Films Worth Viewing Year 2



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"The Apartment"-Billy Wilder-1960

I've watched a lot of films lately. Included among my poor choices were the Maze Runner trilogy and Drive Crazy. I did watch the new Amazon Series "Hunters"; it has some merits. I hadn't watched this film in many years, but it was better than I remembered. If you have Amazon Prime; you can watch for free.

Wilder released films mainly through United Artists; years later MGM released the films for television. These films include: Witness for the Prosecution, Some Like it Hot, and One, Two, Three. His writing partner, I.A.Diamond and Wilder scripted the films; Wilder both produced and directed the films. Wilder was known for his control on the set and that he had the film editor on set during shooting. This enabled him to cut down on post production time.

The plot is based on a single contrivance: a young ambitious employee of Consolidated Insurance loans out his apartment to executives so these married men would have a place for their affairs. This was exploited to great comic effect. The young man desperate for promotion, C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemon), is discovered by an executive so high up in the hierarchy that his assistant has a key to the executive washroom. Jeff Sheldrake (Fred McMurray) is an even more predatory male. McMurray took this job because he respected Wilder and he was proud of his work in "Double Indemnity." He was in the process of signing a long term with Disney; this portrayal wasn't in the Disney universe, and even years later he took heat from fans. The third key protagonist, Fran Kubelik (Shirley McClain) was in the midst of an affair with Sheldrake. Naturally, the affair takes place in Baxter's apartment. Fran Kubelik is an elevator operator at Consolidated Insurance. Baxter has a crush on her, but this is unrequited love. The interplay among the three principals is excellent. McMurray has never been better; this is effortless slime. Lemon has Baxter with all his insecurities and moral ambiguities in his acting grasp. I think there are performances where the actor makes you believe the unbelievable, this is one of those. McClain is very good, but she doesn't reach the level of her counterparts. I should mention three outstanding performances by the supporting cast: Ray Walston, Joe Kruschar, and Edie Adams.

I will stop revealing plot points, but there are memorable images throughout the film. One unforgettable one is Lemon straining spaghetti through a tennis racket. This film has an iconic final line almost on a par with "Nobody's perfect," from"Some Like it Hot." Miss Kubelik says to C.C. Baxter:"Shut Up and Deal." As I was re-watching this film, I thought this is really, really, good. There are no bad scenes. There are more than a few great scenes. The 3 Oscars awarded to Wilder were Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay; this treble is unique. Simplicity can be great.
 
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"The Apartment"-Billy Wilder-1960

I've watched a lot of films lately. Included among my poor choices were the Maze Runner trilogy and Drive Crazy. I did watch the new Amazon Series "Hunters"; it has some merits. I hadn't watched this film in many years, but it was better than I remembered. If you have Amazon Prime; you can watch for free.

Wilder released films mainly through United Artists; years later MGM released the films for television. These films include: Witness for the Prosecution, Some Like it Hot, and One, Two, Three. His writing partner, I.A.Diamond and Wilder scripted the films; Wilder both produced and directed the films. Wilder was known for his control on the set and that he had the film editor on set during shooting. This enabled him to cut down on post production time.

The plot is based on a single contrivance: a young ambitious employee of Consolidated Insurance loans out his apartment to executives so these married men would have a place for their affairs. This was exploited to great comic effect. The young man desperate for promotion, C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemon), is discovered by an executive so high up in the hierarchy that his assistant has a key to the executive washroom. Jeff Sheldrake (Fred McMurray) is an even more predatory male. McMurray took this job because he respected Wilder and he was proud of his work in "Double Indemnity." He was in the process of signing a long term with Disney; this portrayal wasn't in the Disney universe, and even years later he took heat from fans. The third key protagonist, Fran Kubelik (Shirley McClain) was in the midst of an affair with Sheldrake. Naturally, the affair takes place in Baxter's apartment. Fran Kubelik is an elevator operator at Consolidated Insurance. Baxter has a crush on her, but this is unrequited love. The interplay among the three principals is excellent. McMurray has never been better; this is effortless slime. Lemon has Baxter with all his insecurities and moral ambiguities in his acting grasp. I think there are performances where the actor makes you believe the unbelievable, this is one of those. McClain is very good, but she doesn't reach the level of her counterparts. I should mention three outstanding performances by the supporting cast: Ray Walston, Joe Kruschar, and Edie Adams.

I will stop revealing plot points, but there are memorable images throughout the film. One unforgettable one is Lemon straining spaghetti through a tennis racket. This film has an iconic final line almost on a par with "Nobody's perfect," from"Some Like it Hot." Miss Kubelik says to C.C. Baxter:"Shut Up and Deal." As I was re-watching this film, I thought this is really, really, good. There are no bad scenes. There are more than a few great scenes. The 3 Oscars awarded to Wilder were Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay; this treble is unique. Simplicity can be great.
"The Apartment" has long been a favorite of my wife, and it is one of those films that we will watch whenever we find it on television. I think it starts a little slow, but the second half (beginning when Lemmon picks up the woman in the bar) is terrific. Not quite up to the level of my favorite Billy Wilder moves (Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, and Stalag 17) but still it is very, very good.
 
