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Another Satisfying Martin Scorsese Film!
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore is an entertaining, well-respected film created by the legendary Martin Scorsese. Marty opened the eyes of movie-lovers all over the world with his 1973 film, 'Mean Streets." He further opened eyes a year later with this film. Despite the film be entertaining to watch, it also shows the director has better days ahead of him. Through all of cinema history, an issue in Hollywood has always been women and their lack of representation. I think it was a necessary, but bold move for Marty to tackle a film that shows life through a woman's eyes. On the whole, the film smoothly changes between drama and comedy. There are some intense dramatic moments, but there are some laugh-out-loud moments. Especially when it came to the interactions between mother and son.
Martin Scorsese's film is about a woman named Alice, who is a housewife. After her abusive husband dies in an accident, Alice embarks on a road trip with her only son to find a better life for themselves. But that is easier said than done. Alice learns many things about life as well that finding love may still exist.
The film features many fine performances, with Ellen Burstyn in particular. She does a mighty fine job as Alice, the woman seeking a new life. Her interactions with her son are rather nutty and quite genius. Speaking of which, Alfred Lutter does a good job as her son. He can be annoying sometimes, rather admittedly. Kris Kristofferson does a good job in one of his first roles as a romantic interest of Alice. Finally, I liked Diane Ladd's performance as the waitress co-worker of Alice who gets through lifer with quite an attitude.
Overall, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore is a really good dramedy about searching for meaning in life. It may not be Martin Scorsese's best feature, but he is learning fast. The story and the performances are top-notch, given the very low budget. But sometimes the tone of the film and how it can quickly change takes me out of the film every here and then. But it's a well-written film that delivers consistent performances and now we all know what to expect from a Scorsese film.
My Grade: B+
Nicholas and Alexandra (1971)
A Beautiful, Forgotten Epic!
Nicholas and Alexandra is one of those films that no one has ever seen, and unfortunately no one ever will. It's essentially one of those long-forgotten epics. But if you have seen the film, it's a film you'll never regret seeing. It's long and sometime can be tedious to sit through, but it's a very fascinating history lesson. One of the big films of 1971 was "Fiddler on the Roof," which viewed Russian life through the eyes of the peasantry. Now this film takes place during the Russian Revolution, through the eyes of the monarchy. The film talks about the tragic rule of Czar Nicholas ll, which led to the abdication of the throne and the collapse of the monarchy. The film is very romantic in the sense of being very beautiful to look at. The art direction is splendid and the costume design seems realistic for the time period it was set in.
Franklin J. Schaffner's film tells the story about Czar Nicholas ll, the monarch who showed indifference towards the peasants, in which caused over seven million deaths. Now being forced to fight in the Great War, the Russian people have had enough. The cities are being torn apart with riots. People and factions, such as the Bolsheviks, are plotting to overthrow the government. So Nicholas decides to abdicate the throne and he and his family are exiled in the frigid land of Siberia.
I think the acting was solid. The two leads are actors I have never heard of until my viewing of the film, but I was impressed at what I saw. Michael Jayston does well as Nicholas ll, and even has similar looks. He does a good job at showing indifference towards practically everything. Maybe he overacted with his facial expressions, but he did a rather good job. I really liked Janet Suzman's performance as the influential wife of Nicholas, Alexandra. She has great chemistry with not only Jayston, but also Tom Baker who portrayed the mystical Rasputin, a self-proclaimed man of God. We also get some good supporting turns from the likes of Laurence Olivier, Ian Holm, Brian Cox, and Jack Hawkins.
Overall, Nicholas and Alexandra is a beautiful film to look at mainly because of those fantastic period designs. The story is also very meaningful as it describes one of the world's most infamous revolutions to ever have happened. This is not the best epic set within this era. I believe that honor goes to Doctor Zhivago. I would have loved to see more about the revolution. The story itself seems impacted because the revolution itself wasn't the most significant part of the story. I would have loved to seen more of Lenin or Trotsky. But on the whole, I really enjoyed watching this tragic story of what happened to end Czarist Russia.
My Grade: A-
Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
Rather Strong Musical!
