BRIDES OF FU MANCHU (1966)
One of a series, this has many Bond alumni in the cast: Douglas Wilmer (OP), Tsai Chin (YOLT and CR06), Burt Kwouk (Assorted), Joseph Furst (DAF) and... oh yes, Sir Christopher Lee (you don't need me to tell you which Bond film he's in) as the title character (no, not the brides).
There used to be a trope in movies of casting a well-known Caucasian horror actor as an Oriental (Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Bela Lugosi, and of course Lee) which thankfully has finished. This film, and the others in the series, does therefore give us a hint of what Lee would have been like as Dr No if that casting had worked out. As a fan of Sir Christopher, I am glad he ended up as Scaramanga.
The plot involves Fu Manchu kidnapping the daughters of prominent politicians as part of his (inevitable) plan to gain world domination. It's full of holes and laughable, so I thoroughly enjoyed it.
A FAREWELL TO ARMS (1932)
A classic of its kind in its day, Frank Borzage’s overly short adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s overly long novel, dispenses with almost all the powerful telling of war and the detestability of it in favour of the love story between Frederic Henry, an ambulance driver in the Italian campaigns of World War One, and Catherine Berkley, a nurse. The ending is also altered into something resembling a trope towards peace. Hemingway’s bitter conclusion is diluted. Indeed, the whole war is virtually excised. It’s there, barely, but Borzage, or more accurately, screenwriters Benjamin Glazer and Oliver Garrett remove everything but a montage sequence of some might showing Henry’s struggles as he deserts his service to pursue true love. Had a few more scenes of this kind been utilised, A Farewell to Arms may have stood the test of time as a first-rate war film of tenderness and power. As it is, the one and a quarter hours passes fast and fresh and by the time you’re attached to the protagonists, they’ve gone. Adolphe Menjou is more than adequate as Henry’s superior Major Rinaldi, but he’s not really got enough screen time to properly gnash his teeth on. Ditto the leads: Gary Cooper, very good – Hemingway begged him to star in it – and Helen Hayes, simpering at best. She’s hopelessly miscast and it shows.
Borzage was one of Hollywood’s top directors at the time. He’d won a couple of Oscars and proves very innovative here. Two sequences stand out. When Henry is injured and enters a military hospital, the action is shown from his POV, including views of the chapel ceiling – predestining his death, perhaps? – and a superb close-up of Helen Hayes as she bends to kiss him, the screen filling slightly out-of-focus with just her eye socket. The second sequence comes later as Hayes recites a letter she’s written describing her gorgeous apartment; as she does so, the camera arcs around the actual, desolate, raggedy room. Charles Lang was a talented black and white photographer, which helps. Some scenes are played almost like a silent movie, the sentences of dialogue secondary to the action. This is true particularly of the aforementioned montage where incidents happen to music, not with words.
Hemingway hated the film and I can see why, as the human interest of the novel was much broader than simply the romance, crossing into the realms of morality, of the impact of killing, suffering and death and its potential impact on the destruction of human civilisation. A money spinner in its day; a but undercooked for 2021.
WRATH OF MAN, with Jason Statham.
We really, really liked this. I'm going to refrain from plot details as the film took me by surprise in a number of areas, so I'll just say this: it's really intense with some Act 2 revelations that I was not expecting at all going into the film. Also, the third act kinda reminded me of the bank robbery scene in HEAT in terms of intensity and overall feel. I mean that as a compliment.
It's not your typical Guy Ritchie film. The camera work and the editing is not as kinetic as usual and the level of humor is not as pronounced as usual. If you're hoping for another SNATCH or ROCKNROLLA, you're not going to get it here.
Statham's great here, by the way.
John Wick (2014)
Earlier this week I watched my first John Wick movie ever. How is this possible, you may ask. Back when the first movie in the series was new I read that it was a about a man going om a bloody rampage to avenge his dog. His dog! 😲
Not his wife, daughter, brother or father. His dog. I figured I needed to draw a line in the sand. I've seen a few American action/disaster movies where all the survivors with speaking parts risk everyone's life to save the family dog, but this was the last straw to me. Many years have passed and sequels have been made. It has dawned on me that this is a series of well-made and very successful movies, som I decided to watch the first one.