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"Bottle Shock"-Randall Miller-2008

This is a fictionalized account of a major real event. In 1976 a blind tasting of white and red wines comparing California wines with their French Counterparts. The judges were almost entirely French (10 of 11). The taste off was held on May 24, 1976 in Paris. Shockingly, California won the blind tasting for both reds and whites. Only one reporter was at the event; his article in "Time" not only created a huge demand for the winning wines, but opened up the international markets to wines from all over the world. The tasting was dubbed "The Judgement of Paris." For those of you who know Greek Mythology the term is familiar. Paris, son of Priam of Troy, s chosen by Zeus to pick the most beautiful from among three goddesses: Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. Each offers Paris a bribe; he accepts the bribe of the love of the most beautiful woman i the world, Helen. So Aphrodite got the golden apple, Paris gets Helen, the wife of Meneleus (king of Sparta), and the Trojan War begins.

The consequences of this testing were just as great. "Bottle Shock" focuses on Chateau Montelena's chardonnay. The winning red came from Stag's Leap vineyard. For years there has been a film in the works titled "The Judgement of Paris;" apparently it was never made. There is a free video of a panel with many of the principals at the Smithsonian in 2016.

In the 1970's in Paris there was a wine shop and wine school run by Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman). He had an American friend Cantavole(Dennis Farina) who ran the travel agency next door. They come up with a plan to help his lagging business. They plan a blind taste testing between Napa Valley and French wines. Spurrier travels to Napa Valley where he tastes many wines and decides on 13 selections to bring back to France forthe testing. He intends to bring back 2 bottles of each selection. Customs regulations allow each passenger to carry only one bottle. The other bottles would have to go as freight. This would subject the wine to increased agitation which would be bad for the wine. Spurrier gets passengers going on his flight to carry a bottle apiece.

The term bottle shock refers to the deleterious effect of taking wine from casks and bottling it. It shouldn't be drunk for many weeks up to six months. The effects of transporting bottled wines are more transitory.
The wines carried back from Napa had only a week torest before the testing.

This is a beautifully filmed movie. The wine country is breathtakingly spectacular. However, it is the story that moves the viewer. Alan Rickman is excellent, funny, a bit of a snob, but a man totally devoted tot he artistry of wine. The other principals are : Chris Pine, Bill Pullman, Freddie Rodriquez, and Rachael Taylor. All except Taylor play real characters; all except Pine turn in engaging performances. I find Pine a one note actor. Eleanea Dushku (Buffy series) has a nice bit. I like this movie a lot; it was even more engaging the second time. It's available for free on Amazon Prime. Highly recommended, fun and moving.
 
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"Sideways"-Alexander Payne-2004

This is one of those films from the indie multiverse that not only breaks through to become a hit, but has lasting impact; think "Blair Witch." "Sideways" has had more impact on the California wine industry than on
movies. Alexander Payne has had some solid successes before and after "Sideways." Before he made "Election" and "About Schmidt", and after he made "Descendants" and "Nebraska." Now he seems to have more project as a producer. This is a film about two men who are less than honorable who embark on a road trip to California vineyards in the week before one is to be married. The film is adapted from a novel by Rex Pickett by Payne and Jim Taylor.

There are four key characters in the film: Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti), Jack Cole (Thomas Hadden Church), Maya (Virginia Madsen), and Stephanie (Sandra Oh). Miles is a depressive middle school teacher and soon to be a failed novelist. His massive "The Day After Yesterday" fails to find a publisher. Jack was Mile's college roommate; he is an actor who had a few roles on TV, but now is doing mainly voice over work. He will be married in a week to an Armenian American girl who is from a rich family and is much younger. Maya is a waitress, recently divorced and studying for an advanced degree in Horticulture. Stephanie is a pourer at a chateau and a friend of Maya.

to be continued
 
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Naturally, the four pair off and 'romance"follows. Jack promises love to Stephanie; Miles and Maya wax poetic about wine. There is a key scene where Miles explains the virtues of Pinot Noir and Maya explains how wine even in the bottle is alive; it changes not only from year to year, but even from day to day it iis never the same.
Miles reveals to Maya that that Jack is getting married on Saturday. This kills Miles' relationship, and Stephanie beats Jack about the head with a motorcycle helmet. The duo returns in time for the wedding at an Armenian church. Miles' ex wife appears. There is an uncomfortable conversation. Miles'world has collapsed;his novel won't be published; his ex-wife is remarried and pregnant; apparently he will be a middle school English teacher for the rest of his life.

The film raised the sales of pinot noir 20% and depressed the sales of merlot. Payne chose the wines for the Film. Giamatti was not a wine fancier. The film was nominated for several Oscars and won for best screen play.
The film's budget was $16 million; the box office was almost $110 million. It was popular with critics. Giamatti
has carved out a mid major career in films and TV. He is currently the co-star of "Billions." Oh has had several major successes on TV in Gray's Anatomy and currently "Killing Eve." The film combines broad comedy with subtle pathos. It has been often imitated, but never really successfully achieved. Few well reviewed indie films make a lot of money; fewer still are still alive 20 years later, and fewer still are cultural influences.

This is well worth viewing even if you care nothing about wine.
 
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Naturally, the four pair off and 'romance"follows. Jack promises love to Stephanie; Miles and Maya wax poetic about wine. There is a key scene where Miles explains the virtues of Pinot Noir and Maya explains how wine even in the bottle is alive; it changes not only from year to year, but even from day to day it iis never the same.
Miles reveals to Maya that that Jack is getting married on Saturday. This kills Miles' relationship, and Stephanie beats Jack about the head with a motorcycle helmet. The duo returns in time for the wedding at an Armenian church. Miles' ex wife appears. There is an uncomfortable conversation. Miles'world has collapsed;his novel won't be published; his ex-wife is remarried and pregnant; apparently he will be a middle school English teacher for the rest of his life.