Fiddler on the Roof is a solid musical and is actually a little better than I anticipated. Set in pre-revolutionary Russia, this film describes the life of Jewish peasantry and how their way of life faces off against more modern times. I found the movie to be quite a learning experience, as my knowledge of Russian history really begins at the Bolshevik takeover. This is the earliest film I remember seeing of legendary composer, John Williams. He does a magnificent job adapting the music from stage to screen. I loved some of the songs such as "Tradition" and "If I was a rich man." For the most part, I loved the choreography. However, I was oddly bothered at some of the dancing, especially from Topol's character. It just didn't seem to strike a chord with me. I loved the production design and the cinematography. Despite its advancing age, the film still looks beautiful.
Norman Jewison's film is a musical that takes place in pre-revolutionary Russia. A country that is struggling to modernize itself. Perhaps some of the reason is the Jewish peasants, who believe in their traditions. Tevye is a milkman who is poor and lives with his wife and five daughters. As the matchmaker suggests matches for his eldest daughters, Tevye has to deal with changing ways of life as his family attempts to break tradition.
If you want to see a popular film that has a no-name cast, don't look further than this film. Until my initial viewing of this film, I have never heard of anyone in this cast. But I feel they all do reasonably well in their roles. Topol does a good job as Tevye. He looks to be an old man, but he was only in his 30's when this film was released. His singing was pretty good too. The pain he shows as he realizes tradition is crumbling all around him is pretty darn heart-breaking. The rest of the cast features unknown names such as Norma Crane as Golde, Tevye's wife and Leonard Frey as Motel, a lover of Tevye's eldest daughter.
Overall, Fiddler on the Roof is an often entertaining musical filled with excellent songs and a score that puts the majestic John Williams on the map. The choreography is hit or miss and the film feels a little stretched. But the film does a good job in portraying peasant life during Czarist Russia and how difficult life can be for them, and how tradition unites their people. The beginning and end shots are beautiful, and what gives this movie the title it has. They are my favorite shots of the movie.
My Grade: B+
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Surprisingly Poignant and Realistic!
The Last Picture Show is a very poignant coming-of-age story set amidst a dying Texas town, culturally and economically. That adds a sadness to the story. A sadness about changing times and the new way of life replacing the old way of life. That is a recurring theme in the film. I loved the use of black and white photography, which helps those themes. The film explores many things all teens go through such as exploring their sexuality, keeping friendships intact, graduating high school, and moving on to the next stage of life. The film explores all of those very well. The film is set in a town where everyone knows each other, which in turn enables the viewers to get to know the characters better.
Peter Bogdanovich's film has a plot that is hard to describe, other than to say it is about growing up in a town that weeps of the past. Sonny Crawford is the main character here. He was a co-captain of his football team along with his best friend Duane. Sonny just broke up with his rather tasteless girl, while Duane dates the hottest girl in town. Sonny enters an affair with the middle-aged wife of the football coach, thus showing how far this town can get you.
The film has many fine actors in it. Timothy Bottoms does an underrated job as Sonny. I really loved Jeff Bridge's performance as Duane, the guy who seems to have it all. Other performances to keep an eye on are Ben Johnson as the fatherly figure and most important man in town, Sam the Lion. And Cloris Leachman as Ruth, the wife Sonny has an affair with. She has quite a few powerful scenes.
Overall, The Last Picture Show is a better film than I expected. A beautiful, poignant film about the pains of growing up. The tone is often bitter and sad. We don't often see happiness in the picture, from beginning to end. But we see our characters make most of their lives and that is what matters. All of the sad moments or in other words, the realism influence just how powerful this movie is, set against the 1950's Texas background. There are many great scenes, but I loved the funny scene involving running away from Texas just to head to Kansas. If you want a movie about growing up, this should be your first film to watch.
My Grade: A
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
A Breath-taking Film!
McCabe and Mrs. Miller is another excellent film that helped define the era of film in the 1970's. The decade where "New Hollywood" is off and running. This movie has that authentic 70's feel and it's the slow burn western drama that you would expect to see in the late 1960's, early 1970's. The movie takes its time, but I found the film incredibly engaging because of the performances of Warren Beatty and Julie Christie. I loved the scenery shots of the film, and it really made the Pacific Northwest look beautiful. Another thing that stood out to me is the soundtrack made by the great Leonard Cohen, a gifted songwriter. His songs worked well with the film and it breathed more life into this western.
Robert Altman's film is about a businessman named John McCabe who builds a whorehouse in a remote Western town. Soon after his new tavern is built, Mrs. Miller arrives and she offers herself as a business partner to McCabe's booming business. Soon after that, several businessmen arrives asking to buy McCabe's business, but his answer may bring consequences to himself, Mrs. Miller, and the whole town.
