Jason Statham? Yes!
HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941)
John Ford is revered in America as the Father of the Western, but he was competent across many genres. In fact, when I watch his movies, 'competent' is the word which I most associate with his work. He's not a flashy director, nor is he particularly innovative. Often he betrays his training in the silent studios of the '20s with his reliance on slapstick comedy, over-expressive emotions and static camera positions. How Green Was My Valley is a case in point. The first fifteen minutes of this Best Picture Oscar winner are performed in dumb show accompanied by a Welsh male voice choir, sympathetic violins and a narrative voiceover. At this point, it's essentially a silent movie. As the film progresses, Ford utilises this 'silent' technique time and again. The characters mute expressions come to mean more than the dialogue (which is sturdy at best). But there's a problem. The audience has to work exceptionally hard to interpret the characters' emotions as they are not vocally demonstrative. Ford is almost directing their performances down, removing all nuance and individuality from the spoken lines. Additionally, he rarely uses close-ups. We can't even see the facial expressions. So many shots are framed full length, an audience always feels as if they are looking onto the action rather than being inside it. It's a curious, detached technique which doesn't promote our sympathies.
The production values are high. I have a vague memory of reading the studio built a replica Welsh coal mining village for this. Donald Crisp is probably the best of the generally average performers. Whole swathes of the book are edited out and the movie still feels like a bore. The worst offence is believing 12 year old Roddy McDowell ages from 10 to 17. He clearly doesn't and the coming of age saga which the novel represents is eradicated in favour of the dramatic pit disaster. It isn't the best film of 1941; both Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon are more innovative and much more enjoyable. The Academy rarely gets these winners right.
THE DEADLY AFFAIR (1966)
A disappointing adaptation of John Le Carre's Call for the Dead, which featured George Smiley as its main character. Here James Mason plays Smiley under the new name Charles Dobbs. This was due to legal wrangle over the cinematic rights to the character. There was something similar over the character of James Bond, I seem to recall...
Anyway, Dobbs (or Smiley) investigates the death of a low level diplomat and discovers a network of Communist spies. He struggles with a compulsively unfaithful wife and the return of a former WW2 resistance colleague. The film is shot by Freddie Young - whose next project was You Only Live Twice - and it's scripted by Paul Dehn, who did great work on Goldfinger and Martin Ritt's powerful adaptation of Le Carre's The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. A very good cast spend a lot of time wandering around the leafy or filthy climes of Thames-side London, Surrey and St James' Park. The action is slow. The investigation dull. There are one or two sudden assumptions which I didn't understand. As usual with Le Carre the clues are in one or two words or sentences said by a particular person and it often takes two or three watches to catch them all. I can't say I enjoyed this very much at all. It was extraordinarily popular with critics and garnered BAFTA nominations across the board, which seems amazing with hindsight. There's a curious bossa nova music track by Quincy Jones (Astrud Gilberto sings) which sounds completely out of place. Director Sidney Lumet has done a lot better than this.
The author himself thought it was a very poor adaptation. I'm with him.
These are excellent reviews ChrisNo1. In fact, they are such good reviews, they are too good for this website.
Anyway, Angels One-Five
Second World War Battle of Britain movie made in early 50s so still seems of its time, being made in black and white. Jack Hawkins - an actor who was in a lot of things, from Lean's Bridge Over the River Kwai to Lean's Lawrence of Arabia to The Cruel Sea and a few that weren't war movies of course such as The League of Gentlemen, stars.
Also, Michael Denison who was Algy in The Importance of Being Earnest. Anyway, this has a Bond connection - Geoffrey Keen is in the cast. Actually Keen, like Bernard Lee was in just about everything in the 50s and onwards.
Good stuff - my elderly Dad likes it because he's of that era.
American crime drama in which a sceptical reporter - James Stewart - is put on the case of trying to find out if a 1930s cop killer really did it or got beat by the system. In the same league as that Hitchcock film The Wrong Man. Gripping stuff in a low key way. Lee J Cobb always adds class to a film and does so here as Stewart's editor boss. No Bond connection but it's amazing to see Stewart's young reporter using a similar tiny spy camera as the one Moore's Bond uses in Moonraker to snap the contents of Drax's safe - this is set in the 40s and I fancied Bond's gadget was state of the art stuff nearly half a century later.