The film raised the sales of pinot noir 20% and depressed the sales of merlot. Payne chose the wines for the Film. Giamatti was not a wine fancier. The film was nominated for several Oscars and won for best screen play.
The film's budget was $16 million; the box office was almost $110 million. It was popular with critics. Giamatti
has carved out a mid major career in films and TV. He is currently the co-star of "Billions." Oh has had several major successes on TV in Gray's Anatomy and currently "Killing Eve." The film combines broad comedy with subtle pathos. It has been often imitated, but never really successfully achieved. Few well reviewed indie films make a lot of money; fewer still are still alive 20 years later, and fewer still are cultural influences.

This is well worth viewing even if you care nothing about wine.
This is a wonderful film. It also turned me into a bit of a Paul Giamatti fan.
 
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"Seconds"-John Frankenheimer-1966

This film has gone from failure to cult classic without ever being a success;that is a paraphrase of John Frankenheimer. I have some problems with this film. The story is that a middle aged man, Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) receives two mysterious calls from a dead college friend and doubles partner. He offers Arthur a chance to be re-born. Initially, Arthur is reluctant, but he later agrees to begin the transformation. There are arrangements to be made. These include a substantial payment to the company, planning a death, massive plastic surgery, rehabilitation, and the construction of a new identity. I didn't have a problem with the set up.
The acting throughout is at least solid and in most cases good and there are several excellent performances.

The transformed subject is named Antioches Wilson (Rock Hudson). He is a painter rather than a banker. He lives in Monterey rather than NYC. He fails to adjust to his new life. I found the choice of a new identity puzzling. I found the wine estate tribute to Bacchus to be way over the top. Wilson's cocktail party was even worse. Wilson tries through visits to his old life to find out what went wrong. The company doesn't like this.
Wilson ends up in the day room waiting for another new identity.

The following actors were excellent: Hudson, Randolph, Willl Geer (the company founder), Frances Reid (Arthur's wife), and Salome Jens (Wilson's California girlfriend). The photography is interesting. Jerry Goldsmith's score is very good.

This film was a miss for me, but the critical reviews and audience reviews are excellent. The concept of a second chance at life is provocative. It is available for free on Amazon Prime. Worth viewing ??
 
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"The Spy Who Came in From the Cold"-Martin Ritt-1965

This is a classic. Ritt, who died in 1990, is largely forgotten today. He made solid films and quite a few classics.
They include "Suddenly, Last Summer," "Hud,"" Sounder," and "The Great White Hope." He made a cluster of films with Paul Newman. John Le Carre is perhaps the greatest spy novelist in English; Graham Green is his only real competitor. This novel is his first blockbuster success It was published in 1963; two years later the movie premiered. This was filmed at two studios. Le Carre was on set for much of the filming. He has spoken and written about this experience. Most 'Yarders are probably more familiar with "Tinker, Tailor, Spy," and "Smiley's People." "The Tailor of Panama" is also worth searching out.

Richard Burton plays the key Protagonist Alex Leamas. Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were recently married, so she was always on set. Ritt and Burton didn't get along. His drinking was a major problem; LeCarre was originally brought on set to help handle Burton. This is filmed evocatively in black and white, I find that using black and white helps with certain types of movies. Generally, we are used to spy films as a sub set of CGI action films. Here we are concerned with what is going on inside the character's minds. The score is minimalist background with a theme which is melancholy and repeated.

Burton is tremendous in this film. He is supported well by Cyril Cusak as Control and Oskar Werner as Fiedler. Claire Bloom plays the love interest. She and Burton had more than a moment before Liz.

This is available for Free if you have Amazon Prime. My highest recommendation.
 
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"Steele Wool"Frank Capella-2020

Are you talking yo yourself? I know I am. We are bereft of sports. No UConn basketball, no NBA, no baseball, no Premier League football. Reading about corona virus doesn't fill all my waking hours. I fault myself, no not for the virus, but for my lack of empathy. If upping the number of my previews alleviates even for a few hours a day the boredom and the inertia which threatens all of us, then it is my duty, and yes my pleasure to find interesting films which may help us in our time of need.

Let us begin. Frank Capella has been around the Indie film world for years. He met Cami Varela on line. He was intrigued by her life story. She lost her hearing at age 12; her father died in an auto accident several years later.
She acted in the deaf theater, but in recent years she had stopped. She has a cochlear implant which allows her to hear. Capella wrote the script and together they developed a story. Their names in the film are Tony Steele and Daphne Wool hence the title. A film was made for less than the cost of a Yugo. That is a quote from the site. The Yugo was a car built in Yugoslavia during the cold war.

What a film it is. This s the story of how a deaf woman kills her husband and becomes a hitwoman for a mysterious syndicate supposedly dedicated to removing evil doers from this life. Tony is Daphne's sidekick and getaway driver. This film has a nice light touch and quite a bit of humor. I should mention a gigantic Samoan hitman named Moses who befriends Daphne. The syndicate attempts to get rid of Daphne, Tony, and Moses. This leads to a bang up finale. I wanted to see more of these characters when the film ended.

