a meaty part as Baldwin’s psycho ex-wife (in a divorce proceeding, he demanded “also all the love letters of your parents”, and of course, her parents were Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rosselini) – he also gets to make disparaging comments about her ("she always wanted to make love standing up"), and of course Baldwin’s ex is Kim Basinger.
Paul Rubens had a hilarious guest spot as the last of the male Hapsburgs in one crazy story.
Tim Conway won an Emmy as a season two guest.
Funniest ‘guest’ to me though is SNL alum Rachel Dratch’s pantheon of characters, who all seem to have bad hair and teeth. The dvd’s are generous, with eight episodes per disc.

Kudos all around on this series, it looks more like cable than a major network.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman


John Korty, 1973, tv (8.8*)Emmy, Outstanding SpecialOne of the best tv films ever, based on the novel by Ernest J. Gaines, this drama follows the life of an African-American woman, Jane Pittman, born into slavery in the South during the 1850s and who surives to become a 110-year-old who tells her story from her days as a slave all the way up to involvement in the civil rights movement in the early 1960’s, which makes this the perfect film for Martin Luther King’s birthday.

Winner of nine Emmy Awards out of 13 nominations, including Best Lead Actress for Cicely Tyson (formerly married to Miles Davis and used as a model on several album covers) in her best role, also Best Director for John Korty; others awarded for writing, makeup (they age Tyson 70 yrs or so), costume design, music. TV simply doesn't get any better than this, combining history and art to tell a universal tale of social injustice, growth, courage, and change.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

In Cold Blood


Richard Brooks, 1967, bw (8.8*)
Journalistic filming of Truman Capote’s Pulitzer-winning non-fiction book about the ruthless killing of the Clutter family of Kansas by two burglers, who had heard in prison that the family had a safe in the house. Director Brooks has made this chilling account more realistic and frightening by the use of flashbacks in the killers words, and a slightly grainy ‘newsreel’ look, also by building up to the actual crime, which is mostly shot by flashlight. One of the more spine-tingling crime re-enactments on film.

A later film, Capote (which won an acting Oscar for Philip Seymour Hoffman), examines this period in Capote’s life, when he was torn between researching his book, justice for the Clutters, and sympathy for the killers, who were awaiting execution.

The killers are excellently portrayed by Scott Wilson (from In the Heat of the Night), and tv's Robert Black (a former Little Rascal), in their best performances of their careers. This is a must-see for all true crime fans, more eerie than any Hitchcock film, in fact, it's almost too realistic to recommend.

Quote: That Mr. Clutter was a real nice gentleman, right up until I slit his throat.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp


Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1943 (8.2*)Entertaining spoof of traditional 18th century British military aristocracy, which became a mid-war critique of the ‘gentleman’s war’ mentality of previous wars, now being rendered obsolete and ineffective against the Nazis. This version is a restored 1983 one that added back originally deleted footage, so now the running time is over 2.5 hrs, making it an epic comedy; though many call this version a masterpiece of cinema, I think that's overblown. It's more like that generation's Dr. Strangelove, though a lot slower and less innovative. It is to be praised for the stand it took however, actually being critical of the British military's 'old guard'.

Roger Livesey has a career role as General Wynne-Candy, a part originally written for Laurence Olivier but his studio wouldn’t release him to Archer for this film. Deborah Kerr has a field day in three separate roles, one for each generation, as the film covers half a century in a man’s life. Despite some incredible individual scenes (such as a duel that features a rising camera shot from above), down a star for the length hurting the overall pace.

Based on a British newspaper cartoon called Colonel Blimp, which poked fun at the outdated military aristocracy that had ruled during the Crimean and other wars up through WW1. Churchill fought the film’s release, thinking it would hurt morale, and the attempted ban made the film a box office giant as the studio advertised the “film banned by the government”, who then (in a secret memorandum) said the film “is so boring that hardly anyone will sit through it.

