Films Worth Viewing Year 2

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It has been a year; so I'm closing the original Films Worth Viewing. I will begin with "Men in Black."

"Men in Black"-Barry Sonnenfeld-1997

This film was a product of Amblin Entertainment the Spielberg company. The series is based on a comic created by Lowell Cunningham. The screenplay was written by Ed Solomon; I'm not sure why he didn't write the two sequels. The picture had a $ 90 million budget and had a world wide gross of $589 million.

If I had to explain the success; then I would start with the relationship between K (Tommie Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith). The pairing works wonderfully well. The sardonic Jones and rule breaking Smith. I assume that all 'Yarders are familiar with the franchise. The Men in Black are a super secret government agency which deals with aliens from other galaxies. It processes them through immigration and maintains a watchful eye on alien residents. The Big Apple is a favorite point for these immigrants. At the sharp end of the stick are the proud, the few, MIB who only have single letter code names. They have to deal with misbehaving aliens. In the first film that is an alien giant insect who takes over the body of Edgar (Vincent D'Onofrio). His mission is to capture the super source known as "The Galaxy."

to be continued
 
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Back. The giant insect cuts a swath of death thru the Big Apple. I should mention the diversity of the aliens we encounter in this film. Of course many are in disguise so as not to alarm the natives; my favorite is the tiny alien inside a benevolent old man who loves his cat. When his presence is discovered during an autopsy; he manages only to utter a cryptic warning about the danger to a galaxy in the belt of Orion. Of course we later find out that the cat is the key.

The special visual effects are pretty amazing, and the banter and situations are funny. The first film of the trilogy is pretty good. It is a pretty enjoyable two hours. Avoid the second film in the trilogy. The third is passable with the added element of time travel and discovering the young K circa 1969 (Josh Brolin). Men in Black is an enjoyable odyssey and I recommend it. Skip II, and III is not quite up to the original, but it does have its own pleasures.
 
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"Skokie-Herbert Wise-1981

This is a TV movie, and it is available for free streaming. Wise was a British TV director noted for "I, Claudius" and "The Gathering Storm." This is a very well written script (Ernest Kinoy: Naked City Roots et al) which detailed an unlikely true story. In 1977 an off shoot of the American Nazi Party based in Chicago wanted to march in the city of Skokie, Illinois. Skokie was home to the largest group of survivors of Nazi death camps anywhere outside of Israel. The movie traces a year and a half conflict between the Nazi's and their legal team from the ACLU with the city or village of Skokie as they called themselves and the lawyer for the city. There were several cases involved and one reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The Nazi's case based on prior restraint of free speech prevailed. Surprisingly, the march didn't take place in Skokie; Frank Collins reached a deal with the city of Chicago to march there. This was what he always wanted. Even more surprising, Collins was half Jewish. His father was a Death Camp survivor. Another oddity, his ACLU lawyer was Jewish.


The movie has a great cast: George Dzunda, Brian Dennehey,Carl Reiner, Kim Hunter, Eli Wallach, John Rudenstein, Ed Flanders, Lee Strassberg, and Danny Kaye. There are a few fictional characters, Primarily the Feldman family with Kaye taking the key role of Max Feldman, a death camp survivor. This was a very rare dramatic role for Kaye who was noted for his comic gifts. He does a terrific job. His scenes with his daughter are particularly moving. This film gives some valuable insights into the life long effects of the trauma suffered by the survivors, and the reasons why the first amendment is key to American democracy. The situation in Skokie prompted the development of a Holocaust memorial. This grew to become a large museum and educational center. The new building opened in 2009 had former president Clinton as the principal speaker; also speaking was Ellie Weisel, the famous Nazi hunter. The museum played a part in developing a PBS documentary which was shown in 2014 (available to stream for free).

I hadn't seen this film in years. In fact I remembered this film when I was reading up on Danny Kaye for a piece on "The Court Jester." I will do this film at a later date. Re-watching this film I felt compelled to write an intro; this was even better than I remembered. My highest recommendation. This is one of the best docu-dramas I've ever seen.
 
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Back. The giant insect cuts a swath of death thru the Big Apple. I should mention the diversity of the aliens we encounter in this film. Of course many are in disguise so as not to alarm the natives; my favorite is the tiny alien inside a benevolent old man who loves his cat. When his presence is discovered during an autopsy; he manages only to utter a cryptic warning about the danger to a galaxy in the belt of Orion. Of course we later find out that the cat is the key.

The special visual effects are pretty amazing, and the banter and situations are funny. The first film of the trilogy is pretty good. It is a pretty enjoyable two hours. Avoid the second film in the trilogy. The third is passable with the added element of time travel and discovering the young K circa 1969 (Josh Brolin). Men in Black is an enjoyable odyssey and I recommend it. Skip II, and III is not quite up to the original, but it does have its own pleasures.
These days I generally don't go in for the big budget spectacular movies, but the first Men in Black movie is simply very watchable and a lot of fun.
 