The dog issue was solved as well as it possibly could have been, but it's still plenty silly. I accept it because the movie is high quality and the action is very well done. I wished the fight scenes in future Bond movies will be this good. Keanu Reeves is a fine action lead and he has obviously worked very hard to do those fight scenes om camera, and we can see clearly what's going on. Imagine if QoS was made like this -it could have been a fan favorite! The water plot is after all less silly than the dog.
If you reduce it to 'they kill his dog', it is indeed pretty silly. It's what the dog symbolizes that's important, and that's conveyed quite strongly in the film to the point that you go 'yeah, I'd go on a rampage too.' Indeed, Michael Nyqvist has an amazing scene where he lays it all out as to WHY killing the dog was a big deal.
The action is indeed first rate. Much has been said about what a breath of fresh air the film is in terms of depicting violence. Not much has been said about the sense of humor.
I also love the whole world that's created with the assassins. It's further explored in the sequels but the fact that they have their own currency and network of safehouse hotels is fascinating. Just some great stuff.
If you watch the sequels, please post your thoughts.
The "avenging his dog" story line was, like I store, solved in the best possible way. I still think all that voilence because a dog was killed is a bit bizzare.
I should have mentioned the hitman subculture because it was the best non-action aspect of the movie.
you know the only part I ever saw was the scenes with the dog! it was a very nice dog, a beagle pup, my favourite kind of dog.
Once the dog disappeared from the story I switched to something else because I don't like Keanu Reeves.
Now... if the bad guys killed Keanu Reeves after the first scene and the rest of the movie was about that cute beagle fighting to avenge him, then that'd be a film I'd watch.
Me too! 🤣
Yesterday I took in THE GREEN KNIGHT, based on the classic poem "Sir Gawain and the. . ." most English majors have read at some time or other. It's that rare breed: a special effects-laden summer film that is also deliberately paced and contemplative, forcing you to think about the moral situation Gawain (Dev Patel) is in. Literary geeks like me will be happy that the source poem is more or less represented in the screenplay, and there are moments from Spenser and even Ambrose Bierce. Give it a shot!
THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO (1944)
The Doolittle Raid of 1942, as told on film two years after the actual event. I’m always slightly nervous when watching a war film made within the duration of the conflict. Will it be a full on propaganda piece? Or will it be a film that stands up after the event? I think this film falls into the latter category. I don’t claim to be a well read historian, especially in connection to the raid in question, but the film does a good job of telling the events as I know them. The film boasts a good cast including Van Johnson, Spencer Tracy, Roberts Walker and Mitchum. However, like a number of other old war movies it includes a dull domestic subplot involving one of the pilots and his wife. As tedious as this can be, the flying scenes are nicely shot featuring genuine period aircraft and some decent model work. At 140 minutes it’s a bit overlong - Cutting some of the soapie bits would have helped. In the last 2 decades we’ve had retellings of the Doolittle Raid from Michael Bay (rubbish) and Roland Emmerich (much better). I enjoyed seeing an account made during the time period of the actual events. Recommended for WWII movie fans.
I agree with everything you've said, including the fact that the film could stand to lose about 20 minutes to tighten things up.
As to historical accuracy: the movie actually happened and is based upon the memoir of the Van Johnson character. By all accounts, the film is extremely accurate regarding the training, the raid itself, and the aftermath (including what happens to everyone, including their injuries).
Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die, 1966
Dino De Laurentiis's entry into the mid60s spyspoof craze
stars Michael Connors from Mannix as a completely forgettable CIA agent investigating a case in Rio de Janeiro. Film opens with a spectacular chase scene inside and on top of the giant sized Christ the Redeemer statue. Like the ending of Hitchcock's Saboteur. Not so slick maybe as the gondola scene in Moonraker but more dangerous looking, Mannix even did his own stuntwork because the real stuntman said "wuddaya think I'm crazy? I'm not doing that!"