Note: Powell (director) and Pressburger (writer) also did The Red Shoes in 1947, and Black Narcissus (1947) which were better films overall.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Mongol

Sergei Bodrov, Russia, 2007 (8.9*)
Stunning cinematography and visual images make this biopic of the early life of a Mongol named Temudgin, who was later to become Genghis Khan, a must see for all cinema fans. The faces of the actors are all perfect, as we start with a nine-year old Temudgin on a trip with his father, who gets poisoned. The next couple of decades are not only a fight for survival, but also provide the future khan with enough solitude to be able to clearly conceive a plan for his life that he later put into action. When captured, a priest of the king says "let this man go, I see hordes of Mongols on horseback." The king put him in a cage with this on a sign in front, "the Mongol who would destroy my kingdom." This is one of the most compelling Russian films, the first part of a proposed trilogy on the life of Genghis Khan. An Oscar nominee for foreign language film, should have been a cinematography and directing nominee as well.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Defending Your Life

Albert Brooks, 1991 (8.6*)
I’ve always liked Albert Brooks (whose real name is Albert Einstein!) and his understated humor; as an actor he can sometimes grate on you, but his screenplays can sometimes be both touching and funny, like this one (and The Muse). It’s the afterlife, everyone arrives in Judgment City, and an insecure Brooks must defend his life in a courtroom, with Rip Torn as his grouchy attorney, and it doesn’t seem to be going so smoothly, as you have to prove you had conquered fear. The prosecution selects from 3 to 7 days of your life to illustrate that you haven't. Meanwhile, he meets Meryl Streep, happy and pretty even after death, and she seems to be having a much easier time defending herself, which adds to Brooks’ insecurity. This is both a comedy and a romance, a very unique look at the afterlife, and a small gem of a fantasy.

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The Big Chill


Lawrence Kasdan, 1983 (7.4*)
Probably never in film history has a hit soundtrack using rock and soul songs had so much effect in making a movie into a hit. There's really not much here other than an enjoyable reunion of old college buddies from the 60's, who have gathered together at Kevin Kline and Glenn Close's house in the south for the funeral of one of their inner circle. Jobeth Williams comes, now properly married, Hollywood tv star Tom Berenger also, William Hurt, who has Vietnam War problems, Mary Kay Place, whose bio-clock is ticking, and Jeff Goldblum, who can't seem to stop trying to get laid; Meg Tilly is already there, she was living with Alex when he died. Overall a pleasant trifle, not very deep.

Similar to John Sayles' Return of the Seacausus Seven, and Barry Levinson's Diner (1983), which is the best of this type of all dialogue film. Three Oscar® nominations, including best picture.

Trivia: This was Kevin Cline's first film, but he was cut before release - he plays the corpse, which they intended to show but ended up cutting all his scenes.

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The Sweet Hereafter

Atom Egoyan, 1997 (9.0*)
Cannes Palm d’Or
Best Foreign Film (BAA)

This is an amazing indie film from Canadian Atom Egoyan, not quite like any other. It’s a quiet, almost uneventful film about a small town trying to survive their grief after a school bus accident.

Ian Holm, in his best performance, is a lawyer who comes to town to try to get some financial compensation for the victim’s families. Holm is generally shunned as an outsider with whom the town doesn't want to share it's pain. Sarah Polley plays a teen who may have been an eyewitness to the event’s cause.

It’s amazing that a small, quiet film about loss and grief can even get made; then to have that be a minor masterpiece is even more amazing. This film has a depth and a quietness rarely seen in cinema. Oscar nominations for director and screenplay, a British AA for foreign film, Grand Prize at Cannes (Palm d'Or)

Winner of 30 awards out of 52 nominations

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Red Badge of Courage

John Huston, 1951, bw (8.4*)
The master director once said this was his best film, but that was about 1951 and long before his illustrious career was done (he was yet to make The Man Who Would Be King as well), also perhaps before it was cut by the studio. There are some amazing Civil War battle sequences in this filming of the Stephen Crane classic novel, written when he was just 22, about a youth having a hard time adjusting to battle. A young looking Audie Murphy was a good choice, he was a decorated WW2 hero.

This is really some of Huston’s best black and white work, almost expressionistic at times with so much dust and smoke from battle that you can barely see what’s happening; soldiers appear like ghosts from the dust in front. Unfortunately, there was a major dispute at MGM internally over the making of this film, and it was whittled down from Huston’s 120 minutes to just 69 (and released as 2nd film on a double-bill!) and the studio later claimed to have destroyed the expurged footage when Huston wanted the complete cut. This is what happens when capitalists have control of art…

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Baby Boom

Charles Shyer, 1987 (8.5*)
Terrific feel good comedy with Diane Keaton as a corporate executive and career-oriented single woman who inherits her sister’s baby after her death in a car accident. At first she’s the world’s worst mom, as the child interferes with her work, then she gets a chance to be a good mom in a new location, with hilarious results. Sam Shepherd is a local vet who becomes her new friend. This small film says a lot about motherhood, perserverance, ingeniuty, business, and all with a big heart and with warm humor. Very rewarding film, no matter what gender, one of Diane's best.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Martin Scorsese, 1974 (8.2*)
Best Picture (BAA)
Not only is this another Martin Scorsese winner, it’s also a romantic comedy, albeit with dramatic overtones. Single mother Ellen Burstyn won a Best Actress Oscar® for her terrific performance as a single mother struggling to raise a son on a waitress’ salary, while searching for another spouse among slim pickings.