HuskyHawk

Hoping to see something that looks like basketball
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It has been a year; so I'm closing the original Films Worth Viewing. I will begin with "Men in Black."

"Men in Black"-Barry Sonnenfeld-1997

This film was a product of Amblin Entertainment the Spielberg company. The series is based on a comic created by Lowell Cunningham. The screenplay was written by Ed Solomon; I'm not sure why he didn't write the two sequels. The picture had a $ 90 million budget and had a world wide gross of $589 million.

If I had to explain the success; then I would start with the relationship between K (Tommie Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith). The pairing works wonderfully well. The sardonic Jones and rule breaking Smith. I assume that all 'Yarders are familiar with the franchise. The Men in Black are a super secret government agency which deals with aliens from other galaxies. It processes them through immigration and maintains a watchful eye on alien residents. The Big Apple is a favorite point for these immigrants. At the sharp end of the stick are the proud, the few, MIB who only have single letter code names. They have to deal with misbehaving aliens. In the first film that is an alien giant insect who takes over the body of Edgar (Vincent D'Onofrio). His mission is to capture the super source known as "The Galaxy."

to be continued
Really solid film. The sequels weren't up to that standard, but the second one wasn't bad.
 
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"Patton"Franklin Shaffner-1970

Francis Ford Coppola was one of the two screenwriters who won an Oscar for the script. Of course everyone remembers George C. Scott's Oscar winning performance, but few remember that he didn't show up to receive the award. The opening shot in front of a huge American flag is one of the best starting sequences ever. George C. Scott didn't want the scene used to start the picture; it was supposed to be the first scene after intermission. The film ran almost 3 hours. This was a major success at the box office; it cost about 12$ million, and it made $61.6 million in the US market. About half the money went to the Spanish Army; it was filmed in Spain.

Why do we like this film? Patton was a supreme egotist. His attitudes towards Jews and Nazi's are extreme. The famous incident where he slapped a soldier in Sicily actually happened twice. The army covered it up for months; Drew Pearson finally broke the story. Patton was a man on the edge of sanity. There is a theory that his mental problems stemmed from repeated falls from horseback. One of those falls put him into a coma. His family refused an autopsy. He is buried in Luxembourg with many of his 3rd Army comrades.

Scott dominates the film, but Karl Malden is excellent as Omar Bradley. Patton is our "son of a bitch." There are certain athletes you love if they are on your team and hate if they play for the opposition. Surprisingly, Patton's
famous quote: "I love it. God help me, I do love it so. I love it more than my life;" is almost mirrored by a quote from Robert E. Lee. Lee said war was terrible but "we love it so." We understand that there is something in war which bonds men who serve. For most it may not be wholehearted love, but it inspires many. Cromwell famously said: "Paint me with all my warts;" this is a picture with all Patton's warts. Roger Ebert put it this way: "It turns out that Patton is exactly the war movie we didn't realize how much we wanted to see."

This is a near great film, but it is a must see because it contains one of the greatest performances ever by an American actor. George C. Scott is Patton.
 
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"Patton"Franklin Shaffner-1970

Francis Ford Coppola was one of the two screenwriters who won an Oscar for the script. Of course everyone remembers George C. Scott's Oscar winning performance, but few remember that he didn't show up to receive the award. The opening shot in front of a huge American flag is one of the best starting sequences ever. George C. Scott didn't want the scene used to start the picture; it was supposed to be the first scene after intermission. The film ran almost 3 hours. This was a major success at the box office; it cost about 12$ million, and it made $61.6 million in the US market. About half the money went to the Spanish Army; it was filmed in Spain.

Why do we like this film? Patton was a supreme egotist. His attitudes towards Jews and Nazi's are extreme. The famous incident where he slapped a soldier in Sicily actually happened twice. The army covered it up for months; Drew Pearson finally broke the story. Patton was a man on the edge of sanity. There is a theory that his mental problems stemmed from repeated falls from horseback. One of those falls put him into a coma. His family refused an autopsy. He is buried in Luxembourg with many of his 3rd Army comrades.

Scott dominates the film, but Karl Malden is excellent as Omar Bradley. Patton is our "son of a bitch." There are certain athletes you love if they are on your team and hate if they play for the opposition. Surprisingly, Patton's
famous quote: "I love it. God help me, I do love it so. I love it more than my life;" is almost mirrored by a quote from Robert E. Lee. Lee said war was terrible but "we love it so." We understand that there is something in war which bonds men who serve. For most it may not be wholehearted love, but it inspires many. Cromwell famously said: "Paint me with all my warts;" this is a picture with all Patton's warts. Roger Ebert put it this way: "It turns out that Patton is exactly the war movie we didn't realize how much we wanted to see."