This little film has its own center of gravity, and like spinning top moves along merrily. It is available on Amazon Prime for free if you are a member. Don't worry next up is a film much easier to find: "Whistleblower."
 
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"Whistleblower"-Larysa Kondraki-2010

This film represents the coming together of the stories of two women. The director, Larysa Kondraki, grew up in Canada, but she was an immigrant from Ukraine. When she heard about the story of Kathryn Bolkavac a police officer in Lincoln. Nebraska who became a UN peacekeeper in Bosnia; she was determined to make this her first feature film. She and her co-writer, Ellis Kirman based the film of Bolkavac's experiences trying to end a human trafficking pipeline into Bosnia. It took her 8 years to bring her idea to fruition.

This is a pretty amazing first feature. This novice director/screenwriter was able to find high profile actors, Rachel Weisz, Vanessa Redgrave, and Davd Straithan as featured players. Along the way she picked up studio distribution. This is a tight narrative. Some creative concepts make this fiction and not a documentary. The three named actors play real people, but the trafficked girls and young women are composites. The film shows considerable brutality towards the trafficked women. The original film was so shocking particularly in a rape scene with a metal pipe, that a member of the preview audience fainted. There was some modification, but the film is still very violent in places. Critics in some cases found this over the top. "Okay, we know human trafficking is a serious evil, but you don't have to beat us about the head constantly, we get it." I wonder if the critics really got it. In fact on site observers have stated in numerous sites and in filmed interviews; that the film while being realistic didn't show some of the worst parts of the general program of dehumanization of the trafficked women.

The system was able to survive only with the see no evil policy of the military contractor and the UN representatives. Even worse some of the military contractors were part of the transportation pipeline, and took cuts ofthe revenue provided by the women. When Bolkavac uncovered the problem; she attempted to bring to justice not only Bosnian locals, but the military contractors as well. The military contractors were protected by diplomatic immunity. Still her investigations were causing problems. Kathryn was first demoted and then fired by the contractor DynCorp (the name was changed in the film.) Bolkavac sued in England for discrimination against her whistleblowing. The court in her favor, but in this case the corporation and the UN got off without penalties. Human trafficking is prevalent in many UN peacekeeping missions.

This is a very solid story. The acting is excellent. Filming in Romania gives a gritty naturalistic feeling for what we see on the screen. Highly recommended. This streams for free with Amazon Prime.
 
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"Rango"-Gore Verbanski-2011

This was Industrial Light and Magic's first full length feature. Verbanski had worked with Depp previously on the
Pirates of the Caribbean. This is an animated feature for adults, particularly for those who like westerns. I really liked the opening, but for me it lagged somewhat in the middle. The plot is that a simple lizard is scripting his own film/story with several subordinate inanimate characters. His world is shattered by accident (Raising Arizona); he meets Roadkill, a giant armadillo, who has almost been cut in two. This sage/visionary sets Rango (Johnny Depp) on a quest. It is intended that the viewer sees Don Quixote in Roadkill (Alfred Molina). Where the lizard had been trying to create his own story; he now embarks on his story which will be to save Dirt a desert town.

At first the lizard tries to embelish the story. He tells a tall tale where he kills seven bad guys with one bullet, This is a tip of the hat to the little tailor who kills 7 with one blow; of course the 7 in question were flies. He takes the name Rango.and he becomes the sheriff. He must solve the town's water problem. He meets the mayor. The turtle is an homage to the John Huston played Noah Cross character. Control of the water is control of everything. The mayor (Ned Beatty) is the type of subtle villain who often figures in modern thrillers,
but Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy), modeled on Lee Van Cleef is more direct in his menace. Rango backs down and flees Dirt, but he meets the Spirit of the West(Tim Olyphant) obviously Clint Eastwood. Rango refers to him as "the man with no name." Rango is told that he can't leave his own story. He returns to Dirt to fulfill his own destiny. There is a traveling mariachi band which serves as a kind of Greek chorus within the story.

I should mention that the vocal parts were recorded on stage as opposed to in isolation booths. This allowed the actors to interact and improvise. This won the Oscar. The ending is solid and upbeat. Well worth viewing and available on Amazon Prime free for members.
 
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"Zodiac"-David Fincher-2007

Fincher is one of the most prominent directors who emerged in the'90's. It is worth looking at his body of work. Starting with Seven in 95, then The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room, we reach Zodiac. All of these are at least good; most are considerably better than that. "Zodiac" is a classic, but it is a messy classic. The Zodiac killer first came to widespread notice with his letters to the media in the summer of '69. The movie begins with the July 4th murder. One of the problems was that the crimes were spread across multiple jurisdictions. Take a look at the credited cast list; it is longer than any I can remember barring epics. Then we have the duration of the case. The person considered to be the killer was never arrested. He died of a heart attack in 1982 before he could be arrested.

The film works on two tracks. One track is the San Francisco Chronicle the other is law enforcement with San Francisco playing the central role. The two key players at the newspaper are Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) a prima donna star with a drinking problem and Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) the paper's new cartoonist.
Graysmith becomes totally involved in the case; he ended up writing a best seller. In San Francisco two inspectors: David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) are given the case. Over the years Graysmith and Toschi become unwitting partners. What the film does really well is to document how the case impacted the lives of key participants. The acting is sterling and the script by James Vanderbilt is a winner.