Mannix is investigating a typical charming Latin playboy character with dozens of stunningly beautiful ladyfriends who keep disappearing. Latest ladyfriend is played by Dorothy Provine (Milton Berle's wife from It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and more relevantly Rip Torn's wife from The Man from UNCLE: One Spy Too Many). Turns out she's a British agent, and she plays it just like Lady Penelope from Thunderbirds. She is by far the best part of this film. She rides around in the back seat of a Rolls Royce driven by her chauffeur, played by Terry-Thomas. also from It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. He also is a far more memorable character than Mannix.
When the American and British spies finally recognise each other, there is a scene were Lady Penelope pulls a variety of girlish accoutrements from her dainty purse and they are all deadly gadgets, that's how Mannix ID's her as British Intelligence. sound familiar?
The Rolls itself is full of endless gadgets, and when cornered in a chase across the mountain switchbacks, camouflages itself as an advertising billboard. Yes there is a prominently placed advertising billboard along a mountain road outside of Rio. sound familiar? Sorry I didn't take notice what product was being placed.
as for the villains diabolical plot...
...he is deriving a poisonous gas from orchids that causes sterility. He is about to launch a rocket that will release the gas into the atmosphere and sterilize the entire planet. Except somehow for himself, and the dozens of missing beautiful women who he has kept cryogenically frozen...
...final scenes take place in a rather impressive villains headquarters, complete with countdown til doomsday...
... though the important bit where Lady Penelope escapes the rocket and her chauffeur sabotages it are not shown, just exposited about afterwards...
...That's kinda weird, like a missing reel, yet the dialog acknowledges the crucial scenes are absent.
A while back I watched a cheapie EuroSpy film (008: Operation Exterminate) with scenes in Cairo that seemed prototypical of the first half of the Spy Who Loved Me. EON couldn't actually used the contents of Fleming's book so had to look for plot ideas elsewhere, fair enough. But that similarity was minor and probably coincidental compared to this. Moonraker on the other hand was a perfectly good thriller novel that EON had the full rights to, I wonder why they threw out so much of Fleming's plot just to replace it with so much of this? Did anybody notice at the time, or was this film already completely forgotten by 1979?
JUNGLE CRUISE (2021)
This film liberally steals from much better films like the first PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, THE MUMMY (1999), and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE and creates a fairly OK piece of entertainment that is perfect to have on in the background while you fold laundry.
Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt have decent chemistry together. They're trying to recapture that Brendan Fraser/Rachel Weisz magic from THE MUMMY and not quite succeeding. She also has a brother who's along for the ride (Jack Whitehall instead of John Hannah) and provides some comic relief as well as some pathos.
The villains are fairly weak. You've got a German prince who is trying to secure the McGuffin for Germany to help them win WW1 and you've got some cursed 400 year old conquistadors who also need the McGuffin to break their curse. If the focus had been on ONE of those villains, it may have worked better; dividing the focus between the two kinda lessens the stakes, in my opinion.
I won't say anything to spoil the plot. Just know that almost every scene in the film will remind you of another movie where that scene was done better.
The main letdown in the film is with the CGI special effects. It's truly substandard in execution. Creatures and objects don't look fully rendered and have that weightless feeling to them that took me out of the film in many instances. Luckily, you have Dwayne and Emily to otherwise get you through a lot of those issues through sheer willpower.
Mild recommendation if you need to kill some time.
This old thread may be of interest- 'A View To A Kill' - ripped off? — ajb007
I'm sure this subject has come up in another thread which I remember contributing to, but I can't remember the details. I do remember seeing "Kiss The Girls..." in the cinema and enjoying it, though!
@caractacus potts thanks for that review. I've wanted to watch Kiss the Girls... for some time. You've rather whetted my appetite. I think you're right in that a lot of the Euro-Spy movies were forgotten- some almost as soon as they were made ! But perhaps not by Christopher Wood...
