Monday, March 29, 2010

Poseidon Adventure (1972) Ronald Neame

Big boat - Carol Lynley sings Oscar winning “Morning After” - Big wave - UpsideDownBoat - Survivors climb to bottom, now top - Big Shelley Winters swims - 1970s disaster movie-craze explodes - Big stars make big money

Gene Hackman - Ernest Borgnine - Red Buttons - Roddy McDowall - Stella Stevens - Jack Albertson - Arthur O’Connell - Leslie Nielson

“Swimming through corridors and up and down stairwells, I’m the only one trained to do things like that.”

Catch Me If You Can (2002) Steven Spielberg

This is the true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr, who over the course of several years, successfully impersonated a lawyer, professor, airline pilot, and a doctor, cashing more than two million dollars in fraudulent checks. Leonardo DiCaprio is wonderful as the talented Abagnale, who's always on the run from FBI agent, Tom Hanks.

There's a bit of sentimentality here and there, revolving around loneliness and Christmas Eve, but some is needed to explain Abagnale's motivations. Christopher Walken does a nice job playing DiCaprio's father and there are also appearances by Martin Sheen and Jennifer Garner. (The real Frank Abagnale makes a cameo appearance at the end as a French policeman but his face can barely be seen.)

I have many favorite scenes in the movie not the least of which takes place in the Miami International Airport. Abagnale slides through the security net, surrounded by stewardess-wanna-bes, accompanied by Sinatra singing "Come Fly With Me."

Beautifully filmed by Spielberg, this is a great adventure that you need to experience.

"I'm not a doctor. I'm not a lawyer, or a Harvard graduate, or a Lutheran."
"You're not a Lutheran?"

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Titanic (1997) James Cameron

Big Boat - Poor Boy (Leonardo DiCaprio) - Rich Girl (Kate Winslet) - Big Iceburg - Boat Sinks - Captain (Bernard Hill) Goes Down with Ship - Boy Dies - Girl Lives - Celine Dion Sings

"So, you wanna go to a real party?"

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Life Of Her Own (1950) George Cukor

This melodrama is not a favorite of mine but is notable for the more minor roles. Lana Turner and Ray Milland are the “stars” but their characters are not that likable. Watch for the small parts played by Jean Hagen (later the hilarious Lina Lamont in “Singin’ in the Rain”), Kathleen Freeman, Richard Anderson, Percv Helton, and the ever-movie-present Whit Bissell. Tom Ewell is great in the beginning of the movie as the fast-talking manager of the modeling agency. The beautiful Ann Dvorak plays her part well as the washed up model, and Barry Sullivan puts in a good performance as the slightly sleazy “friend” of Turner’s. The always likable Louis Calhern plays the Turner-Milland go-between.

In a nutshell, Lana becomes a famous model, falls in love with married Ray Milland, meets his wife (a nice performance by Margaret Phillips) and must decide how to proceed, or not, with these parties and with rest of her life. The movie has its moments but isn’t one I can watch again and again. Of special note is the haunting theme music composed by Bronislau Kaper that is featured frequently throughout the film, including in the piano bar. The piece later became known as “Invitation” as it was featured in the movie of the same name several years later. (The music haunted me enough to find a CD of the film music of Kaper.), But back to the movie: watch it with low expectations and with appreciation for the minor characters and the music.

Side Street (1950) Anthony Mann

A black and white New York City is the star of this movie, along with Farley Granger and director, Anthony Mann. Cinematography (Joseph Ruttenberg) and camera angles make this film worth watching for those alone. You’ll be mesmerized by the light and shadows, aerial views of the city, and the gritty street scenes. But the acting is also superb.

Granger is completely believable as a man who wants to do the right thing, makes a bad mistake, and bears the consequences as everything spirals out of control. Jean Hagen has a small but memorable role as a nightclub singer (interestingly, her singing is dubbed, as she will later be famously dubbed in “Singin’ in the Rain”). James Craig has a strong role as a bad guy and is convincingly sinister. Paul Kelly plays a detective and also the narrator; stylistically, the movie begins and ends like a documentary (“This is the story of Joe Norson...”). And during the first few minutes of the movie, the narrator provides statistics of New Yorkers with various police and street scenes. The friendly, all-good, ever-present police piece is a funny little oddity but it sets up the movie well.

Gravel-voiced Charles McGraw has a small part as a detective (look for him in “Narrow Margin” instead). And Adele Jergens makes a brief appearance as a beautiful, cold, calculating, and not-so-lucky blackmailer.

If you’re a fan of artful film-making, you need to see this movie. And don’t miss a second of the chase scene at the end of the movie. Besides Harry Bellaver as the cabbie with second thoughts, the street-scene cinematography will amaze you.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hobson’s Choice (1954) David Lean

This is a great Charles Laughton film and a comedy to boot. Laughton plays this comedic role a little over the top sometimes but will make you laugh out loud. Dialogue is snappy and acting is superb throughout the entire film. Brenda De Banzie, as the oldest daughter, gives a very strong performance, and John Mills, as her husband, is so impressive as he transforms from a timid bootmaker to a confident, strong, business owner.

Musical scoring (Malcolm Arnold, composer; Muir Mathieson, musical director) wonderfully enhances the most humorous scenes. When you see the movie, you’ll know what I mean. The black and white cinematography (Jack Hildyard) is beautifully done as are Lean’s camera shots, particularly those high above the characters.
For Fawlty Towers fans, look for Prunella Scales as one of the younger sisters. She famously played Sybil Fawlty, John Cleese's wife in the TV series back in the 1970s.
Once again, I will not reveal the plot (other than the clue regarding John Mills) so as to not spoil the movie for anyone. But it’s great little production and well worth your time.

Star of Midnight (1935) Stephen Roberts

This is a really entertaining and funny movie, and a great William Powell vehicle. He sort of plays his "Thin Man" character (well maybe more than "sort of"), this time paired with Ginger Rogers who holds her own as his wants-to-get-married girlfriend. Powell plays the witty, sophisticated mystery-solver and has some of the best lines in the movie (e.g., "That's the silliest thing you've ever said, and that's covering a lot of ground"). It's a twisted (in a good way) mystery storyline and I'd be surprised if you can solve it before the end.

Some familiar faces featured include Paul Kelly, Ralph Morgan, J Farrell MacDonald, and Gene Lockhart as the butler. Watch it if you get a chance.

Rogers to Powell: "You're wonderful." Powell to Rogers: "That's common knowledge." And he is.

Romance in Manhattan (1935) Stephen Roberts

This is not a good movie but it is interesting to watch because of Ginger Rogers, Francis Lederer, J Farrell MacDonald, and Jimmy Butler (who was later killed in World War II). Arthur Hohl is also notable as the crooked lawyer and Donald Meek makes one of his hundreds of movie appearances as the minister.

Rear-projection filming is heavily used (it is 1935 after all), and although there are musical credits given for the movie, the film plays without a musical score.

Catch it if you're a Ginger Rogers fan or if you enjoy watching the historical transitions of movie-making.