I enjoyed your review of Bridge Over the River Kwai, ChrisNo1. What I found amazing is the young romantic lead whom I'd never seen in anything else - there's a reason for that, he died in a plane crash he was piloting about a year or so later. I never recognised Lee Marvin when I saw it.
Bogard himself was dead within a few years of the film, too.
7 men from now (1956)
This is the second western directed by Budd Boetticher I've watched and I think I'll continue. John Wayne was intended to star, but when he heard Ford was making The Searchers he offered the role to Randolph Scott. This movie revived Scott's career and he made a number of westerns with Boetticher. The director seems to do plot, tension and characters well. There are more good plot twists than westerns usually offer. In this movie he also uses the locations very well. Lee Marvin plays a significant character, the morally questionable type with a mocking smile he did so well.
I expect I'll watch my next Scott/Boetticher western soon!
Ministry of Fear (1944)
This was a really enjoyable, moody and noirish WWII espionage thriller. Ray Milland plays a man who has just got out of an asylum after he had been accused of murdering his wife. By a somewhat Hitchcockian turn of coincidence he is immediately ensnared in a Nazi spy ring operating on British soil and he spends the rest of the film trying to both uncover the mysterious organisation and also clear his name with the law for another killing which he is believed to have commited. The atmospheric sets and stylish direction and cinematography are standout elements of this film. It is directed by German master Fritz Lang, and while it is not one of the absolute best Lang films that I have seen, I have still never seen a film of his that has been disappointing. Besides Metropolis and M, most of the Lang film that I have seen are from the 1940s - Scarlet Street, The Big Heat and several other noir classics. I've still not delved much into his early work, but I really enjoy his films from this classic era of Hollywood noir.
Golrush007 said: Ministry of Fear (1944)
...based on a novel by Graham Greene!
I know I've seen the film, but remember the book more clearly. It's almost surreal with so much plot revolving round fortune tellers, seances, and insane asylums, very strange circumstances to uncover a spy ring.
Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
Not Coppola's greatest masterpiece, but I've always liked it. The film is highly stylized, most of the time it looks like it was made around 1930. I think that's a good choice. It's both a tribute to the old movies and the style works very well with the story. Keanu Reeves is miscast in a otherwise good cast, often looking stiff and lacking screen presence. Both he and Winona Ryder were critizised for their accents. I can't help thinking the result would have been better without them. Perhaps Jonny Depp (The director's first choice) or Daniel Day-Lewis as Jonathan Harker and Helena Bonham Carter as Mina? Coppola's Dracula is still a very interesting and watchable movie.
One of the most famous slasher movies of all time, but like with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, strangely, very restrained in showing much gore.
Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis are both very good and John Carpenter is on good early form following the brilliant Assault On Precinct 13.
Great soundtrack too.
I am probably in the minority, but I prefer Friday The 13th in the slasher stakes.
DEATH RACE (2008) with the Statham.
If you're looking for plot, go elsewhere. If you're looking for crunching metal, this is your bag. If the idea of watching cars bristling with armor and machine guns fighting it out while doing laps around an industrial complex appeals to you, this is your film. It scratches that MAD MAX 2/THE ROAD WARRIOR itch pretty nicely.
I used to play a game in the 80s called CAR WARS from Steve Jackson games. This movie is essentially that game brought to life on the big screen.
Fun in a mindless way.
Escape From Pretoria (2020)
Based on a true story, this relates the tale of the escape from prison in South Africa of 2 ANC activists who are joined by a third when plotting their escape. The escape plan is ingenious and there are several tense scenes of possible discovery. Unfortunately, there is not enough background to the characters before they are imprisoned, but Daniel Radcliffe has turned out to be a pretty decent actor to be fair.
A worthwhile but not essential watch.
I've been curious to see this film, but haven't got around to it yet. When the trailer came out this was the butt of many jokes amongst my friends here in South Africa because the accents in the trailer sounded a bit bizarre to South African ears. Our accents seem to be quite difficult for actors from other countries to replicate without slipping into a sort of parody. I'm sure this is true for many other countries and regions though.