THE VAULT (2021), currently on Netflix.
This is an excellent, excellent heist picture. It's nice and intense and never cheats the audience. Well directed and paced, it maintains a nice intensity with enough character moments to keep you engaged with the people that you're watching. The settings and the sets are interesting and well designed without being OVER-designed. It all feels real and the quality acting from everyone involved keeps you immersed.
Very, very good film. I want a sequel to this NOW.
Out of Africa (1985)
Sidney Pollack's multi-Oscar winning movie is just as good as remembered it. The characters are layered and interesting, the acting very good, the story is moving and the locations exotic and breath-taking. I didn't notice Robert Redford's accent when I watched it at the cinema, but an American accent simply sounds wrong from enyone named Denis Finch-Hatton 😂
The director now regrets not making the movie in widescreen, but other than that the movie seems flawless.
There are connections to Bond. Of cource there's the beautiful score by John Berry. Klaus-Maria got nominated to an Oscar for his role as Karen Blixen's husband, but we also ser Michael Kitchen as Finch-Hatton's friend.
I need to see that one again. Last time I saw it (which was over 20 years ago), I was not impressed with it and I can't remember why.
Jojo Rabbit (2019)
Zis mofie iz brilliant und I order yoo all to go zee it!
This movie is about the ten year old boy Jojo who's in the Hitler Youth and has Hitler as his imaginary friend. Scarlett Johansson plays his single mother does what she can in a crazy world, Sam Rockwell is the flamboyant war veteran Hitler Youth leder and Taika Waititi (What we do in the shadows, The hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok) both directs and plays imaginary Hitler. One day Jojo discovers his mother is hiding a teenager Jewish girl (Thomasin Mackenzie) in the attic. I saw the young actress in "Leave no trace" earlier. She's an up-and-coming star. Jojo is a fanatical nazi, but he can't tell the Gestapo because they'll take his mother if he does. The tone of the movie is bizzare and comical, but it also has pathos and bite when needed. There is a lot more to be said about Jojo Rabbit, but basically it's a big mistanke not to watch it.
In this 1950s psychological chiller, a stalker infiltrates the wedding of his former wife and - by way of Southern charm - sets about sabotaging it by ingratiating himself with her family - casting aspersions and insinuations, and carrying out a subtle, gaslighting character assassination of his first wife. First insulting her to her face, then conjuring up memories of happier times by offering a sick wedding present consisting of the yacht on which they honeymooned. It is a chilling masterclass in coercive control, with the humiliation of the groom-to-be as a callous afterthought.
The final scene, in which the narcissist walks the bride into the church to re-marry her - watched by the unsuspecting friends and family of the groom - is possibly the most sadistic and disturbing end to a film, on a par with the church finale in Cruel Intentions.
The films was remade as simply Society in the 1980s, though the ending was made very different - though equally disturbing.
Napoleon, that was hilarious! 😀😀😀😀
At 2am I remembered I'd missed out the way the blue-eyed Southern sociopath plies the bride to be with alcohol all the better to frame her so she thinks she slept with somebody but didn't.
My last film watched... COME AND SEE (1985 - Elem Klimov)
This is a film that I've been eager to watch for quite a while. It has the distinction of having the second highest average user rating on Letterboxd. It is also a World War II film, which is one of my favourite subjects in film. Made in Soviet Union in mid-80s, it depicts a teenage boy's experiences in Belarus during the latter stages of the war.
Sometimes anticipating that a film is going to be great can be detrimental to the experience and I was a little concerned that would be the case here. For the first 90 minutes or so I was enjoying the film, but not as much as I'd hoped. But then the last 45 minutes or so blew me away with both the brutality of the events depicted, as well as the filmmaking technique. It is an extraordinary film, not just in the sense of being very good, but also in that it is not quite like anything I've ever seen before. I particularly enjoyed some of the subtle camera movement, the use of the old-fashioned 'academy' aspect ratio and the repeated use of close-up portraits of the characters which are particularly striking in the nearly square shaped frame. Also in the latter stages some split-diopter cinematography gives certain compositions a particularly unique look. The central performance by the young teenager Aleksei Kravchenko is also quite striking, his face vividly displaying the horror of war as he transforms from a fresh-faced child at the beginning of the film to a worn and haggard looking figure by the end.