Harvey Keitel is terrific in a small part as a boyfriend, a friendship that starts out innocently and turns very frightening as he exerts his alpha male dominance. Look for teenaged Jodie Foster (who calls her mom “Ramada Rose”) in a very funny androgynous role as a misbehaving teenager, who befriends Burstyn’s son, played by Alfred Lutter in a quirky, funny performance.

Vic Tayback, the gruff diner owner and cook, was the only cast member to keep their role in the tv comedy Alice, based on the film. Winner of the British Academy Award for the year’s best film. Two Oscars®

Quote: You leave this scorpion alone, he’ll leave you alone; you mess with him, he’ll kill you. (Harvey Keitel)

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Down With Love

Peyton Reed, 2003 (7.6*)
Warning: for swinging lovers only! If you use language like “dames” and “broads”, you’ll get this, if you’re a hatless guy, you won’t. If you’ve never seen a 50’s film, don’t bother, this will be like watching Mongolian without subtitles. Otherwise, it’s a hilarious sendup of Doris Day-Rock Hudson romantic fluff comedies. All the girls want hot bachelor journalist Ewan McGregor (whose name is Catcher Block!), who sings his way through this quite well. Meanwhile, columnist Renee Zellweger writes an anti-romance best seller called “Down With Love”, and early women’s lib tome, so these two simply have to be attracted to each other, it’s a Hollywood screenplay rule! A lot of fun if that’s all you want; definitely lighter than a marshmallow, and the music just adds to the campiness.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Contact

Robert Zemeckis, 1997 (9.0*)
Astronomer Carl Sagan wrote just this one novel, which blended science, fiction, and religion into a story of mankind discovering we are not alone in the universe, and it intelligently examines potential consequences and effects on mankind. Jodie Foster, as Dr. Arroway, discovers a signal from space while monitoring radio telesopes; first thought a red herring, careful analysis of the signal detected layers of information, which include a translation key.

Suddenly the news is out, religious fanatics once again decry science as 'devil’s work', corporations race to capitalize financially, while nations are both skeptical and appalled at having to spend any money, in short special interests threaten the entire world-shattering breakthrough from even occurring. Matthew McConaughey is miscast as a priest who is Foster’s friend and romantic interest; Sam Shepherd is a jealous colleague, but the film is all Foster’s, who also produced.

Zemeckis also directed Back to the Future, and in this case shows he can direct serious science fiction as well. A little slow if you expect action SF, but one of a few intelligent adult sf books to film, so add another classic must-see to that genre’s growing list.

If you like this theme, make sure you see Close Encounters, and read Arthur C. Clarke's awesome book Childhood's End, which Kubrick wanted to film and ended up with 2001 instead due to the limited film technology of the time.

Note: For a list of my favorite science fiction-fantasy novels, check here, you'll see that Childhood's End is #1:
Top 100 Science Fiction Books

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Citizen X

Chris Gerolmo, 1995 (8.7*)
Based on a true story of Russia’s worst serial killer, who killed over 50 young victims. Stephen Rea, always excellent, plays a forensics expert who spends years on the case, assisted and supervised by Soviet party bureaucrat Donald Sutherland, who won an Emmy and Golden Globe for supporting actor. After the case stalls with no leads, they resort to the FBI’s technique of psychological profiling (which had not been used in Russia), and bring in psychiatrist Max von Sydow. This may be a little slow, but is an excellent docudrama about criminal investigations, the case now being used in FBI training.

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An American Werewolf in London

John Landis, 1981 (8.3*)
For me this is Landis’ best film, in spite of Animal House and Blues Brothers. I think partially because I don’t like vampire, werewolf, or horror films and he was able to make a werewolf movie that I did enjoy, and it actually seemed the best paced of those three films. It also stars the lovely Jenny Agutter (Walkabout), a plus for any film, and has an acceptable performance for once by David Naughton as the title character, a visiting tourist who gets bitten by a werewolf. Dominick Dunne is hilarious as a recent victim and constantly deterioriating ghost who refuses to leave the scene, and keeps pestering Naughton’s character relentlessly. When Naughton tells him he reeks, Byrne replies "what do ya expect, I'm dead!" Very good special effects, they kept it simple and told a classic horror tale that you might find in the 19th century, but with much better available film technique than the classic bw horror films.
PS - Hey, whatever happened to Jenny Agutter?