If you haven't seen this perhaps a short list of some of the featured players may pique your interest: Chole Sevigne, Brian Cox, Ellias Koteas, Dermot Mulrooney, and Donal Logue. This is top flight group, and they all are more than worthy. If you have any interest in this genre this is a must see. Fincher had to take over cinematography in the middle of the shoot and does a masterful job. Quality,Quality, Quality.
 
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"The Spy Who Came in From the Cold"-Martin Ritt-1965
This is a classic. ... My highest recommendation.
Thanks again, zy. We caught this one last night. Just great. The spy game is a dirty business.
 
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"True Grit"-Henry Hathaway-1969
"True Grit"-Coen Brothers-2010

Both versions are based on Charles Portis' 1968 novel "True Grit." The 2010 version is actually closer to the novel. Marguerette Roberts wrote the 69 screenplay; the Coen brothers wrote the 2010 version. Hathaway was a super veteran director. He started in features in the early 30's. Some of his better films include : Lives of a Bengal lancer, House on 92nd Street, The Desert Fox, and North to Alaska. John Wayne was always the first choice for Rooster Cogburn. Hathaway disliked both Glenn Campbell and Kim Darby. John Wayne didn't speak to Darby on the set, she didn't mind that,but she really disliked Hathaway. This was not a happy set. The film did very well at the box office. John finally won his Oscar.

I should say a little about the actual film. It is beautifully filmed in Colorado. The novel is set in Arkansas and Indian Territory (Okalahoma). John Wayne plays John Wayne. He more than gets away with it. Glen Campbell is the weak link as far as acting goes. The script is filled with good dialogue. The ending is changed from the novel.

The basic story is unchanged in both versions. Mattie Ross ( a fourteen year old girl) goes to Fort Smith to get her father's body and bring him back home to be buried. She s determined to bring to justice Tom Chaney the family hired hand who murdered him. Chaney fled to Indian Territory; local law enforcement can't operate in the Indian Territory. Mattie plans to hire a U.S. Marshall to track him down. A Texas Ranger has been tracking Tom Chaney for the murder of a state senator in Texas. There some minor differences in the relationships among this trio while they track Chaney. Chaney has joined up with Lucky Ned Pepper a well known outlaw leader.

One ofthe biggest story differences is that in the 2010 film a 40 year old Mattie provides the narration for the story. She physically appears in a final scene. She attempts to visit Rooster 25 years after the central events; Rooster died several days before she arrives at a wild west show where he was working. Jeff Bridges portrayal is more like the book;Hailee Stanfield is really well cast as Matty. Matt Damon is more than a step up from Glenn Campbell. I actually like the ending of the first version a little better. The Coen version is filmed in Texas. This is a much more bleak and desolate setting; that again is closer to the original novel.

You won't go wrong with either film. In my opinion the later version edges out the original by a chin whisker.
Both are highly recommended.
 
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"True Grit"-Henry Hathaway-1969
"True Grit"-Coen Brothers-2010

Both versions are based on Charles Portis' 1968 novel "True Grit." The 2010 version is actually closer to the novel. Marguerette Roberts wrote the 69 screenplay; the Coen brothers wrote the 2010 version. Hathaway was a super veteran director. He started in features in the early 30's. Some of his better films include : Lives of a Bengal lancer, House on 92nd Street, The Desert Fox, and North to Alaska. John Wayne was always the first choice for Rooster Cogburn. Hathaway disliked both Glenn Campbell and Kim Darby. John Wayne didn't speak to Darby on the set, she didn't mind that,but she really disliked Hathaway. This was not a happy set. The film did very well at the box office. John finally won his Oscar.

I should say a little about the actual film. It is beautifully filmed in Colorado. The novel is set in Arkansas and Indian Territory (Okalahoma). John Wayne plays John Wayne. He more than gets away with it. Glen Campbell is the weak link as far as acting goes. The script is filled with good dialogue. The ending is changed from the novel.

The basic story is unchanged in both versions. Mattie Ross ( a fourteen year old girl) goes to Fort Smith to get her father's body and bring him back home to be buried. She s determined to bring to justice Tom Chaney the family hired hand who murdered him. Chaney fled to Indian Territory; local law enforcement can't operate in the Indian Territory. Mattie plans to hire a U.S. Marshall to track him down. A Texas Ranger has been tracking Tom Chaney for the murder of a state senator in Texas. There some minor differences in the relationships among this trio while they track Chaney. Chaney has joined up with Lucky Ned Pepper a well known outlaw leader.

One ofthe biggest story differences is that in the 2010 film a 40 year old Mattie provides the narration for the story. She physically appears in a final scene. She attempts to visit Rooster 25 years after the central events; Rooster died several days before she arrives at a wild west show where he was working. Jeff Bridges portrayal is more like the book;Hailee Stanfield is really well cast as Matty. Matt Damon is more than a step up from Glenn Campbell. I actually like the ending of the first version a little better. The Coen version is filmed in Texas. This is a much more bleak and desolate setting; that again is closer to the original novel.

You won't go wrong with either film. In my opinion the later version edges out the original by a chin whisker.
Both are highly recommended.
Both movies are good. My wife is a big John Wayne westerns fan, so she absolutely loves that version. To me, the main difference in the films is the focus. In the original, as you say, John Wayne plays John Wayne, and the focus is more on him than anything else. In the Coen Brothers remake, the focus of the film is much more on Matty, and I thought Hailee Stanfield was more than up to the task.
 