It's a film that was hard to digest on first viewing and no doubt I will go back and rewatch it in the future, but it is certainly a film that will linger in my mind for a good long while.
THE SUICIDE SQUAD. Note the THE. This is not SUICIDE SQUAD, the godawful mess from five years ago--the director of which has since disowned and suggested that Warner Bros. did to him what they did to Zack Snyder and JUSTICE LEAGUE--this is a sequel/reboot/apology that is an absolute blast from start to finish. Margot Robbie (IMHO the best actress--if I can still use that term--working today) as Harley Quinn is the one member of the original squad who returns for this outing (Jai Courtney only cameos as Captain Boomerang, and Joel Kinneman and Viola Davis are back as the squad's controllers), but she's only one delight here. Fast, funny, foul-mouthed and gleefully violent--if you like your superhero movies, you'll like this.
Hi HB, thanks for recommending Cruella a few months back - that was a blast.
Would I need to see Suicide Squad before The Suicide Squad? Would it benefit me in any way? I haven't seen either.
There is nothing good about Suicide Squad ...
I remember each Squad member got two introduction sequences before the "plot" even started 😂
Hi NP--no, the new film rehashes the premise of the first in about five seconds and that's all you need. It stands alone. And I will disagree with Number24 on one thing--the first SUICIDE SQUAD had one good thing: it introduced Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn. Every time she was on screen the proceedings perked up and I kept wishing for a solo movie about her. WB/DC pretty well delivered with BIRDS OF PREY and now this.
You have no need whatsoever to see the first film. None.
Thank you all for your responses! I may pop along to see it this week - I tend to pick a matinee and see how many folk are there, I prefer even more to go for the John Travolta sitting alone in a theatre in Get Shorty experience these days, due to Covid.
Hmmm. did the Bond trailer get shown with it? Still trying to avoid that (in UK screenings). Some British posters may recall the Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads episode where Bob and Terry try to avoid hearing the results of a football match until they can sit down in the evening with a couple of cans and enjoy it... it's a bit like that for me, only spread out over two years or so!
This recent low-key suspense drama passed me by at the time but I caught it on UK's Classic Movies channel last night. It features Diane Kruger - with whom I'm unfamiliar - as an undercover operative of the title who works for Mossad (the sweetener for her involvement wasn't clear to me, I may have left the room at that time) and is encouraged to work in Tehran to, over time, gather information on the State. Her 'handler' is played by Martin Freeman, a name familiar to every Brit, due to his role in the original Office. This actor has had a remarkable career - he was good in The Office but you'd never imagine he'd have gone to to appear in Sherlock, the US Fargo or other reputable big screen movies, esp as his follow-up after The Office was a basic sitcom set in a hardware store - not rubbish but not great either.
The film starts off with some John Barry Bond-like music and I don't know who wrote it but they should be in consideration. It is an infiltration movie not dissimilar to Hitchcock's Notorious. You can't call it a thriller really but it is an absorbing quality effort. It doesn't play the three-card trick that most movies do to make the thing appear more interesting than it really is (the film is based on a book) but it has what so many of these current thrillers lack - authenticity. Among its jet-setting it takes you into Tehran (or appears to) and your eyes are opened to the flavour of the place. Iranians are not depicted unfavourably but the Mossad agents are shown to have a hard, ruthless side as befits their job. There isn't really a false or cheating note in the movie, which makes it unusual. The leads - indeed the whole cast - are brilliant.
Some complain about the abrupt ending which I won't reveal but if you paid attention throughout you may get it or, like me, think you do.