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Great Escape

John Sturges (1963) (7.6*)
Veteran director John Sturges (Bad Day at Black Rock, The Magnificent Seven) made a WW2 pow film that’s enjoyable by injecting a little humor, likeable characters, and providing a variety of heroes, especially the Americans (!). This is a glorified big budget, big cast, Hollywood version of a real Allied pow escape from a German prison for US officers, mostly downed airmen, and we don't mean 2-3 men either, but hundreds, so Sturges used a big and varied cast of popular actors, both British and American. We see, in painstaking detail, how the escape tunnel is dug and what happens afterwards to each character, which makes the film more accurate but a little lengthy.

Steve McQueen (don't be misled by the dvd cover, he's just one actor of many here) would only take his part if he could “do something heroic”, so he gets to not only escape just to get info and come back, but also make a daring getaway on a motorcycle, complete with stunts. James Garner, James Coburn, Richard Attenborough, Donald Pleasance, and Charles Bronson all get to play likeable characters (only Nazis had jerks in some films). Entertaining and fun, especially when compared to dark films like Stalag-17.

Down one star for slow pacing and length, needs a half hour trim..

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Sahara

Zoltan Korda, 1943, bw (7.4*)
Excellent war adventure, as Humphrey Bogart leads a stranded tank squad to a hidden water well in North Africa. Eventually they have to face about 500 Nazis (thankfully with no tanks), who are also searching for water. This becomes a tight, suspenseful story, with very good bw cinematography and is generally one of the oft-overlooked WW2 films. Propagandistic at times, sure, but for 1943 that's to be expected; at least some Nazi officers were bilingual and intelligent.

Note: Definitely NOT to be confused with the 2005 Matthew McConaughey adventure that is lighter than popcorn by comparison (and a waste of time to me).

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Golden Compass

Chris Weitz, 2007 (7.7*)
Major fantasy effort based on Philip Pullman’sHis Dark Materials”, and it looks to be the first part of a proposed trilogy. A spunky Dakota Blue Fanning stars as a girl who has a prophetic part to play in changing this fantasy world as she is the only one who can read the truth-telling compass of the title, which has two hands and cryptic symbols.

Daniel Craig, out of normal character, plays her protective scientist uncle, at odds with a bureaucratic controlling body called the Magisterium, who fear the influence of “stardust” on children (an oblique drug reference? a reference to outside or alien energy invading our bodies?).

Nicole Kidman takes Dakota under her wing, and they begin a long journey to the north pole with a beautiful zeppelin flight; they created a beautiful imaginary world for this. Compass mixes everything from that to armored fighting bears to stardust (but not that of the Neil Gaiman novel and film of that title), in the classic fantasy vein of the Narnia trilogy. Excellent Oscar-nominated special effects, down one star for violence (maybe too intense for pre-teens), in particular a polar bear fight; hey, I love nature!

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Unforgiven

Clint Eastwood, 1992 (8.4*)
Best Picture (AA)
AFI/Time Top 100

This is a violent and unforgiving western, and the best one in the long career of director-actor Clint Eastwood, and earned him a Best Director Oscar. This was his first best picture, followed by Million Dollar Baby. The story involves a cowboy cutting up a woman with a knife and being protected by a corrupt sheriff, brilliantly played by Gene Hackman in an Oscar-winning supporting role. Retired gunslinger Eastwood is hired to seek vengance and what follows is a relentless pursuit similar to John Ford’s The Searchers. Morgan Freeman, as a friend of Eastwood’s, is also terrific as usual, and look for Richard Harris as the “Duke of Death”. Good western, not sure if it’s the year’s best film (I preferred Robert Altman's The Player that year), it likely gets overrated due to Eastwood's popularity. If you like this, check out Kevin Costner’s brilliant Open Range. Four Oscars.