FREAKY, a mashup of mad slasher horror movie and body-switching comedy, with Vince Vaughn as a Jason Voorhies-like psycho killer who switches bodies with Kathryn Newton's high school loser. Surprisingly, this weird approach works very well, with Vaughn perfectly embodying (so to speak) teen angst and Newton actually menacing as the killer. FERRIS BUELLER'S Alan Ruck shows up as a nasty teacher who gets a great death scene. It's a lot of fun, but not for the squeamish.
Actually, I didn't see all of this but at the time it was well reviewed as a new slant on the Transformer series, more low key with a teenage protagonist, not so macho this time round. A good 80s soundtrack, as that's when it is set, makes it a nostalgia fest for some of us.
It's okay but seems to run out of steam at some point. It's a one-gag movie really as the teen girl/woman controls the narrative but it's all about her and the Transformer which doubles as a yellow Beetle. Okay, we had Elliot and E.T. but Spielberg did that. It doesn't quite carry the film and the emotional aspects seem a bit obvious, a bit jokey. I mean, I could almost sympathise with the parents almost, giving their mopey kid a book telling her to smile (okay, it's a stepfather) but perhaps that's lockdown for you.
I mean, the school bullies are a bit obvious. That said, when you have Twitter and a bloke called Mike Royle doing his #31DayBondChallenge, that tends to be more entertaining.
Godzilla vs. Kong
I caught this on HBO Max today. The movie is pretty much what you would expect: a big. noisy, often dumb monster mash with a cast of humans who add little to the proceedings.
The plot, such that it is, has the formerly benevolent Godzilla mysteriously attacking locations in Florida and Tokyo where offices for a shady electronics corporation called Apex are located. The CEO of Apex meanwhile hires a disgraced scientist to form an expedition to have Kong lead a group of scientists and his suspicious looking daughter to the center of the Earth where they find a whole ecosystem right out of Journey to the Center of the Earth. There is supposed to be a mysterious radioactive energy source there that can stop Godzilla but of course things are not always as they seem. Better not to focus too much on the plot, you'll just get a headache.
Along the way, Godzilla becomes aware of Kong and, as there can only be one Apex titan, engages him on a couple of occasions to show him who is the number one monster. By the end of the movie Apex's intentions are revealed, a third party enters the fray and Tokyo is once again ground zero for a giant monster beatdown. The battle scenes are all well done and both Kong and Godzilla pull off some cool fighting moves. Sadly, things go downhill from there.
A game I always like to play to see if the characters were effective at all is to try to remember their names after the movie is over. The only characters I could remember were Godzilla and Kong, who show a greater range of emotion than their human co-stars, all of whom were superfluous, and in the case of three characters who are trying to figure out what Apex is up to, downright annoying to the point I was rooting for them to be incinerated (alas, my hopes were sadly dashed).
Overall it killed two hours and it held my attention but if you do watch this at home, keep the remote handy and your finger on the Fast Forward button.
This is a recent release with Gerard Butler that was much, much, much better than I thought it would be. The premise is that a comet is coming to impact on Earth (ala ARMAGEDDON or DEEP IMPACT), so it's nothing new there. Where this film differs is in the execution and in the focus, and this film is frankly 100% convincing in almost every regard. It's nice and intense with solid acting from everyone throughout. Nobody does anything to stretch credulity or otherwise pull you out of the film because of any major lapses in logic, and that's a rare thing in a film like this.
The wife and I borderline loved this. Very recommended.
Last night I sat down to watch the film 'Highlander'. I dislike all types of science fiction films and only decided to watch it because Sean Connery was in it.
I did not make it to the part where he appears before I turned off. It was I think the worst film I have ever seen!
Then you should avoid the sequels like a pandemic!
HIGHLANDER is a great concept unfortunately brought down by a rather inept script. Personally I'm a fan of the movie (and the tv show) but it's a truly cack script with some really bad dialog in it. Clancy Brown as The Kurgan and Sean Connery as Ramirez are a lot of fun to watch, at least.
A bit of a Robert Altman double feature for me today...McCABE & MRS MILLER and NASHVILLE.