This is a near great film, but it is a must see because it contains one of the greatest performances ever by an American actor. George C. Scott is Patton.
To me the movie "Patton" is the George C. Scott show. He just carries the movie. Karl Malden does provide a nice assist, just as he did in moves like "On the Waterfront".
 
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"Young Mr. Lincoln"-John Ford-1939

Looking back in movie history, it is amazing that Ford made two other quality movies in 1939, "Stagecoach" and
:Drums Along the Mohawk." Drums was his first color film. Lincoln was his first film starring Fonda. Fonda didn't want to play Lincoln; he thought it was like playing Christ. Zanuck took credit as producer; in this case I'm not sure how much he did. The film makes no real attempt to be historically accurate, but this film seeks to portray Lincoln as a symbol of the country. Lincoln is the pure embodiment of the American dream. He began his life in poverty; he had no formal education, and he rose due to his own efforts.

We see incidents from 10 years of Lincoln's life before he became nationally famous. We see him as a storekeeper who takes Blackstone's Commentaries in trade. As a young man who loses his first love, but moves on to the state capitol, Springfield to become a lawyer. The central story concerns his first big law case a murder trial of two brothers. It is set in a the midst of a state fair. In this setting Lincoln judges a pie contest, participates in a tug of war, and convinces the people around him to honor Revolutionary War veterans.

Fonda gives a remarkable performance. One can see Lincoln's appeal as a politician. There is a striking scene where he prevents a lynching by talking the crowd down. Bert Glennon's cinematography is beautiful. Can a film be deceptively simple? In this case, yes. We know that this is fiction, but somehow the film seems emotionally true. After winning the case; Lincoln rides away to watch the river; a storm comes up with rain and lightning. That sounds pretty hokey, but inside the film it works. Lincoln is the most mythical American icon; this film is a nearly perfect first act for the myth.

My highest recommendation. This is available to stream for free.
 
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"The Adventures of Robin Hood"-Michael Curtiz-1938

This is one of Warner's best films from the studio era. It is also one of Warner's first big Technicolor films. In 1938 there were only 11 Technicolor cameras in the world. This film used all 11. They couldn't be kept on the Warner's lot; they went back to the Technicolor studio every night. The film won 3 Oscars; all were for technical areas. The first two Oscars were for best film editing and best Art Direction.

William Korngold won for best score. Korngold was an Austrian composer/conductor. He was working in Austria when he received the commission. Fortunately, he accepted so he left Austria for London before the Nazi's began the Anschluss. Korngold was a Jew, and he credits the commission with saving his life. He used music he had written previously to meet the deadline. He thought his music was out of place in a swashbuckler,
but it was so effective that one of the extras on the DVD is the score. John Williams cited Korngold as his inspiration for the "Star Wars" score.

The film was very expensive for its day. It cost $2 million. With tickets running 25 cents for a show; this was a steep hill to climb, but it was a big hit with both audiences and critics. Surprisingly, about one third of the budget was spent on the construction of Guy of Gisbourne's castle. It was the largest set ever constructed until the mid sixties. Early in the film Robin Hood has his merry men pledge to his service under a massive oak tree.
The "Gallows Oak" was supposedly the largest oak tree in the world.

There was a problem with the directors. William Keighly was a competent studio director and Flynn liked him; unfortunately, the studio didn't like his direction of the action scenes. Michael Curtiz was brought in to finish the film. He had directed Flynn's first great success "Captain Blood." Unfortunately, Flynn detested Curtiz; the feeling was mutual. Flynn was married to Curtiz's second wife, but more importantly he detested him for his treatment of horses in "The Charge of the Light Brigade."

The film benefited from one of the best supporting casts ever. Eugene Pallette played Friar Tuck. Allan Hale recreated his Little John from the Douglas Fairbanks silent Robin Hood. Herbert Mundin played Mitch the Miller. Una O'Connor played Bess the Lady in Waiting to Olivia De Haviland's Maid Marian. Her horse was Trigger, yes that Trigger. Most importantly this film has Basil Rathone as Guy of Gisbourne. This was their second great sword fight; they had battled in "Captain Blood" previously. Rathbone was an accomplished fencer; Flynn was athletic , but he was lazy. He didn't take advantage of the training offered to hiim. This was unlike Peter O'Toole who portrays Flynn (named Swann) in the delightful comedy "My Favorite Year." O'Toole asked for a teacher so he could re-create the famous duel. Like Flynn O'Toole did all of his stunts. Finally we have Claude Rains as Prince John; he excelled in these types of roles.

Of course Flynn was great, but he was very self destructive. He died at age 59. He made 9 films with Olivia de Haviland, and Michael Curtiz directed him 12 times. This film is still very highly regarded. The action scenes pale when compared to CGI magic. Flynn did all his own stunts, no cutaways. One final note in the famous archery contest, Robin Hood splits a competitor's arrow. This was achieved by using an arrow on a wire splitting a specially constructed bamboo arrow in the target. Those extras shot by arrows in the film wore special padding and were paid extra.