Note: NOT to be confused with John Huston’s 1960 western,The Unforgiven with Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn. Either too bad or a good thing: you can’t copyright a title - hence the film Crash, by J.G. Ballard with James Spader and Holly Hunter as crash survivors involved in s-m, and the more recent Crash, the boring police drama with Matt Dillon in what resembled a tv police show yet somehow won best picture as well due to a lack of competition.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Hard Eight


Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997 (8.3*)
A superb cast makes this small indie film a big surprise winner. John C. Reilly, always excellent and an Oscar nominee for Chicago, is a casino newcomer, spotted by seasoned veteran Philip Baker Hall, in his best performance. He shows Reilly how to use the casino perks to rack up free meals and rooms, and other inside info on being a professional gambler. Gwyneth Paltrow even took a supporting role in this due to the excellent Anderson script, who also wrote and directed Boogie Nights. This could be the most revealing look at gambling and casinos on film, definitely from an experienced gambler perspective.

Note: I lived in Las Vegas once for a year, and craps (dice) was the only game where I could regularly win real money - hard for them to cheat you when YOU hold the gambling device itself! (forget ALL card games) A 'hard eight' is simply double fours, which pays ten for one if you hit it, so a $5 bet pays you $50 - and believe me, there are dice rollers out there who seem to ONLY throw doubles, with them you simply bet ALL the hard ways (4,6,8 and 10). I made $1000 off one of them once in about 20 minutes, so did his two buddies, and when he quit, so did I. You look for shooters like that... and you always quit after a hot run, "take the money and run".

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The Absent-Minded Professor

Robert Stevenson, 1961, bw (7.3*)
One of the better live-action Disney films, with very good special effects for the time, this is actually a science fiction story disguised as a fantasy. Fred McMurray, a forgetful Professor Brainard, invents a gravity repellent rubber substance, which he calls “flubber” for flying rubber. He first bounces around on his shoes, jumping about 20 feet high, then realized it can power his car and he gets the old Model T flying - here’s your lasting image of the film and the dvd cover. Finally he applies it practically to the basketball team; suddenly the government takes notice. Fun for kids and adults as everyone wants to fly.

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Civil War


Ken Burns, 1990, tv, 12 hrs (9.1*)
Ken Burns set a new style and standard for tv documentaries with this multi-part documentary based largely on still photographs, maps, and interviews with historians, authors, other experts. The series immediately becomes addictive for all history buffs, whether interested in the Civil War or not. Burns establishes a style he later used on a history of jazz music, another on baseball, finally one on World War II. Terrific stuff, not to be missed.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Truman Show

Peter Weir, 1998 (8.4*)
This parable on modern existence from master Australian director Peter Weir (Witness, Fearless, Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Last Wave, Mosquito Coast) was a breakthrough for comedic actor Jim Carrey: we all finally discovered he could seriously do drama as well. Here he plays unsuspecting ‘everyman’ Truman Burbank, who doesn’t know that his every move is being watched as a live reality show, and is extremely popular, as his audience is addicted to his everyday struggles with life, work, romance (with Laura Linney), and friendship with Noah Emmerich.

The tv show is brilliantly conceived and directed by Oscar-nominee Ed Harris, in perhaps his best performance; he has to deal with a couple of hundred cameras, and an unpredictable, curious, intelligent, and increasingly mobile subject; he also has to exploit the audience's sense of conscience without having much of one himself; in short: he's the god of Truman's world. Truman is a likeable guy, so everyone pulls for him and the film audience becomes like the tv audience, so there’s a nice circularity to it all. This is a fantasy bordering on modern reality, perhaps a bit too accurately – it’s actually kinda scary in a Big Brother kind of way, where God is the director and everyone’s watching our every mistake and apprehension and shortcoming blown up larger than life, without our knowledge, but somehow with the feeling that we’re being monitored. Paranoia Planet!

Note: If you like this concept, check out the more comedic Ed TV from director Ron Howard, in which Matthew McConaughey signs a contract to do the show so he knows he's being filmed by producer Ellen Degeneres. Unfortunately, he's not the actor Carrey is.

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The Prestige

Christopher Nolan, 2006 (8.9*)
Incredible mystery about the world of magic, based on an award-winning novel by science fiction author Christopher Priest. Christian Bale has a field day here as a talented magician who seems to rub competitor Hugh Jackman the wrong way, as the two resort to dangerous extremes to remain at the top of the game, and to personally stay one up on each other.

Michael Caine has a terrific supporting part as the tutor of both who first hired them. Scarlett Johansson plays Bale's romantic interest.

