Films Worth Viewing



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"Blade Runner 2049-Dennis Villeneuve-2017

Sometimes watching a film might actually be a journey. Unlike some of you I have a strong tendency to pack beforehand. I'm not one for jumping off cliffs, generally. SciFi is a medium in both print and visuals which encourages jumping off cliffs. I grew up reading Asimov and Heinlein; I subscribed to "Fantasy and Science Fiction;" I wasn't a Comic Book guy. That's probably my loss considering that Comic Books and their descendants Graphic Novels rule. The original "Blade Runner" is based on a Phillip K. Dick novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep." Ridley Scott made the original film; he spent 30 years trying to get it right. He was involved directly in making the sequel.

ScFi in general is not optimistic about the future. Things were bad enough in 2019 in this universe; they've gotten worse in 2049. Now the responsibility for dealing with replicants is the responsibility of specially designed replicants. K (Ryan Gosling) is on a case; he discovers a mystery. Did the unthinkable happen; did a replicant bear a child? K brings a skeleton and tufts of hair back to base. Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) warns K that what he has discovered threatens society/civilization with a new civil war. This generation of replicants are programmed to obey. Their memories are all carefully implanted; they are given intensive check-ups after missions. These check-ups are used to determine whether or not their experiences have changed their basic program. This is one of the many interesting bits of information we gain. Humans learn through experiences. In K's case, this learning should make him better at his job. However, it may also corrupt his program. I believe that it would help comprehension if you were to pack the original "Blade Runner" prior to viewing this film.

Villeneuve has revealed that he used the first cut and the final version as his starting points for this sequel. Ridely Scott was involved early on even before Villeneuve was brought on. Scott's vision was the starting point for this film. Villeneuve is involved in the "Dune" project. While he has some positive feelings about the Lynch film; he finds it not faithful to the story. This film had a very large budget ($150 million); the active participation of Ridley Scott, and brilliant cinematography and visual effects (both Oscar winning.) When I watched this film I was enscorceled for the first 90 minutes. Then it slowed down for me. Ridley Scott admitted that it was too long, but he felt he was partially to blame. He pushed to have lots of elements in the film. Two hours and forty-four minutes was too long for me. It is widely considered that the length hurt the box office.

This is highly recommended. I liked some of the inventions; the virtual reality girlfriend, Joi, is an interesting addition, The fact that she can develop into a being who has experiences is well conceived. The plot devices dealing with memory, and the consideration of what is "Real" and what is implanted are thought provoking. I like films which leave me with interesting questions. If SciFi is a favorite genre; this is must viewing. This is a film I will return to.
 
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"Tight Little Island"-Alexander Mackendrick-1949

Shh, this was called "Whiskey Galore!" in the UK, but another example of the Hays Office at work. One couldn't use a distilled or fermented beverage in a title. This was Mackendrick's first film ("The Man in the White Suit" and "Sweet Smell of Success"). This was Ealing's first big year ("Passport to Pimlico" and "Kind Hearts and Coronets"). Surprisingly, this was Ealing's first big success in the US. The story is set on the fictitious island of
Todday in the Hebrides. In 1943 a cargo ship carrying 50,000 cases sank near the island. The island was suffering because the lone pub had run out of Whiskey. The villagers form a rescue party to save the precious cargo. They rescue hundreds of cases of this valuable cargo. This is discovered by the local commander of the Home Guard. He summons revenue agents to the island. What follows is a whiskey war full of whimsey, caprice, and comedy.

The film features John Greenwood ("The Man in the White Suit:), James Robinson Justice ("Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines"), and Gordon Jackson (the butler in "Upstairs Downstairs"). Local islanders made up much of the cast. This is one of the few Ealing comedies I hadn't seen. It's a solid little film; it was re-made in 2016 quite poorly. It is available to stream for free.

Recommended, but attend "Kind Hearts and Coronets" at Cine Studio if you can.

Next up "The Ipcress File." I wrote too soon; it's only available to stream for free in Australia.
 