Altman is one of those Hollywood greats whose work I've never really delved into much, so both of these were first viewings for me. Both arrived on my screen with great reputations, so inevitably I had high expectations for these two films and neither disappointed at all.
McCabe & Mrs Miller is the film that has been on my radar for the longest time, as I am a big fan of the Western genre and it is film that is perenially included on 'greatest hits' lists of the genre. There was much to admire in this film, notably the much-vaunted cinematography which has a great vintage feel to it, with almost muddy, muted colours and an ever present haze which lends a feel of degraded film prints from years gone by - courtesy of some clever flash-exposure techniques. The film also features several songs from Leonard Cohen's debut album, and as a Cohen fan I enjoyed their inclusion in the film. The actors do a great job giving very believable performances, especially in the supporting roles. Julie Christie is also particularly memorable as the female lead - a London accented brothel madam with a taste for opium. Like most Westerns it climaxes in a gunfight, but little about this showdown feels typical of the genre. A great Western, and one which will comfortably take a place in my 'Top 20 Westerns' list.
Nashville is a film that I knew little about, apart from that it takes place in the world of Country music, and has a large ensemble cast. The description 'large' barely covers it. The only other films that I can think of with so many significant characters are WWII epics like The Longest Day etc. This film is almost as epic in its running time and credits list, but much more small scale in terms of the incidents which take place in the course of the narrative. It's one of those film in which not much seems to happen, yet so many little things occur throughout, giving it a sense of real life despite the seemingly exaggerated antics of many of its characters. This is a film in which quirky characters are given ample opportunity to shine, such as Jeff Goldblum's 'Tricycle Man', a memorable role despite lacking any dialogue. The worlds of music and politics are both on display in the film and play off each other in enjoyable and interesting ways. Unsurprisingly, the film also delivers some enjoyable country music - mostly delivered by Keith Carradine and Ronee Blakley's characters. A few other characters in the film are better off leaving the microphone alone. Such is the diverse tapestry of the film.
I really enjoyed both films - it's a struggle to pick a favourite between the two. Altman is a director that I will always seek out in future. Previously the Altman films that I had seen were: Countdown, M*A*S*H and Gosford Park. The next Altman works in my watch list are California Split and The Player. I also hope to see The Long Goodbye sometime soon if I can get my hands on a copy or a stream.
The Player is a great film, with an opening shot so brilliantly executed it could be the whole film itself. It's actually got a plot, unlike some of Altman's other ensemble pieces. Belongs to a subgenre of Hollywood satirizing itself.
Gosford Park I have heard was the inspiration for Downton Abbey, but as a Agatha Christie style mystery is more interesting than the similar looking soap opera. Stephen Fry is the detective, and just wait til you see how good a job he does of solving the mystery, that's a cutting social satire all on its own. I think Bob Balaban (the NBC executive character from Seinfeld) came up with the basic concept.
MASH has a great cast, and it's a pity it's now a footnote to the better known sitcom. It's much darker, more subversive. If you've never seen it, you may be surprised to find that theme song has lyrics! Catch-22 had the misfortune of coming out shortly after and being compared unfavourably.
The Long Goodbye I thought was a stinker, but that's because I'm a Raymond Chandler fan. There's many other films that more faithfully capture the Chandler experience that aren't even based directly on his books. I say its a crime to waster good Chandler on a film like this! It does include one of the single most shockingly violent acts I've ever seen in a film.
Popeye I haven't seen since it came out, I want to see it again. The very concept is so outrageous, Robin Williams is buried underneath prosthetics to look convincingly like the cartoon character. Shelly Duvall on the other hand is perfectly cast as Olive Oyl and requires no prosthetics. SCTV parodied the idea with Altman making a live action adaptation of the mediocre comic strip Henry.
There's plenty of other directors have tried to make Altman style ensemble pieces. example 1: PT Anderson's Boogie Nights is brilliant, if you can handle the subject matter. I haven't liked his other films half so much. example 2: Linklater's Dazed and Confused is not to my taste, despite my personal nostalgia for the period trappings. That 70s Show did it better.