There are numerous plot twists and surprises here so I won’t give any away. Christopher Nolan (Following, Memento, Batman Begins, Dark Knight) is becoming one of the best modern directors, always making interesting films. This is now #73 on the IMDB all-time top 250


His new film from 2010, Inception, is #6 all-time at IMDB currently

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Matrix Trilogy

Andy Washowski, 1999-2004 (8.3*)
Interesting concept of an alternate reality based on everyone being plugged into a virtual reality world that they call The Matrix, which seems to be understood and manipulated by Lawrence Fishburne and a small group of rebels. So in effect, they understand that we all live in "binary world" inside some computer reality. However, the rebels are under attack from authorities, naturally, the enemy sent against them is a security agent clone named Mr. Jones (a human personification of an anti-viral security program), and he/they seem to be endless (and perhaps spawned Men in Black, since they look the same in dress).

The key to the reality war seems to be newcomer Keanu Reeves, since prophecies point to someone coming to help them and he shows up. Some of the plot is a little too convenient, but the action and effects keep it all interesting and exciting, and the dark world created is as unique as Blade Runner or Batman – perfect for the video game/mtv world: more action, less thinking. Up a star on special effects alone, in which bullets are slowed down so the target can move aside and watch them go by in slow motion.

Unfortunately the completion of the trilogy isn't as satisfying as the beginning promises. If you like the Washowski Brothers, be sure to catch the more intelligent V for Vendetta.

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Gattica

Andrew Nichol, 1997 (8.5*)
One of the most intelligent of the science fiction films, not actually based on shootouts or space battles but on stolen identity, DNA, bias, privacy, individualism. Ethan Hawke is a worker who seems to be hiding a mystery, and we later learn that he’s borrowing DNA from Jude Law, whose character is a paraplegic after an accident. Uma Thurman is around for romantic interest. Without spoilers, you’ll have to see this one to uncover the plot, but don’t expect a lot of action here, more of a mystery plot cloaked in a science fiction futuristic environment.

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The Wrath of Khan

Nicholas Myer, 1982 (7.8*)
I’m a big science fiction literature fan, have read about 500 sf books, hence I’m not a Star Trek fan as the writing is an insult to the genre, pure garbage. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the second film, Wrath of Khan, largely due to the over-the-top performance of Ricardo Montalban as the wronged former Mongol leader, now banished into space, and he is “the Great Khan”, mad as hell, not gonna take it any more. Happily, Captain Kirk shows up to become the target of his wrath, so we have a villain to pull for as we'd all like to see William Shatner get his! Fun stuff, mindless, but a highlight of this mostly boring series. I hear the even numbers are the good ones, and four was ok: The Voyage Home, the one with the whales. I’ve forgotten all the others… hopefully.

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Cinderella Man

Ron Howard, 2005 (8.4*)
Fans of Rocky and Raging Bull and other classic boxing films will love this true story from Ron Howard, who manages to perfectly capture the look of the 30's era. Russell Crowe plays heavyweight boxer Jim Braddock, a former boxer now working the docks due to an injury to his right hand. However, concentrating on his left hand has now made him a southpaw boxer and more of a threat. Renee Zellweger looks perfect as his supportive wife. If you don’t know boxing history, I won’t spoil it here, just be prepared for a good G-rated sports film about a clean family man and a very uplifting story.

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The Fabulous Baker Boys

Steve Kloves, 1989 (7.8*)
Jeff and Beau Bridges play two piano playing brothers who have a lounge act playing schmaltzy hits for the cocktail crowd. Jeff would rather be a classical concert or jazz pianist (sometimes plays jazz clubs after hours), while Beau is happy to be paying bills with music. They decide to add a female vocalist to expand their sound and potential, and they hire Michelle Pfeiffer, who does her own fairly amazing singing – in fact, she turns in the most sensual version of “Makin’ Whoppee” in history, and from on top of the piano (in a silky red dress), which I’m sure was smoking afterwards! (I was) Worth seeing for all the classic jazz and lounge standards they cover as a trio, and worth seeing for Michelle in that red dress – it’s unforgettable.

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Producers


Mel Brooks, 1968 (8.3*)
This wacky comedy by Mel Brooks is his best to me (Young Frankenstein and Twelve Chairs are also good), his humor can be mean-spirited like it is in Blazing Saddles and others and he's usually more silly than funny (Spaceballs).

This is about a theatre producer, hilariously played by Zero Mostel, who is losing money and nerdish accountant Gene Wilder comes up with a plan to make money by creating a losing play and selling shares in the profits to investors over and over, whom Mostel provides by romancing elderly widows, so no profits, one need be repaid.