Watching this film again led me back to my childhood. One of my absolute favorite films was "Kim." This was probably Flynn's best film of his later years. I have to see that again. This film is one you really must see. This is still the best Robin Hood.
 
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"The Adventures of Robin Hood"-Michael Curtiz-1938

This is one of Warner's best films from the studio era. It is also one of Warner's first big Technicolor films. In 1938 there were only 11 Technicolor cameras in the world. This film used all 11. They couldn't be kept on the Warner's lot; they went back to the Technicolor studio every night. The film won 3 Oscars; all were for technical areas. The first two Oscars were for best film editing and best Art Direction.

William Korngold won for best score. Korngold was an Austrian composer/conductor. He was working in Austria when he received the commission. Fortunately, he accepted so he left Austria for London before the Nazi's began the Anschluss. Korngold was a Jew, and he credits the commission with saving his life. He used music he had written previously to meet the deadline. He thought his music was out of place in a swashbuckler,
but it was so effective that one of the extras on the DVD is the score. John Williams cited Korngold as his inspiration for the "Star Wars" score.

The film was very expensive for its day. It cost $2 million. With tickets running 25 cents for a show; this was a steep hill to climb, but it was a big hit with both audiences and critics. Surprisingly, about one third of the budget was spent on the construction of Guy of Gisbourne's castle. It was the largest set ever constructed until the mid sixties. Early in the film Robin Hood has his merry men pledge to his service under a massive oak tree.
The "Gallows Oak" was supposedly the largest oak tree in the world.

There was a problem with the directors. William Keighly was a competent studio director and Flynn liked him; unfortunately, the studio didn't like his direction of the action scenes. Michael Curtiz was brought in to finish the film. He had directed Flynn's first great success "Captain Blood." Unfortunately, Flynn detested Curtiz; the feeling was mutual. Flynn was married to Curtiz's second wife, but more importantly he detested him for his treatment of horses in "The Charge of the Light Brigade."

The film benefited from one of the best supporting casts ever. Eugene Pallette played Friar Tuck. Allan Hale recreated his Little John from the Douglas Fairbanks silent Robin Hood. Herbert Mundin played Mitch the Miller. Una O'Connor played Bess the Lady in Waiting to Olivia De Haviland's Maid Marian. Her horse was Trigger, yes that Trigger. Most importantly this film has Basil Rathone as Guy of Gisbourne. This was their second great sword fight; they had battled in "Captain Blood" previously. Rathbone was an accomplished fencer; Flynn was athletic , but he was lazy. He didn't take advantage of the training offered to hiim. This was unlike Peter O'Toole who portrays Flynn (named Swann) in the delightful comedy "My Favorite Year." O'Toole asked for a teacher so he could re-create the famous duel. Like Flynn O'Toole did all of his stunts. Finally we have Claude Rains as Prince John; he excelled in these types of roles.

Of course Flynn was great, but he was very self destructive. He died at age 59. He made 9 films with Olivia de Haviland, and Michael Curtiz directed him 12 times. This film is still very highly regarded. The action scenes pale when compared to CGI magic. Flynn did all his own stunts, no cutaways. One final note in the famous archery contest, Robin Hood splits a competitor's arrow. This was achieved by using an arrow on a wire splitting a specially constructed bamboo arrow in the target. Those extras shot by arrows in the film wore special padding and were paid extra.

Watching this film again led me back to my childhood. One of my absolute favorite films was "Kim." This was probably Flynn's best film of his later years. I have to see that again. This film is one you really must see. This is still the best Robin Hood.
Great movie, and it is one that we will watch whenever I come across it on television. I definitely agree that this is the best Robin Hood movie that I have seen. As mentioned before, it has a great supporting cast that goes beyond those listed above (Melville Cooper as the Sheriff of Nottingham, Montagu Love as the Bishop, Ian Hunter as King John) and they all have something interesting to do. Basil Rathbone also shows up in the same type of role in one of my favorite musical comedies, "The Court Jester", where he does his sword fight thing with Danny Kaye.
 
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"Good Morning Vietnam"- Barry Levinson-1987

Adrian Cronauer was a history changing DJ on Armed Forces Radio in Viet Nam; he just wasn't much like Robin Williams. He was the first DJ to play rock'n'roll, soul,and Motown on air. The purpose of Armed Forces Radio was to raise the morale of US forces. Many people have problems with this film. They find it's humor misplaced; they find the treatment of Viet Nam trivial, and they find Williams' portrayal self-indulgent. I believe that many if not most of you have seen this film. I would like to re-visit it with you. This is one of those films where giving you spoilers isn't likely to change your viewing experience.