I didn't want to quote your whole post re: McCabe & Mrs Miller.
This is an astounding western. Its in my Top 10 of the genre. A revisionist piece, of sorts. I agree with all your comments. I'd also add the deep sense of impending doom which inhabits the film almost from the off. You just know nothing will end well for McCabe. His relationship with Mrs Miller is one of dependency, but neither can say I Love You because both recognise the futility. Her retreat into drug hazed oblivion as McCabe walks through the snow to his death is one of the great sequences of the western genre, all hopelessness is in their dual actions of fated destiny. Altman's unfussy direction heightens the discord, you see the agony etched on the actors' faces. The messy, bloody, gunfight is a much more realistic prospect than the old fashioned quick draw. A slow tortured snow dance of death.
I need to rewatch this, it's been a few years. Last time I was lucky enough to catch it at the London BFI on the big screen and it looks, as you say, muddily devine. Wonderful stuff.
@chrisno1 I enjoyed reading your comments on the various Altman films. I remember enjoying Gosford Park, but definitely feel I should go back for a second viewing. Amongst the incredible ensemble cast, I do recall Stephen Fry being a delight as the detective. As for the Downton Abbey connection, both were written by Julian Fellowes (who also appeared in Tomorrow Never Dies of course) so unsurprising that there are some similarities and comparisons drawn between the two.
I was also interested by your comments re: The Long Goodbye. I've noticed that on Letterboxd.com, The Long Goodbye has one of the highest average user ratings of all of Altman's films. Sad to say I've never read any Chandler myself (I know I really ought to) so that would be unlikely to colour my opinion of the film much. I do have an audiobook of The Long Goodbye - I wonder if I'd be better off leaving that until after I've seen the film.
Count me in as a fan of THE LONG GOODBYE. It feels like it shouldn't work, especially with Elliot Gould as the lead, but everything gels nicely into a thoroughly entertaining film for me.
I need to give MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER another go. I tried watching that a few years ago when I guess I just wasn't in the mood for it and stopped after a half hour. I think the constant barrage of Leonard Cohen songs annoyed me. To be clear, I have nothing against Cohen as an artist, but he's not someone that I can just 'listen to', and I remember feeling like I was getting hit over the head with his music.
yeh your enjoyment of The Long Goodbye is probably a function of a) whether you've read Chandler and b) how faithfully you want your Chandler adapted. Without preconceptions it may be objectively a better film.
I had a big problem with Robert Mitchum's version of The Big Sleep, because it was transposed to late70s Britain (and therefor some of the key plot points (the market for pornography) were anachronistic), but otherwise it was closer in plot and tone to the source material than the Altman/Gould film. Chandler's description of a specific place and time is so specific that's what I want to see brought to life. If you've never read Chandler, start with The Big Sleep, his first novel. The Long Goodbye is I think his sixth and the author was older and (even) more worldweary by that point.
@Barbel is a Chandler fan. What's he think of the Altman/Gould The Long Goodbye?
Short version- used to hate it, have grown to like it (but not love it, except for John Williams' one-melody score).
I still need to see the Mitchum version of THE BIG SLEEP. The Bogart version is one of my favorite Bogart films so I've kinda avoided the Mitchum version as it'd have a hard time even coming close to it.
Speaking of Bogart, we watched ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC the other night. Boy was that a good movie. I was particularly impressed with the modelwork.
The Mitchum version doesn't come close to the Bogart version at all. Mitchum is good (though was better in FAREWELL MY LOVELY), and it's closer to the book (strangely enough, since it's set in 70s England) but that's about it. Happy to discuss more once you've seen it.
@Barbel If you like Mitchum, I highly recommend THE YAKUZA if you haven't seen it yet. It's a 1974 film from Sydney Pollack. Nice and gritty thriller set in Japan with Robert Mitchum, Brian Keith, and Richard Jordan. One of the underrated 70s films in my opinion. James Shigeta and Ken Takakura (who was awesome in BLACK RAIN) have featured roles as well. Very, very good movie.
My memories of it (OMG nearly 50 years ago now) agree with you, Gymkata- maybe someday I'll get round to watching it again, no doubt I've forgotten most of it!