They need a loser of a play and come up with a musical called “Springtime for Hitler”, and they select a riotous Dick Shawn in his funniest and most memorable part as a gay musical Adolph. Later remade as a musical play and film, this totally comedic version is still much better and Brooks’ high water mark, also Mostel’s. For some reason, Brooks never approached this level again, maybe it was Mostel and Wilder meshing perfectly.

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Young Frankenstein

Mel Brooks, 1974, bw (7.6*)
The other really good Brooks comedy (see The Producers) is this spoof of old horror films, actually shot in black and white to resemble the classics like Frankenstein and Dracula. Gene Wilder is a descendent of the original doctor, and who is a serious scientist ("that's Fronk-in-steen!"), yet he still creates a monster, played by Peter Boyle in his most famous part. Girlfriend Terri Garr and monster bride Madeleine Kahn provide both laughs and cleavage, Marty Feldman provides more as assistant Igor (or Eye-gore, get it?). The "Putting on the Ritz" number is a classic sequence, and this is something every film fan should enjoy.

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Saturday, January 3, 2009

The 39 Steps

Alfred Hitchcock, 1935, bw (8.5*)
This is one of the early British films of Hitchcock before he developed a more formulaic approach for Hollywood , so it's really one that put him on the map early in his career. 39 Steps fits with this month's obvious spy theme, as its a pre-WW2 foreign spy film. Robert Donat stars as the common man discovering a possible plot, a theme often repeated later by Hitch. Features nice use of black and white to create an ominous mood, almost expressionistic. This has remained my favorite Hitchcock film, much preferred over more famous technicolor releases two decades later (well, except maybe for Vertigo, his most serious and successful color film), especially in its use of suspense, and is an early classic of the espionage and mystery genres.

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Friday, January 2, 2009

The Avengers

[Our 300th review]
a.k.a. "The Original Avengers", "Emma Peel Megaset"
British TV, 1964-67, 51 episodes, bw & color (8.5*)

This famous tongue-in-cheek British series poked fun at the 007 genre and others, such as cheap SciFi and kung-fu, and did so with a style and panache that's still enjoyable today as long as you don't take it seriously. British super-agent John Steed, played as a charming bowler-wearing sophisticate by Patrick MacNee, starred and was teamed with a series of athletic actresses. The gorgeous Diana Rigg came into the series from the Royal Shakespeare Company about 1964 as Mrs. Emma Peel ('M' appeal, get it?) when it was still black and white, replacing Honor Blackman who ironically left to do the 007 film Goldfinger. In one episode, Steed receives a Christmas card from her character, Cathy Gale, and when Emma asks where it's from Steed comments "Fort Knox.. can't ever figure why she'd be there".

Emma's married, but her pilot-explorer husband has been missing for years after a jungle flight, so she and Steed maintain a platonic but chemistry-charged relationship that often includes ennuendo and roundabout flirtations in typical British style, as the most they ever shared was a bottle of champagne; she is supposedly an amateur sleuth helping Steed for the commonwealth. Rigg's first 2 years in b&w are probably better written, and we see her in black a lot, leather bodysuits and the like, but the color ones from her last year are a little better made and Rigg is even more gorgeous. She eventually left after three seasons and 51 episodes (shown in the U.S. as four, from 64-67; now on 17 dvd's), and her last episode is appropriately called The Forget-Me-Knot, which also introduced her successor, Linda Thorson, as well as a hilarious visual with a Steed double. The Avengers before and after Diana Rigg pale by comparison; she and MacNee brought a cool chemisty never matched by a crime-fighting duo before or since; well, tv anyway - after all, there was the Thin Man film series.

Note: in The Superlative Seven (title spoof of The Magnificent Seven), both Donald Sutherland and Charlotte Rampling were guest stars in a plot borrowed from Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.
Self-Reference: in the color episode Return of the Cybernauts, Emma is watching tv, which is showing the bw episode The Cybernauts from two seasons earlier.

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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Reilly: Ace of Spies

Martin Campbell, Jim Goddard, 1983, 11 hrs (9.0*)
This 12-part British miniseries tells the story of real life spy Sidney Reilly, who inspired Ian Fleming when he created James Bond. Reilly was the pseudonym of a Russian Jew named Georgi Rosenblum from Odessa who escaped Czarist repression by fleeing to Brazil, later Ireland, changing his name, and eventually becoming a British spy. Sam Neill, in the role that made him famous, turned Reilly into a smirking, self-confident, and suave gentleman who easily gained confidences where needed.