Also prevalent in 70's movies are films that don't rely on big casts. This film is an example of that statement. The only two big name stars are Beatty and Andrews. They both are excellent, and both share on screen compatibility. I love how the film doesn't really push a romance between the two characters. There is no doubt a sense of affection and perhaps a tough love for each other, but no falling in love kind of thing. At least it wasn't obvious.
Overall, McCabe and Mrs. Miller is a very impressive film. The film takes its time to tell the story and sometimes that is a cause of frustration. But I fell deeply in love with the characterization and I wanted to see what happens to both main characters. The tone is often gritty and dark, which I enjoyed. Once again, the film is just beautiful to look at, even without the technology used in today's film. Altman made himself noticeable with MASH, but he opened my eyes with McCabe and Mrs. Miller.
My Grade: A-
An Impressive Satire!
Bananas is a very early Woody Allen film, the second film on his resume if I remember correctly. It's a small film, but it's one that opened the eyes of everyone to the comedic talents of Woody Allen. His flair for dialogue and comedic timing, both as a director and an actor, is prevalent. He also exercises his skill for dialogue, and this film is full of fresh, wonderful dialogue. Coming off the Vietnam War and world-known trouble in Latin America, this film was ripe for opportunity and Allen seized his chance. I love the satirical tone of the film, as it lambasts everything from politics to relationships. The movie doesn't take itself seriously, and that is evident from such scenes as commentating on a sexual encounter as if it's a boxing match and the main protagonist becoming a dictator of a country. It's all quite funny, if you are willing to suspend your belief.
Woody Allen's film is about a man named Fielding Mellish who is a consumer products tester. When his girlfriend dumps him, he decides to go to the fictional South American country of San Marcos for a vacation. But he gets caught in the political turmoil of that country, which is led for him to being nabbed by the FBI.
The film doesn't have any stars to speak of, maybe other than Allen himself. He's quite funny and he delivers his own dialogue with expertise. If you don't believe, look no further than the courtroom scene, where he cross-examines himself. His girlfriend was played by newcomer Louise Lasser, and she does a really good job of coming across as the bored girl of the relationship. If you look closely, you may spot a cameo of Sylvester Stallone, before his Rocky days. I also loved the commentary delivered none other than Howard Coswell, one of the commentators on ABC's Wide World of Sports.
Overall, Bananas is a sharp, witty motion picture that has the customary humor we expect from Woody Allen. This really isn't one of those romantic comedies he is good at making, but rather a satire against politics. This isn't the best film to come from him. There were moments I felt the comedy was forced, especially when it came to the relationships. But on the whole, a very enjoyable film.
My Grade: B+
A Rather Bland Anti-War Film!
Following along the lines of M.A.S.H and this film, Catch-22, both war movies from 1970, Hollywood was at the point where it began making anti-war movies following America's unpopular involvement in Vietnam. While M.A.SH was actually a rather fun movie following a second viewing, I really couldn't get on board with this film. Not to say it was a terrible film. But it just wasn't an appealing film, despite the pedigree of the cast and the director. There are some amusing moments for sure, but most of the comedy didn't register with me and the one word that comes to mind is blandness. Not bad nor good, but just mediocrely bland. I totally understand the themes of the movie and what the film is trying to say, so I do appreciate the film making it easy to apply its themes.
Mike Nichol's film is about a military captain named Yossarian who had enough of fighting in the Mediterranean front during the second world war. Other that driving his fellow army members crazy, he decides to do anything possible to be labeled insane so he can be sent home and away from the war.
One of the positive things about the film is the rather stacked cast. While I had script and direction issues, the cast was not the problem. Alan Arkin turns in a delightedly zany performance as Yossarian, and I can guess this is one of the films that put him on the map. Other stand out performances were Jon Voight's performance as one of the soldiers, who had a memorable scene near the end near the airfield. I also liked Orson Welles brief but formidable performance as the top general.
Overall, Catch-22 doesn't live up to the promise I saw in it based on the pedigree. Keep in mind, this is only Nichol's second film after his promising 1967 debut, "The Graduate." He does get better with his future films. His direction was subpar and the writing was weak, but thankfully the cast saves the film from being a complete failure. I admit I had some laughs and was easily entertained by Alan Arkin. I do like the ideas the film suggests, but it should have been told in a better way. Oh well, not all films can be perfect ones.