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"Downfall"-Oliver Hirschbiegel-2004

This is a compelling film. The film is based on two books one of which is Traudi Junge's 1st person account of her 21/2 years as Hitler's secretary. The agreement among historians is almost 100% that this film is historically accurate. Bruno Ganz, Hitler, researched Hitler's accent and the effects of Parkinson's disease on Hitler. Ganz is a great actor, and despite my love for "Wings of Desire;" this might be his greatest performance. This is film's best Hitler. There was only one piece of audio existing of Hitler speaking in private. This 10 minute tape discovered in 1992 has been studied by dozens of historians and Bruno Ganz. The film gives us an insight into Hitler's considerable personal charm. Previously we have known Hitler through his public pronouncements. "The Triumph of the Will" which depicts the Nuremberg rally is a base template. We have seen portrayals of Hitler as a madman, but that seems overly simple, and it doesn't explain the adherence of millions of Germans.
Think about Franklin D. Roosevelt and his fireside chats over radio with the American people. If Roosevelt reached millions of Americans; then believe that Hitler and Goebbels knew how to reach millions of Germans.
What this film allows us to see is how those closest to Hitler personally behaved in the final days.

Traudi became Hitler's personal secretary in November of 1942. She stayed with him until his death in May 1945. Looking back on those years in her autobiographical work, she says that being young was no excuse for her adherence to Hitler and National Socialism. Is this just her trying to make an excuse? Alezandria Maria Lara's portrayal is brilliantly elusive. In the end she chooses not to take her life. Compare that with Frau Goebbels who poisons her own children after giving them a sleeping potion. She didn'twant her children living in a world without National Socialism.

Details are important in an historical film. Hitler pins his gold party pin #1 on Frau Goebbels shortly before he commits suicide. The Russians found the pin; they put it on public display in 2005. It was stolen in a smash and grab robbery. Hitler and Eva Braun commit suicide. The cyanide pills were made in concentration camps; this opens the possibility of sabotage. That's why you see so many of the suicides including Hitlers include both cyanide capsules and a head shot. Hitler made assurance double sure by poisoning his dog Blondi to check if the batch of capsules worked.

I suppose that this film is not a top choice for upbeat viewing, but up next is "The Great Train Robbery" which is escapist fare. This is available for free on Prime. This is an uncopromising film, but also a great one.
 
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"True Grit"-Henry Hathaway-1969
"True Grit"-Coen Brothers-2010
I watched the Coen Grit in the theater and loved it. I sought out the Wayne version after and was surprised how much I liked that one as well. Campbell, like zy said, was just way too sub-par for me. I had a guy at work try to make the case that Glen was better then Matt Damon. I told him I'll never take his word on a movie again.
 
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I did it again. "The Great Train Robbery" may be perused in Movie Hind sight.
 
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I did it again. "The Great Train Robbery" may be perused in Movie Hind sight.
"The Great Train Robbery"-Michael Crichton- 1978

Crichton was a popular novelist. Much of his work could be considered SciFi eg Jurrssic Park. He adapted some of his popular works for the screen starting with "Coma." He was lucky to secure Sean Connery for the lead (Edward Pierce) in "The Great Train Robbery." In the UK the film had a First beginning the title. There was a theft of more than 2 million pounds from a train, This story was covered in a TV series; that's worth looking for if you can find it streaming free. The film is available to stream for free on several sites including Amazon Prime.

The Crimean war was one of the major inflexion points for change in the Victorian era. Metal ships and the Red Cross are but two of the key points. This was also the first war covered daily by correspondents. The British and the French were fighting Czarist Russia. The soldiers had to be paid; every month gold bullion worth 25,000 English pounds was sent from a London bank to a port, and then shipped to Crimea.

There had never been a robbery of a moving train in 1855; it was widely thought to be impossible. The bank took extra precautions. The bullion was divided between two 500 pound Chubb safes. Each safe needed to have two keys to be opened. All four keys were needed. The car was locked from the outside. Pierce assembled a gang which included a safe man, Agar(Donald Sutherland) and Mirriam (Lesly Ann Down. Their first task was to make copies oft he four keys. One was held by the Bank President, one by the bank manager, and two in the London train station office. They added a second story man and the guard inside the car to tie up loose ends.

Sean Connery still had to climb out of his first class car onto the roof of a moving train. He had to climb from car to car until he reached the baggage car so the outside lock could be unlocked. Connery did this without a stunt double; the train was supposed to have a top speed of 35 mph, but it actually was going over 50 mph..
Crichton's novel deviated from reality in making it more difficult for the gang. Crichton's hair literally caught fire while shooting the train sequence.

This is a classic caper film. It is really enjoyable; there are no deep hidden meanings, no social commentary. They are professional criminals and they did it for the money. Highly recommended.
 
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"Detached"-Tony Kaye-2012

This film didn't get a real theatrical release n the US. Itwas shown at numerous film festivals. It was partially funded by the Tribeca Film Festival. The director is better known for music videos but, You may be familiar with American History X. This is the screenwriter's (Carl Lund) only credit. He is a former public school teacher. It is available for free streaming on 1,2,3 as well as Amazon Prime. The cast includes: Adrian Brody, Marcia Gaye Harden, James Caan, Christina Hendricks, Lucy Liu, Blythe Danner, William Peterson, and Brian Cranston.