Cronauer comes from Crete in probably 1965; the year is not made clear, but it is early in the Viet Nam conflict. He is going to broadcast two four hour programs a day. The first is from six AM to 10 AM; the second is from 4 PM to 10 PM. Since Rpbin Williams is playing the lead; the character improvises. He has fake visitors, fake news bulletins, and some outrageous off beat and off color comedy. Then there is the music, no Beatles or Stones because they wouldn't release their music. James Brown, Martha and the Vandellas, and the Beach Boys appear on the air. There is one song that the movie made a hit in the US, Louie Armstrong's "Wonderful World." This wasn't a hit when it came out in 1967. Levinson used it because it is evocative, and it provided a vehicle for a montage of some of the horrors of this war. That is one measure of the film's impact, another is the title which William's renders unforgettable. "Good Morning Vietnam" was filmed in Thailand. Most of the soldiers pictured were students at the American School in Bangkok.

In addition to his on air duties Cronauer taught English to Vietnamese locals. The classes in the film are largely improvisations. Levinson just filmed what happened; sometimes there was discussion before and after a shot. Since it took a week for most of the film to reach the studio; the on site crew had pretty much carte blanche. The scene at the end oft he film where the class is playing soft ball using a stick and fruit is one of the best of these instances.

The army tries to limit Cronauer, and he goes into a funk. Contact with the troops revives his spirit. The film turns more reflective and serious. The is an explosion in a GI bar. Cronauer visits a village near Saigon. He makes a Vietnamese friend who turns out to be a Viet Cong bomber. This friendship makes Cronauer persona non grata. He is scheduled on a flight back to the US. He gives a tape to Edward Garlick (Forrest Whittaker) which is his last program. It begins with Goodbye Vietnam.

His experiences change Cronauer. Williams offers insight beyond the comedy. Cronauer has become a real person. Perhaps even more significantly the movie shows us average Vietnamese. Most war pictures show battles; here we see the effects of war on civilians. The film benefits from the work of solid character actors: Robert Wuhl, Bruno Kirby, J.T.Walsh, and Noble Willingham. There are two notable Vietnamese actors Tung Than Tran who plays Cronauer's Viet Cong friend, Chitara Sullpantana Tran's sister and Cronauer's romantic ideal. They both are excellent.

I really enjoy this film;of course I like Robin Williams. He can be brilliantly comic, but in his better performances he brings a wistful humanity to his characters. This is excellent work by Levinson. I don'tthink this is heavy handed or trivial. He does walk a tightrope with Williams. One of the extras on the DVD is a first take monologue; you can see the original improv. Levinson and Williams had to work together to create a solid seamless end product. I highly recommend this film. It provides enjoyment and something to think about with some subtlety.
 
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This is supposed to be a new restoration. I would like to know what you think. Remember:"Kind Hearts are more than coronets and simple faith than Norman blood."

I just rewatched "Kim", well worth viewing, but next up is "A Hard Day's Night."
 
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"A Hard Day's Night" Richard Lester-1964

This is one of those films I first saw when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in India. When I first saw it says something about me; I wasn't a real Beatles fan. The Kinks are my favorite British Invasion band, but my real musical devotion has always been to R&B then Soul particularly Stax/Atlantic. Where I saw is another telling factor; I saw it on a Saturday morning not in a major city, but in a small town near the village where I lived and worked. This rock film reached a small town in India (Udamalpet), and the theater was full. That says something about the world wide influence of the Beatles. I used to collect records; interestingly some of the most expensive Beatles records were the original Indian editions.

The film captures a moment in time. It was made shortly after the Beatles returned from their US tour. There was the famous debut on Ed Sullivan which reached 70 million viewers. That was in February of 1964. United Artists wanted to make a Beatles film so they could issue a soundtrack album. A deal was struck for a feature film budgeted at $500,000 which would feature six new songs. The film actually has a dozen songs and a piece of music for Ringo's wandering. Walter Shenson was set to produce. He made initial contact with the Beatles, and he chose Richard Lester to direct. His only significant feature credit before this film was "Mouse on the Moon." He had directed the Goon Show which featured among others Peter Sellers. Alun Owen, a well know tv writer, wrote the story and the screenplay. He hung out with the group for about a week discovering how they spoke and interacted. He was nominated for an Oscar.

The story of the film is a day in the life of the Beatles. There are many versions of how the film got its title. In the Criterion Collection there is a documentary made in 1994. Walter Shenson tells a story where this was a remark made by Ringo after an all night recording session. The film opens with the famous scene of the Beatles running and being chased by their fans. Well, actually only three are running from the fans; Paul McCartney is sitting on a bench in disguise reading a newspaper. The title song was written overnight by Lennon and McCartney at the request of Shenson. It is used in the opening sequence and in the promotional trailer. Each Beatle has a little sequence of his own. These sequences were realistic in the sense that they revealed the character of each individual. The adulation of fans and the probing of the press were so overwhelming that the group was never able to have downtime to be themselves. They seem most relaxed and enjoying themselves when they perform. The rest of their existence is bound up in adoration of fans which they try to escape. There is the famous scene where they escape from a studio to cavort in a park and on a football pitch.