My Grade: C
A Fascinating Look at a Flawed Man!
From viewing the famous opening sequence of the 1970 war movie, "Patton," I knew what kind of epic I was in for. That opening sequence, with Patton addressing soldiers in front of a draped American flag, shows what kind of character General George S. Patton is. A bloodthirsty, vivid man who is overly fond of his colorful language as well as his hatred towards the Germans. This character is fully embodied by George C. Scott, who delivers such a mesmerizing performance. This is the oldest rule in the acting handbook, but I truly believe I was watching Patton barking orders on screen, not George Scott. I really enjoyed this sprawling war epic, which covered the years Patton served in the war. The film, while suggesting sympathy, tells an unflinching account about whom Patton was and why he wasn't well-liked amongst his superiors. Thanks to a wonderful screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola, the character of George Patton was brought to life on the big screen.
Franklin J. Schaffner's film celebrates the life of one of America's finest, but most eccentric generals. The film travels from his conquests over General Rommel in Libya to his downfall which led him not leading the troops at Normandy due to his big mouth and an incident where he slapped a solider. But the film shows him getting back at it by defeating Germans left and right as he marches closer and closer to Berlin.
George C. Scott had a wonderful career, but this may be his finest performance he has ever done. In a sense, Scott is almost like Patton. They share nearly the same kind of personality. Scott always seemed to have controversial comments. But that being said, Scott blended into the role of Patton very well. He definitely deserved that Oscar win. The other "big" actor in the film is Karl Malden, who played General Omar Bradley. He really doesn't have much to do, except to play third wheel to Scott's Patton. But in that case, I believe it is okay here. After all, this film is about George Patton.
Overall, Patton is an example on how to make an exemplary biography. It's an extremely wonderful movie thanks to a center magnificent performance by George C. Scott. This is also a war movie, but I was surprised at the lack of battle sequences. Now there were a few, but this was more character-focused than I expected. That is not a complaint, as I love these kind of movies. Now for what little battles we have, the sound and effects work were great. I also loved the score by Jerry Goldsmith, and his use of the pipe organ in the main theme honoring the religious overtone of Patton. This is a great movie that respectfully treats one of the most iconic names in American history.
My Grade: A
Good, Cheesy Fun!
So I confess that I have a love for disaster films, no matter what other people think of them. Thank heavens for movie subjectivity! Anyhow, Airport is a movie that is the pioneer for modern disaster movies, but I really enjoyed it. There are undeniably many flaws, but my gosh I had a blast watching the film and the campy tone gave the film spirit. My biggest flaw I had with the film is the scenes involving the personal lives of the manager. I mean, his pending divorce has nothing to do with the rest of the plot, including trying to save the plane. Other than that plot issue, I really had fun watching the granddaddy of all disaster films.
This film is about this airport that is stricken due to a blizzard. But even more serious problems arise when a bomb-damaged plane needs an emergency landing in order to save the people on the plane. The manager of the Lincoln Airport, Mel Bakersfield, has his hands full in trying to combat the weather and personnel in order to save the plane.
The film has a stacked cast full of Oscar nominees. Now while no one truly gives Oscar-worthy performances, there is no denying that they were solid performances. Burt Lancaster did a good job as Mel and Dean Martin as the head pilot, Vernon. Those performances came across as serious despite the campy tone, but they were still good. However, I felt the best performance came from Helen Hayes, a 70-year-old woman who makes a fuss about plane tickets which causes her to hitch airplane rides while avoiding authorities. Her comic relief was excellent, and maybe she did deserve that Oscar.
Overall, Airport is a fun disaster movie and in hindsight, it set the tone for the major disaster movies that will come in the future. It is a great movie? Not really. Is it a fun, entertaining movie? You bet it is! I am very amazed how this film achieved ten Oscar nominations. If this same film was released in 2015, it more likely would have received ten Razzie nominations. Oh how the time change! But on the whole, a really fun movie with some cool sequences including my favorite which was the bomb going off in the plane.
My Grade: B+/A-
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Midnight Cowboy is a very good movie, to say the least. I wasn't sure what to expect because of that controversial X-rating. But I was hearing this is one of the better influential films of the twentieth century, so I thought it was my duty to check it out. Now the film is about a close friendship that forged between two borderline criminals. How they go through life may not be endearing, but the friendship that is forged between them is very striking and moving. By the film's end, I have come to feel for the characters. The film does have a distinct overtone involving homosexuality, which is incredibly rare for a film in the 1960's. I think that is part of the controversy this film received. That being said, this is a fine work of art that stands to keep its hold in most influential films list.