Flashing red lights illuminate signs reading danger depression ahead, proceed at your own risk. You've been warned. Adrian Brody plays a substitute teacher in NYC. His grandfather is his only living relative; he is close to death in a nursing home. Brody is a highly regarded long term sub; he is beginning a month long assignment as an English teacher in a new school. Scenes of events/happenings at the school are interspersed with Henry Barthes' (Brody) narrative and his memories. Bathes witnesses some of the events, others happen out of view. this sounds herky-jerky, but I didn't find it disconcerting. Barthes is an emotionally distant person; see the title.
With the exception of Brian Cranston, all the named actors are teacher at this high school; he plays the husband of Marcia Gaye Harden, the school principal. She is targeted for firing/retirement at the end of the school year.
James Caan's character is popping anti-depressant pills; Lucy Liu's character has a monumental breakdown where she totally trashes an indifferent student. The high school is totally broken, but so is the rest of society. On one particular evening Barthes faces a situation where the nursing home totally fails to properly care for his grandfather who is experiencing dementia and has locked himself in the bathroom. On the subway ride home Barthes' witnesses a teen prostitute blowing a man. When she asks for pay, she(Sami Gayle) is beaten.

The acting is brilliant. I kept thinking how good the film was while watching it. I was simultaneously wondering if the film was going to be only a cycle of despair. There are some over the top moments for instance when the principal makes an intercom announcement while in a fetal position. A suicide of a student while carefully set up may seem too contrived in its totally theatrical nature. This film gripped me, I felt compelled to write this piece. Many/most reviewers found this bad; the vast majority of the public really admired the film.

I will think about this film for a long time. For now my takeaway is society is crumbling; the schools which should be a hope for the future are failing. This probably isn't for all tastes. Soyez prudent!
 
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"Believe in Me"-Robert Collector-2006

There is a sub genre of sports films dealing with coaches. This film is an example of this with a double twist. The first twist is that is about girls' high school basketball. The second twist is that it is based on a novel, "Brief Garland" written by Harold Keith the uncle of the coach in question, Jim Keith. In 1951 Jim Keith and his wife traveled to Sayer, Oklahoma. He thought he was being hired to coach boys basketball, but he was actually hired to coach girls.

In movie world the arrival is Middleton in the 1960's. Clay Driscoll (Jeffrey Donovan) arrives with his wife Jean (Samantha Mathis) believing that he is going to coach boys. The school board head and the biggest swinging dick in the county, Ellis Brawley (Bruce Dern) has hired another coach. Clay has the support of Hugh Moreland (Bob Gunton) the high school principal, but he is stuck with girls. In the movie girls basketball in Oklahoma is five on five in the 60's. They along with Iowa were one of the final holdouts for six on six. The switch wasn't made until around the turn of the century.

You have to forget all that; this is fiction. It is well done even though this path is well traveled. Jeffrey Donovan is the central character; he is best known for his TV work: Burn Notice and Fargo. Interestingly, he is a Mass native. Bob Gunton has said he would be perfect for a Roy Rogers bio pick. Bruce Dern excels at nasty. I like this film a lot, but I understand that it is not profound. It is fun and uplifting. For Husky Nation there is an added tidbit a GOAT appears as an opposing coach. She worked with the young actresses on sit in New Mexico.

This is available to stream for free. It is also on Prime. Enjoy the experience, "Pack up your troubles in an old kit bag and smile,buddy, smile."
 
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"The Way Back"-Peter Weir-2010

Weir is a top notch director; his credits include :picnic at Hanging Rock; Gallipoli, Year of Living Dangerously, Witness, Dead Poets Society, and Master and Commander. The background of this picture is more than interesting. It was inspired by Slavomir Rudicz memoir "The Long Walk"published in 1955. This best seller was really non fiction. Rudicz made up the story of his long walk from a Russian Gulag to India during WWII. The Russians released him from a gulag in 1942.

Weir is one of a handful of directors whose pictures have beautiful images, solid plots, and well developed characters. In this film a group of prisoners escape from a gulag in Siberia and walk 4000 miles to India. En route several die and they are joined by a young Polish girl who walked off a collective farm. The leader of the group, Janusz (Jim Sturgess) is a Pole who was tortured by the Soviets. The film begins with the partition of Poland into Russian and German zones. When Janusz refuses to falsely confess; they torture his wife. She confesses that he was a spy and saboteur. He is sentenced to 20 years of hard labor. There are two types of prisoners in a stalag ploitical and ordinary criminals. The ordinary criminals run the camps.

Valka (Colin Farrell) a regular criminal joins the group because he has been unlucky at gambling and he owes so much he will be killed by his compatriots. The escapees are a mixed group of nationalities and professions. The professions include chef, accountant,priest, and engineer. The nationalities include Estonian, Latvian, Polish, Russian, and American. The American is Mr. Smith (Ed Harris) he was an engineer for the Underground. His son was shot and killed when he was arrested. They were followed by Irina (Saorise Ronan) when they are near Lake Bakal. Herparents were Polish Communists who were killed during the purges; she was put in an orphanage then sent to a collective farm. She dies in the desert, but not before she has got the male escapees to open up about their pasts. Valka leaves the group at the Russian border. Mr. Smith leaves when they reach Tibet;he plans to try and reach the American forces in China.