Lester did a brilliant job with his direction. It has a documentary style. He says he was influenced by the French New Wave. He is considered by many to be the inspiration foe music videos. Perhaps the most unlikely event around this film was the cascade of great reviews from the principal critics. The Beatles were compared favorably with the Marx Brothers. The film does have the quick dialogue and non stop sense of mischief of the Marx Brothers, but the Marx Brothers comedies had that group put into comic situations involved in conflict between nations (Duck Soup) or an opera performance (A Night at the Opera);this film is a comic depiction of the band's life. It is heightened reality, but it does have direct relationship to what was happening to the band. The concert scene was filmed live. Phil Collins, who does the narration for the 1994 documentary was one of the screaming fans.

Bosley Crother ends his adulatory review with the following: "It is good toknow that there are people in this world up to and including the leaders of the major political parties who don't take the Beatles seriously." Remember time capsules.? You bury a variety of things which together represent the present; you dig up the capsule 50 years later. This film is a time capsule. The current Criterion Collection restoration came out in 2014. This is better than a time capsule; we are transported into Beatlemania. It is interesting to note that Dr. Strangelove also came out in 1964'

This is must viewing. I was unable to find a free streaming source,but your local library should have it.
 
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"Searching for Bobby Fisher"-Steven Zallian-1993

This one of my favorite films from the 90's. Zallian is better known for screenwriting (Schindler's List, The Irishman ,American Gangster and Moneyball); he wrote the script based on Fred Waitzkin's book. The well regarded music score was supervised by James Horne (Titanic,Avatar, A Beautiful Mind,and Braveheart). The cast included Max Pomeranc, Joe Mantegna, Joan Allen, Ben Kingsley, David Paymer,and Lawrence Fishburn.
The only unfamiliar name is Max Pomeranc; he plays the 7 year old Josh Waitzkin a chess prodigy.

This was a first rate production about a chess prodigy. This is not the type of storyline which produces a box office blockbuster. Despite solid critical reviews; this film has basically dropped from memory. The film starts with documentary footage of Bobby Fisher, the first American World Champion. Fisher is noted for his prickly nature and his distaste for most everything. Since he first beat Boris Spasky and dropped from sight, the Chess World had been watching and waiting for his return. They also have been searching for the next Bobby Fisher.

The film covers the first year of Josh's development as a chess prodigy while his family tries to give him a normal childhood. His mother (Joan Allen) says he has a good heart. His chess teacher, Ben Kingsley, wants him to hate his opponents. This conflict is handled more subtlety than I am indicating. The acting is superb; the story is solid. It appeals to both the hear and mind. Unfortunately, I could find no free streaming service. Very highly recommended; give this film a chance.
 
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This is supposed to be a new restoration. I would like to know what you think. Remember:"Kind Hearts are more than coronets and simple faith than Norman blood."
The restoration was crisp. I give this movie a very good. It was clever, well paced and always interesting. Like many black comedies, chuckles more than belly laughs. I'm taking points off for what seemed to be a great deal of voice over, though probably necessary because of all the plot. I liked the ending, didn't see it coming (well, one part I did). Good date night for a Thursday. Next up for me is Whisky Galore, which I have DVR'd based on dbmill's rec.
 
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The restoration was crisp. I give this movie a very good. It was clever, well paced and always interesting. Like many black comedies, chuckles more than belly laughs. I'm taking points off for what seemed to be a great deal of voice over, though probably necessary because of all the plot. I liked the ending, didn't see it coming (well, one part I did). Good date night for a Thursday. Next up for me is Whisky Galore, which I have DVR'd based on dbmill's rec.
Thank you Waquoit! Let's talk more about the Ealing classics. "The Man in the White Suit" is one of Guiness' best. I have already previewed "Whiskey Galore" and "The Lavendar Hill Mob." Both are available for free streaming. I highly recommend "Passport to Pimlico" one of Margaret Rutherford"s best roles.
 

storrsroars

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I saw "Tomorrowland" on cable for first time this afternoon. What a visual feast. While the story was hokey at times and had some continuity issues, I kinda wish I'd seen it in a theatre. The two young leads were very good, IMO, and the storyline was original with an interesting conclusion (albeit one that dyed-in-the-wool conservatives may not like).

I'm not all that surprised it didn't do better box office (actually, it did fairly well, but had a $190 mill budget, which is barely covered before promotion expenses, making it a bomb). But I found it an enjoyable watch and would likely watch again.
 