The series is based on the non-fiction account of the same title by Spider Lockhart, who served with Reilly in Russia, whose character is in several episodes. Part 1 begins with him in the Middle East in some subterfuge regarding oil rights for England; next in eastern Russia just preceding the Crimean War (David Souchet has a juicy role in this one); later we see him steal battleship plans from Germany before World War I, and various other endeavors, often battling his rival for information, an arms selling Russian industrialist played by Leo McKern, who didn't care whom he armed to make his fortunes. What really drove Reilly however, aside from a few beautiful women (married or otherwise), was a lifelong obsession with invading and freeing Russia from any totalitarian regime, so the latter episodes cover Reilly’s time spent there, with some interesting scenes involving Felix Derzhinsky, father of Russian intelligence and disinformation who kept Lenin in power in the precarious early days of the revolution. The entire series has a location look, very well designed and filmed, each part a mini-movie, highly recommended for fans of both espionage and history.
Note: Director Martin Campbell would later direct the 007 film Casino Royale in 2006.

Here's the Wikipedia page on Sidney Reilly

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Casino Royale


Martin Campbell, 2006 (7.6*)
Daniel Craig’s first outing as James Bond is a high energy, pulse pounding action film, the way the series was meant to be. The novel was Ian Fleming’s first, and was devoid of gadgets and violence; this re-write makes up for it. Judi Dench is back again as his superior, Eva Green is this film’s “Bond woman”. Down one star for a loss of pacing after a fast start. Craig is going to be the best Bond since Connery, not hard to accomplish – anyone from Ewan McGregor to Colin Farrell to Viggo Mortensen would have been an improvement. (...apparently I was the only person to like Aussie George Lazenby in On Her Majesty's Secret Service which remains the best 007 film to me.


The novel Casino Royale was author Ian Fleming’s first, and introduced the world to his glamorous and amorous spy. This novel largely revolves around the high-stakes casino card game of baccarat, in which two players go head-to-head like a duel, with money rather than blood at stake, and usually with no limit to the stakes.

This novel was filmed once before (not part of the Albert Broccoli film series) as a satire of the genre, when both David Niven and Woody Allen played James Bond; unfortunately the film was highly forgettable, not funny, not sexy, no action.

For those would-be high stakes gamblers out there, who think maybe baccarat is easy money, as a former resident of Las Vegas I highly suggest you first educate yourself with strategies and techniques by reading a lot of baccarat strategy articles. Those who don’t will be at a disadvantage to those who have and those with more experience. The internet has some excellent information so take advantage of it - after all, it's going to be your money at risk.

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On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Peter Hunt, 1969 (8.6*)

There's only ONE James Bond film with Australian George Lazenby, and only one in which Bond gets married, and this is the one! For me, this is the best Bond movie, every film with Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan is nearly unwatchable, and this one has more action than any Connery film. There's an incredible ski and bobsled chase involving villain Telly Savalas, with over 120 edit cuts in the whole sequence (I counted!)

The classiest of all Bond lovers, Diana Rigg also stars, after her stint as Emma Peel in British tv's "The Original Avengers", she was actually a Royal Shakespearean actress, later appearing in Midsummer's Nights Dream with Judi Dench (who was the topless wood nymph!) Director Peter Hunt created the best combination of 007 novel merged with cinema excitement in this one.

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From Russia With Love

Terence Young, 1963 (8.3*)The second James Bond film is the best of the Sean Connery ones, with a more realistic plot, and with Robert Shaw as the best assassin of all, also classy Italian Daniela Bianchi as the only "Bond girl" in the whole film. Veteran European actress Lotte Lenya also sparkles as Russian assassin Colonel Rosa Klebb (who made the ET list of top 20 Bond women!), who deals her injustice with a poisoned blade in her shoe!

We get introduced to organizations of initials, in this case S.P.E.C.T.R.E., a group of criminals outside the KGB even, beyond anyone’s control, but we only see the hands and cat of its leader, Blofeld, later parodied by Mike Myers as Dr. Evil in Austin Powers, who also parodied Klebb.

The plot involves SPECTRE orchestrating the British Secret Service into stealing a decoding machine from Instanbul with the hopes of getting it and Bond themselves in a two-in-one operation. This movie rolls from Instanbul and across Europe in a terrific road film on a train, then a boat, perhaps Ian Fleming’s homage to Hitchcock. Many say this is the best 007 film.

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.



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