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"Tight Little Island"-Alexander Mackendrick-1949

Shh, this was called "Whiskey Galore!" in the UK, but another example of the Hays Office at work. One couldn't use a distilled or fermented beverage in a title. This was Mackendrick's first film ("The Man in the White Suit" and "Sweet Smell of Success"). This was Ealing's first big year ("Passport to Pimlico" and "Kind Hearts and Coronets"). Surprisingly, this was Ealing's first big success in the US. The story is set on the fictitious island of
Todday in the Hebrides. In 1943 a cargo ship carrying 50,000 cases sank near the island. The island was suffering because the lone pub had run out of Whiskey. The villagers form a rescue party to save the precious cargo. They rescue hundreds of cases of this valuable cargo. This is discovered by the local commander of the Home Guard. He summons revenue agents to the island. What follows is a whiskey war full of whimsey, caprice, and comedy.

The film features John Greenwood ("The Man in the White Suit:), James Robinson Justice ("Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines"), and Gordon Jackson (the butler in "Upstairs Downstairs"). Local islanders made up much of the cast. This is one of the few Ealing comedies I hadn't seen. It's a solid little film; it was re-made in 2016 quite poorly. It is available to stream for free.

Recommended, but attend "Kind Hearts and Coronets" at Cine Studio if you can.

Next up "The Ipcress File." I wrote too soon; it's only available to stream for free in Australia.
I saw "Whisky Galore!" several years ago, it is a solid British comedy. For those who wish to sample this film, Turner Classic Movies happens to be showing it this coming Friday night.
 
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"Ghost World"-Terry Zwigoff-2001

What is the meaning of the title? What is the meaning of the end of the film? The title comes from Daniel Clowes's graphic novel. The novel tells the stories of Enid and Rebecca two young women poised to enter the adult world after high school. So could the ghost world be the interregnum between being a teen or an adult?
Using this as a template, one might say Rebecca seems to be moving Forward; she has a job and she is ready to move into her own apartment. Enid hasn't escaped high school; instead of a diploma at graduation she was handed a notification that she had to take a summer art course to graduate. Does ghost world refer to the two girls mocking attitude and emotional distance from their surroundings? They were not part of high school world. In one sense of course they were; they went to high school physically. The goal of high school is to prepare one for adulthood. One path an individual might take is to use high school as a stepping stone to college. Both girls have rejected this, apparently.

Confused? I know I am. In the original graphic novel there is no Seymour. His life is stalled. He works as an assistant manager in the corporate office of a fast food corporation. He is a collector of vintage recordings and
graphic art. He has no emotional attachments. He places an advertisement in the personals of a local newspaper. This ad is pounced upon by Becca and Enid. They play a trick laced with petty cruelty when Enid calls to set up a meeting with a woman Seymour had a moment. They observe him at a restaurant. Enid records the moment with a drawing in her book.

Enid searches out Seymour. He has a booth at a flea market on Saturdays. She purchases a record of classic blues music. One song on the record captivates her. She listens to the track multiple times. She takes Becca to a gathering at Seymours' apartment. The other people at the party are older and several are collectors of vintage 78's. While Enid sees the record collection; Becca is hit on by a sleeze. Enid is drawn to Seymour; Becca has no interest in Seymour's world.

Think back to "Wings of Desire;" the angels watch human life. They observe and record. Enid does this graphically. She keeps a notebook where she records scenes she observes. Perhaps the world of an observer is the ghost world. When Enid tries to intervene the world is broken. She tries to set up Seymour with a real date. The results are not good. Seymour ends up in therapy and the relationship between Becca and Enid is broken.

The acting of the principals Enid (Thora Birch), Becca (Scarlett Johanson),and Seymour (Steve Buscemi) is excellent. The visual milieu is interesting filled with many quirky details. The script was solid enough to be nominated for an Oscar. Critics liked this film; it didn't do well at the box office. It has become something of a cult classic. There are several sites where viewers try to unravel the meaning of the film, particularly the ending. An elderly man sits on the bench waiting for a bus. Unfortunately, the bus line has discontinued service on this route. One night an empty bus appears and the old man gets on board. Enid appears at the stop with a small bag. She waits; the empty bus appears. She gets on board and the bus vanishes in to the night as the film ends. Many viewers believe that this indicates Enid commits suicide. In the review in the NY Times the reviewer sees Enid as a film critic. I believe that the critic doesn't accept the ending as final. Certainly, the film has lived beyond its sell by date. Highly recommended. It is available to stream for free on Amazon Prime.
 