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The restoration was crisp. I give this movie a very good. It was clever, well paced and always interesting. Like many black comedies, chuckles more than belly laughs. I'm taking points off for what seemed to be a great deal of voice over, though probably necessary because of all the plot. I liked the ending, didn't see it coming (well, one part I did). Good date night for a Thursday. Next up for me is Whisky Galore, which I have DVR'd based on dbmill's rec.
I watched Kind Hearts and Coronets recently on DVD. The narration did not bother me at all. I gave it a positive review on another thread:

Every so often, I get a fairly old film to watch on my Netflix subscription. We just watched "Kind Hearts and Coronets" a 1949 film that was made by the old Ealing Studio in England, a studio that produced many well known and well received post war British comedies. "Kind Hearts and Coronets" is one of the best known and well regarded of these comedies, and I am pleased to report that this film is well deserving of the praise it gets, and to me it holds up very well. This is very droll and dark comedy, and definitely very British in its attitude. This movie is carried by the brilliant performance of Dennis Price, who plays a very low level member of a British aristocratic family, who decides he wants to become the head of the family by eliminating those who are ahead of him in terms of inheriting the title of Duke. By the way, Price is quite good in another British film that I am quite enamored of, "A Canterbury Tale".

Anyway, "Kind Hearts and Coronets" centers on eight members of the family who are targeted by Price, all of which are played Alec Guinness in one of his very early film roles. Guinness is quite notable of giving each of these eight people a different personality, and is quite good as well. I couldn't help but think of the several multipart movies that Peter Sellers made in his career.
 
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"Kim"-Victor Saville-1950

This is a film adaptation of Rudyard Kipling"s novel. Dean Stockwell was a well known child actor in the 40's and 50's. Most of us remember him for his TV work particularly "Quantum Leap." He had at least one good role as an adult in "Married to the Mob." Here he plays the son of a retired British non-com who served in the Indian Army. His British mother died in child birth, and when his father died he took to the streets as a native Indian.
He survives by petty thievery,con jobs, and doing services for people one of whom is Mahbob Ali, Redbeard, an Afghan horse trader (Errol Flynn).

Kim becomes the chela (student or perhaps more correctly follower of a guru) of a Tibetan lama(Paul Lukas) who is searching for a mystic river. Kim is searching for a red bull on a green field. It turns out that the red bull on a green field is the flag of a British regiment of the Indian army. Kim is caught by the regimental chaplain and identified as an orphan. Kim is sent to school , which he has been trying to avoid,for orphans of the regiment. From there he becomes a part of the "Great Game", a British secret service which keeps abreast of developments in British India and beyond. Redbeard is one of the agents commanded by Colonel Creighton (Robert Douglas). Kim is sent to a top school,St.Xavier's in Delhi, additionally he is trained as an agent by Lugan (Arnold Moss). The scene I remember most clearly from my boyhood is Kim attempting to enumerate and identify the jewels on a silver plate. This is used to help him to understand to observe and identify correctly what he sees.

The film was shot in India and California. Errol Flynn didn't go to India. In long shots a double for Flynn was used. Two maharajas (Jaipur and Bondi) co-operated and hosted the film crews. The special effects are primitive by current standards. The novel is compacted; what takes several years in the book is only a year in the screenplay. The technicolor is beautiful, and the acting of the three principals is excellent. I enjoyed this film as much as when I first saw it in a theater over 65 years ago. Highly recommended.
 
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":Get on the Bus"-Spike Lee-1996

25 years ago Louis Farrahkhan thought of and promoted the million man march. One million black men would come from all over the US to Washington,DC. Farrahkhan was a controversial figure. He was a Black Muslim and he had some extreme views (Judaism is a gutter religion), but his idea was widely supported by a variety of Black Leaders. All across the country people banded together to travel as groups to the event. This film was put together quickly. Reggie Bythewood quickly wrote the script. The money was raised by prominent Black men particularly in the entertainment industry ( Wesley Snipes, Danny Glover, and Will Smith among others). They raised 2.5 $ Million. The film was made in 18 days; about 85% of the film was shot inside the bus. Two 16MM super cams were used. Lee recognized that he faced severe limitations, and that as a device filming on a bus posed problems. It was extremely hot in the confined space; it would be impossible to have much camera movement. The strict shooting schedule was necessary. The film was a drop in among the schedules of many of the actors and technical professionals. Using the device of a film student making a documentary as his thesis project allowed the gathering of life stories and motivations to be intrinsic to the trip. Lee was worried that this dialogue film would seem to preachy during sections where characters make long speeches, and/or when the camera focuses on a small group. In the commentary Lee discusses the technical problems and reactions in the black community to the movie. It is an unusual commentary in that Lee doesn't talk that much.