John Schlesinger's film is about a Texas hustler named Joe Buck who decides to move east to explore opportunities involving money and women. But he quickly realizes that New York City is nothing like his Texas hometown. He meets this outcast named Ratso who decides to show him how to strike it rich in the Big Apple. As the adventures start sailing, an everlasting friendship is forged between the two men.
Now one thing that makes the film work the way it did was the outstanding performances. Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight have incredible chemistry with each other. Hoffman was coming off his role that fueled him to stardom in the Graduate and Voight just began what is the start of an incredible movie career. I really liked the makeup of the two characters. Voight, who is oblivious to the culture of the East with his cowboy attire in full swing while in the streets of NYC, and Hoffman who actually fits the name Ratso as I felt he resembled something of a human rat.
Overall, Midnight Cowboy is a fantastic movie. A movie about friendship. It was a heart-warming experience for me. The ending of the movie was very proper, if a tad emotional. I can see why people rave about this movie. Now this may not end up as my all-time favorite movie, but I'd certainly put it in my top 50 films. There are a few small flaws, but nothing that hurts the film in all. If you have doubts about Hoffman and Voight as great actors, just watch Midnight Cowboy.
My Grade: A
The Odd Couple (1968)
Through the history of Hollywood, there are always movies being made about best friends whether they are earnest dramas or cop comedies. But the main granddaddy of buddy films is the 1968 film, The Odd Couple. This is an enduring classic that certainly stands the test of time. Film technical quality has gotten better and the actors come and go, but no generation can deny the pleasure of the film. The film plays like a drawn-out soap opera at times, but than can be forgiven given the hijinks our main characters get themselves into, mainly over the issue of fussiness. But thanks to the immense charms of great real-life friends, Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, this is a really fun comedy to add to the collection.
This film is about a man named Felix who falls into a state of depression due to his break-up with his wife and he contemplates suicide. But his best friend, Oscar comes to the rescue by having him stay at his place. But Oscar begins to get fed up with his friend's tidy nature compared to his messy nature, and hilarious hijinks ensue.
This film mainly works due to its lead actors. Matthau and Lemmon are comedy legends and if anything, this movie shows why. They don't rely on potty humor for their comedy and instead, they use their natural ability to get the laughs. Just watching them throw insult after insult at each other is a doozy, even if the act starts to wear thin as the movie draws to a close. But nonetheless, I don't think this movie could work without that great chemistry between Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.
Overall, The Odd Couple is a solid, charming comedy that has Matthau and Lemmon on top of their game. Even if you despise these kind of films, I think not even the hard-hearted you could deny the charm of these two gentlemen. I also loved the interaction they had with the supporting cast, mainly with John Fiedler known as the nerdy guy in the 1956 classic, "12 Angry Men." I loved the score of the film and that main theme is stuck in my head. This film is rightfully hailed a comedy classic.
My Grade: A
The Graduate (1967)
A Resonating Story!
If there is one movie from the 1960's that my family loves to rave about, it's this film, the Graduate. I can see why my family loves this film. It's a coming-of-age film set in the time period my parents grew up. A childhood classic, my father would say. As for myself, a generation or two later, I found this to be mostly a great film. If I had a complaint, I would say the film is very outdated and it grew old
..fast. But the themes of post-college troubles are very much prevalent in today's world. I liked this film not only because of resonating themes, it's the movie that introduced us to the careers of a legendary director in Mike Nichols and a fantastic actor in Dustin Hoffman. I also liked the soundtrack created by the folk-rock duo, Simon and Garfunkel. Their songs are very catchy and easy to hum along to. Of course, now we all know where the song, "Mrs. Robinson" comes from.
Mike Nichol's film is about a young man named Ben who has just graduated from college. His parents expect great things out of him. At a homecoming party, he drives the wife of his father's business partner home and he begins an affair with Mrs. Robinson. But things get complicated when he falls for a girl named Elaine. But Elaine happens to be the daughter of Mrs. Robinson!
The film is very well-acted. Anne Bancroft does a wonderful job as the sexy, manipulative Mrs. Robinson. Dustin Hoffman shows everyone why he is a great actor. He kills every scene he is in. I think Katherine Ross did a solid job as Elaine, although we don't meet her until late in the film. For those who are fans of the 90's TV Show "Boy Meets World," you may recognize Mr. Feeney himself, William Daniels as Ben's father.