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The Ox-Bow Incident-William Wellman-1943

This short (75 minute) film is extremely well made and deals with an important problem. The film is based on the debut novel by Walter Van Tillburg Clark. In 1885 a small Nevada town is rocked by the rumor that a local rancher has been murdered by rustlers. The sheriff is out of town ,so the posse formed is only semi legal.

The posse finds 3 men with the rancher's cattle. This confirms their guilt. When a vote is taken, only seven vote to investigate further. The "rustlers"in both the book and the filrm duly hanged. The 3 rustlers are played by Dana Andrews, Anthony Quinn, and John Ford"s older brother. The chief protagonist is played by Henry Fonda.

The sheriff arrives, the rancher was shot but lives; the real rustlers are captured, but the hangings are history.
The sheriff vows the law will deal harshly with the lynch mob, but both the book and the film leave this as an unanswered question.

The film is available on DVD and streaming. I suggest that if you plan to buy the DVD, you opt for one of the several collections which feature this film. I have the Henry Ford Collection on Fox. This 10 film collection includes "Drums Along the Mohawk." "The Grapes of Wrath," "My Darling Clementine," and "The Longest Day."
Just saw this movie for the first time. Absolutely terrific, with a great ending.
 
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"The Longest Day"-Darryl F. Zanuck-1962

No, Zanuck didn't direct the film. Ken Annakin, Andrew Morton, and Bernard Wicki did. Annakin directed the French and English sections. Morton directed the American sections, and Wicki directed the German sections.
Somehow Zanuck was able to get armies from France, Great Britain, and the US to co-operate. They provided soldiers. The US Sixth Fleet provided ships. Much of the film was shot in Cyprus. They avoided a local nudist beach. Stars were recruited and fitted into cameo roles. Sometimes the fit was uncomfortable as in the case of John Wayne playing a Lieutenant Colonel in the 82 Airborne. He was twice as old as his real life counterpart. Robert Mitchum playing a assistant division commander on Omaha Beach was excellent. Quite a few of the actors had been a part of the invasion. Colin Maud lent his shillelagh to actor Kenneth More who played the Beach Master with the bulldog, Winston.

The detail was drawn from Cornelius Ryan's book "The Longest Day." Ryan wrote the script along with Romain Gary, James Jones and several others. Zanuck and Ryan detested each other; communication was through a third party. Ryan had sold the rights to his book to another production company. Their film fell through; Zanuck acquired the rights for $175,000. Two versions were filmed. In one everyone spoke English; in the second everyone spoke their own language and subtitles were used. The second one was the format which was released.

20th Century Fox was simultaneously filming "Cleopatra" with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. This film which cost $40 million almost sank the studio. Money was more than tight; Zanuck loaned Longest Day money to finish the film. The cost has been reported at $7.5, $8, and $10 million. The initial box office was $30 million. What is more surprising is that when re-issued in 1969 the film grossed over $2.8 million in its first week in the US. It saved Fox.

It was filmed in black and white so documentary footage could be inserted. I think that Zanuck believed that black and white pictures would be more real for the audience. Spielberg made the same decision almost half a century later with "Schindler's List." It was nominated for five Oscars: Art Direction, Editing, Cinematography, Best Picture, and Special Effects. It won for Cinematography and Special Effects. Paul Anka wrote the theme; Maurice Jarre wrote the score and conducted the music. Surprising it is available to stream for free; I think 1,2,3 has it.

I saw this first in a theater. It was a major event. It runs about three hours. I have watched it many times since. This time I had more critical distance; I don't think this is a great film, but it is a very good film. Bosley Crother wrote in the NY Times: "It is hard to think of a picture...doing anymore or any better or leaving one feeling any more exposed to the horror of war than this one does." Highly recommended.
 