Weir had an entire gulag built in Bulgaria; I believe it still is standing today. Saorise Ronan turned 16 during filming. The film runs 2 1/2 hours; I found no dead spots. The ending which re-unites Janusz with his wife is a sentimental add on. This merits my highest recommendation and it isn't even my favorite Weir film. Try guessing.
 
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"The Way Back"-Peter Weir-2010

Weir is a top notch director; his credits include :picnic at Hanging Rock; Gallipoli, Year of Living Dangerously, Witness, Dead Poets Society, and Master and Commander. The background of this picture is more than interesting. It was inspired by Slavomir Rudicz memoir "The Long Walk"published in 1955. This best seller was really non fiction. Rudicz made up the story of his long walk from a Russian Gulag to India during WWII. The Russians released him from a gulag in 1942.

Weir is one of a handful of directors whose pictures have beautiful images, solid plots, and well developed characters. In this film a group of prisoners escape from a gulag in Siberia and walk 4000 miles to India. En route several die and they are joined by a young Polish girl who walked off a collective farm. The leader of the group, Janusz (Jim Sturgess) is a Pole who was tortured by the Soviets. The film begins with the partition of Poland into Russian and German zones. When Janusz refuses to falsely confess; they torture his wife. She confesses that he was a spy and saboteur. He is sentenced to 20 years of hard labor. There are two types of prisoners in a stalag ploitical and ordinary criminals. The ordinary criminals run the camps.

Valka (Colin Farrell) a regular criminal joins the group because he has been unlucky at gambling and he owes so much he will be killed by his compatriots. The escapees are a mixed group of nationalities and professions. The professions include chef, accountant,priest, and engineer. The nationalities include Estonian, Latvian, Polish, Russian, and American. The American is Mr. Smith (Ed Harris) he was an engineer for the Underground. His son was shot and killed when he was arrested. They were followed by Irina (Saorise Ronan) when they are near Lake Bakal. Herparents were Polish Communists who were killed during the purges; she was put in an orphanage then sent to a collective farm. She dies in the desert, but not before she has got the male escapees to open up about their pasts. Valka leaves the group at the Russian border. Mr. Smith leaves when they reach Tibet;he plans to try and reach the American forces in China.

Weir had an entire gulag built in Bulgaria; I believe it still is standing today. Saorise Ronan turned 16 during filming. The film runs 2 1/2 hours; I found no dead spots. The ending which re-unites Janusz with his wife is a sentimental add on. This merits my highest recommendation and it isn't even my favorite Weir film. Try guessing.
From the Peter Weir films that I have seen, Witness is probably my favorite. As for you, we'll try Master and Commander, that was awfully good as well, but honestly it seems to be fairly crowded at the top for the best or favorite Weir film, there are a bunch of really good ones to choose from.
 
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"A Shot at Glory"-Michael Corrante-2000

The Raith Rovers sit atop the Scottish First Division; the third highest of the four divisions in Scottish Football. Surprisingly, they are finalists for the Challenge Cup. This is one of the two major cups in Scottish Football, but this is 2020 and the season and the cup final are postponed due to coronavirus. In 1994 the Raith Rovers won the League Cup. This improbable victory, 6-5 over Celtic, put them into competition with some of the greatest sides in the world. They lost in the third round to the eventual winner, Bayern Munich.

This bit of Football history provides the inspiration for an unknown screen writer, Dennis O'Neill, and an unknown director, Michael Corrante to make a film about a struggling Scottish Football team, Kilnockey. This fictitious fishing town has a football team. It is one of the 42 professional teams in a country of 4 million.

Why did this film get made? Robert Duvall. He stars and produces; unlike "The Apostle" where he starred, wrote, produced, and financed the film; this film was far from a financial success. The reviews weren't great.
Still this is one of my favorite semi-guilty pleasures. I really think it is solid, engaging, and stands up to repeated viewings. For all of us who love films there are one or two films that we really like, and we know that are opinion is not shared by the hoi polli.

This little film has an engaging story, some beautiful scenes of Scotland, some fine acting, and if you like football some good game bits. Andrew McLeod (Robert Duvall) is not a happy man. He manages a team with a one hundred year history of failures. He is estranged from his only child, Kate (Kirstey Mitchell) so he rarely sees his grandson. Kate married a wonderfully talented footballer, Jackie McQuillan; unfortunately he has wasted his talent because of drink and a hair trigger temper. He and Kate are separated. Meanwhile the Kilnockey football club has been purchased by a rich American, Peter Cameron (Michael Keaton); he is considering moving the club to Dublin. If that were not bad enough; he hires McLeod's son in law.

The team is moving along through the League Cup Matches and is winning games in the 2nd division. Could Andrew McLeod have his shot at glory? The fans are quite funny. The central characters are well drawn, for most of us, the accents are heavy. Duvall was criticized for his accent. Some commentators disagreed and stated that his Glasswegian tones were true. Turn on your subtitles. The film ends not with triumph, but as McLeod remarks:"That's football."

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a free streaming service. I have watched this little film at least 10 times; I keep coming back, and it keeps providing me with pleasure.
 
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From the Peter Weir films that I have seen, Witness is probably my favorite. As for you, we'll try Master and Commander, that was awfully good as well, but honestly it seems to be fairly crowded at the top for the best or favorite Weir film, there are a bunch of really good ones to choose from.
You are right. So next up Peter Weir's "The Witness." Why has Harrison Ford never achieved iconic status?
 

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