It opened in 1200 theaters and it did 2.2 million $ business the first weekend. It faltered after that start, but it still made money. The reactions were mixed among critics and film goers. It has been largely forgotten. I haven't watched this in many years. I appreciated this film much more the second and third times; I had to watch the commentary. I wrote out a commentary which I decided not to use. Some of it was written pretty
well, but unless I went into detail about each character and his story, I would leave out something important.
If I tried to tell each story; I would likely spoil the film and end up only providing insight into how I saw the film. I will say this much twenty one Black men get on a Spotted Owl charter bus in front of an AME Zion Church in South Central LA. The actors are: De'Andre Bonds, Andre Braugher, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Gabriel Casseus, Albert Hall, Hill Harper, Henry Lennix, Bernie Mac, Wendell Pierce, Roger Smith, Isiah Washington, Steve White, Ossie Davis , and Charles Dutton. I realize that this falls far short of 21, but the rest have very little to say, and in one case nothing.

This film is available to stream for free. I think this is well worth your time. I don't think the quality reaches the standard of "4 Little Girls" but, I recommend it without reservations. This not an official Black History Month selection; it is just an excellent film. This is a bus you should get on.
 
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"Hotel Mumbai"-Anthony Maras-2019

26/11 is probably not familiar to most 'Yarders; it is the Indian equivalent of 9/11. A Pakistani terrorist group recruited 500 soldiers, and over an intensive training period of a year and a half whittled the group down to 10 soldiers to make an attack on India'a largest city Mumbai (Bombay). The operation was designed to kill as many as possible and to make a big splash in world wide media. Lashkar-e-Taiba had sent volunteers to Afghanistan and was active in Kashmir. I will return
 
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The ten volunteers pirated an Indian fishing boat, and traveled 500 nautical miles from Karachi to Mumbai. They landed in a fishing village; they took cabs to their initial targets. There were five targets: the main rail
station, a cafe frequented by tourists, a Jewish center, and two luxury hotels. This films focuses on the Taj Mahal hotel. This venerable institution opened in 1903. It is a 5 star luxury hotel which welcomed President Barack Obama among may other luminaries. On November 26th, 2008 the planned attacks began. There were five two man teams; their movements were coordinated by leadersin Pakistan via cell phones. The teams were armed with AK 47's, grenades,and bombs. They carried thousands of rounds of ammunition for each shooter.
 
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Damn, I lost several hundred words. Quickly, there are several documentaries available for free streaming, watch "Surviving Mumbai." This documentary uses film shot live by the television stations from India and internationally. The producer/director of this documentary was brought on as a producer. The film is an Australian production partially financed by the government of South Australia. An entire production stage was used to replicate the interior of the Taj Mahal. The film is fictional in that with one key exception the featured actors play characters who are composites of several real people. The only exception is the head chef, Oberoi (Anupam Kher). Those of you who have seen "Bend it Like Beckham" will remember him as the Sikh father; he also played a doctor in "Silver Linings Playbook." Dev Patel plays Arjun a Sikh waiter one of the composite characters. Other featured actors include: Arnie Hammer, Jason Isaacs, and Nazarin Boiniadi.

The film generates quite a bit of suspense, but it is very bloody. Some commentators question whether this was too soon to film such a tragedy. Some believe that one shouldn't fictionalize such events in a movie. I like this film a lot. The acting is quite good, and the filming of the action sequences is very realistic. The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on November 26, 2018, the tenth anniversary of the attack. It premiered in the US in March of 2019. Highly recommended.
 
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"Joe"-David Gordon Green-2013

The director made a number of quality low budget films: George Washington, All the Real Girls, and Pineapple Express. It wasn't until "Halloween" in 2018 that he had a blockbuster. In his small films one of his trademarks is using locals who aren't professional actors. In "Joe" the biggest example of this is Gary Poulter who plays the young protagonist's father Wade aka Dawg. He was a homeless man, and he died just after the completion of the film. The only two professional actors were Nicholas Cage and Tye Sheridan.

I don't know how you feel about Nicholas Cage as an actor. He has made a ton of films; the vast majority of which are forgettable or worse. Still he made quite a few quality films: Raising Arizona, Matchstick Men, Leaving Los Vegas, and Lord of War to name a few. This is one of his better films. It didn't make any money. I saw it several years ago and I found it compelling. Let me warn you, this is not a happy film, think Leaving Las Vegas.

The plot involves a 15 year old taking a job poisoning trees to support his family.His father is an alcoholic, but even worse he is cruel, but even worse he is evil. He steals money from his son. He sells his young daughter for $30 for a night of sex with two men. Tye bonds with the Cage character. Joe has a problem with controlling his temper and his penchant for violence. Still in his more rational moments; he makes friends and keeps them.
He befriends young Gary, and he is drawn into his family problems. The ending is a disaster, not film wise, but for the central characters. The acting is top notch; the plot/script is solid, and it moves along without wasted scenes. Let me warn you; it gets darker, and there is no real dawn. This is a solid film, and it gets a solid recommendation.

In passing let me mention that I have viewed many films recently, but I haven't reviewed them. I may do a Toon Twofor "Pinocchio" and "Hunchback of Notre Dame." Or it could be Westerns: "the Professionals" and "Silverado." It might be something musical "Tommy" or"Once." I have a mild case of paralysis by analysis.
 

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