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"The Longest Day"-Darryl F. Zanuck-1962

No, Zanuck didn't direct the film. Ken Annakin, Andrew Morton, and Bernard Wicki did. Annakin directed the French and English sections. Morton directed the American sections, and Wicki directed the German sections.
Somehow Zanuck was able to get armies from France, Great Britain, and the US to co-operate. They provided soldiers. The US Sixth Fleet provided ships. Much of the film was shot in Cyprus. They avoided a local nudist beach. Stars were recruited and fitted into cameo roles. Sometimes the fit was uncomfortable as in the case of John Wayne playing a Lieutenant Colonel in the 82 Airborne. He was twice as old as his real life counterpart. Robert Mitchum playing a assistant division commander on Omaha Beach was excellent. Quite a few of the actors had been a part of the invasion. Colin Maud lent his shillelagh to actor Kenneth More who played the Beach Master with the bulldog, Winston.

The detail was drawn from Cornelius Ryan's book "The Longest Day." Ryan wrote the script along with Romain Gary, James Jones and several others. Zanuck and Ryan detested each other; communication was through a third party. Ryan had sold the rights to his book to another production company. Their film fell through; Zanuck acquired the rights for $175,000. Two versions were filmed. In one everyone spoke English; in the second everyone spoke their own language and subtitles were used. The second one was the format which was released.

20th Century Fox was simultaneously filming "Cleopatra" with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. This film which cost $40 million almost sank the studio. Money was more than tight; Zanuck loaned Longest Day money to finish the film. The cost has been reported at $7.5, $8, and $10 million. The initial box office was $30 million. What is more surprising is that when re-issued in 1969 the film grossed over $2.8 million in its first week in the US. It saved Fox.

It was filmed in black and white so documentary footage could be inserted. I think that Zanuck believed that black and white pictures would be more real for the audience. Spielberg made the same decision almost half a century later with "Schindler's List." It was nominated for five Oscars: Art Direction, Editing, Cinematography, Best Picture, and Special Effects. It won for Cinematography and Special Effects. Paul Anka wrote the theme; Maurice Jarre wrote the score and conducted the music. Surprising it is available to stream for free; I think 1,2,3 has it.

I saw this first in a theater. It was a major event. It runs about three hours. I have watched it many times since. This time I had more critical distance; I don't think this is a great film, but it is a very good film. Bosley Crother wrote in the NY Times: "It is hard to think of a picture...doing anymore or any better or leaving one feeling any more exposed to the horror of war than this one does." Highly recommended.
This is another one of those films that we will watch any time it shows up on television. My wife absolutely loves "The Longest Day". I think it is very, very good, and very watchable with a star studded cast to look out for. That it is very entertaining in addition to showing the "horrors of war" as mentioned above is no mean accomplishment.
 
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"Ghostbusters"-Ivan Reitman-1984

I took advantage of a free weekend of HBO. While everything I watched was at least decent; it was all downbeat. ""Ghostbusters" was/is a worthy relief. I assume that this is home space for most 'Yarders. I hadn't watched this film in a few years. The movie had a script written by Ackroyd and Ramis that served mainly as guidelines. It is acknowledged that much of the dialogue was improvised.

Three former university researchers form a company after being fired from their research positions. They call this company Ghostbusters. They develop a system of capturing and containing a variety of supernatural entities. New York City has become a central point of influence of the supernatural. The fledgling company has more work than they can handle. Bill Murray plays his usual quipping self; he isn't a nice person. His partners, Ramis and Ackroyd, are more "scientific" and likable. Their first call comes from Sigourney Weaver whose refrigerator is inhabited by an ancient Sumerian god, Gozer. Despite Murray's romantic interest, the team does nothing to solve her problem. Partially because in a very short time, weeks or months; they have become not only business successes but cultural icons. It should be mentioned that the movie became a cultural icon; I was unable to find merchandise figures. However, I discovered that a new "Ghostbusters" will arrive this year.

The trailer looked pretty good, so a new generation will experience this whimsy. I liked my re-viewing of "Ghostbusters." I was never a superfan, but I enjoyed seeing it in a theater. For me it was a solid comedy; it never approached "Groundhog Day." This is still worth viewing. If you have Comcast, you can watch it for free.

BTW I watched the HBO film "Deadwood" this is well worth viewing if you are familiar with the series. If not you may find the Milch dialogue hard to understand and you will be catching up on a huge backstory.
 
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