Overall, The Graduate may be a bit old and weary, but it tells such a wise story with great acting and fantastic music, that it's hard to not see pass those rusty pipes. As I said before, this film has themes that are easily prevalent nearly fifty years after the film's release. It's one of those coming-of-age stories that shall stand the test of time, even if only because of the themes. This is a very memorable film to say the least.
My Grade: B+
In Cold Blood (1967)
Will Chill Your Blood!
In Cold Blood is a slow-burn crime drama that some people will adore, and others maybe not so much. I was stuck in the middle, mainly because the pace is excruciating slow. But other than the slow pace, I did find many things to like about the film. I liked the tone of the film and the eerie nature it gives off. Being filmed in black-and-white gives authenticity to the film, which after all is based off the real crime. The location of the movie ties into that eeriness because the film was shot on the site of the actual murder, so we get to see how everything actually happened, or close to it at least. I loved the quiet, semi-jazzy score from Quincy Jones. Also I felt maybe the final half-hour of the film was the best part of the movie.
Richard Brook's film is about two men named Perry and Dick who are about to commit a robbery on a Kansas farm based off suspect information. When they realize they were not about to make the big score they had anticipated, they make sure not to keep their victims alive. Now the two men escape and flee to Mexico. But with law enforcement after them, their freedom may be running out.
The film is full of nice performances. At the time of release in 1967 and even by today's standard, there are really no big stars. But I felt the cast did a good job. Robert Blake does a solid job as Perry, the man with a conscience and a violent edge. Scott Wilson, more famous for playing Herschel in the Walking Dead television series, does an excellent job as the carefree Dick.
Overall, In Cold Blood is a solid crime drama. I felt it could have been much better given its slow, meandering pace, but the film is full of solid performances and it has a killer ending. I also felt intrigued as I learned about the actual crime, based off the research of Truman Capote. It was a very grisly crime, and I'm glad the movie did not skip the details of the crime. I actually thought, based off the first half of the film, that it would not show the crime. If that happened, I would have been thoroughly disappointed. I really like movies based off true stories, which is why I checked this film out. Not an entirely great film, but certainly chilling and enjoyable.
My Grade: B-
Fantastic Voyage (1966)
A Voyage Through the Human Body!
Fantastic Voyage is a wonderful, old-fashioned sci-fi adventure ripe with unique ideas. I like the idea about exploring the inside of a human body, something that hasn't been done much even at a time where original ideas are practically non-existent. The film is not all perfect, as the visual effects are very outdated, though it's still cool to look at. I also had an issue with some of the characterization, mainly with Raquel Welch's character. I had no idea what the point of her role was other than being eye candy. But for the most part, I had a fun time watching the movie and it was even a learning experience for me, learning about the human body. I also loved the score for the film. It wasn't so much a score as it was a sound effects party. In most cases, I would have been annoyed, but I felt such a score would belong in a film like this.
Richard Fleischer's film is about this scientist who is mortally wounded by gunfire, and he holds the secret to miniaturization that could be catastrophic if the information fell in the wrong hands. The CIA decides to do emergency brain surgery, but in order to do so, they most get miniaturized themselves and take a trip into the human body. Grant was hired to act as security, because the CIA fear one of their own may be with the enemy.
The film was reasonably well-acted. Stephen Boyd, more known as Judah Ben Hur's enemy in 1959's Ben-Hur does a pretty good job. This is Raquel Welch's film debut, but I'm not sure the point of her character was. There was no romantic subplot or she hardly ever speaks. This was probably my biggest bugaboo. Donald Pleasance, mostly known for starring in horror films, does a wonderful job as the lead doctor.
Overall, Fantastic Voyage is a fun sci-fi movie that holds up pretty well today, story-wise. The visuals were good for its time, but not so much today. I loved the idea of exploring the human body, and I think this film does that justice. When the body's immune system starts attacking everyone was a very interesting scene to watch. I was expecting a cheesy sci-fi movie to be honest, but I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe I shouldn't be with how the cast was. While nowhere near perfection, it was a fun movie to watch.
My Grade: B+
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
An Incredible Masterpiece!
To Kill A Mockingbird is a film that could very well be two films. It's a drama about growing up and coming of age during an era of civil rights unrest. But that civil rights unrest also is the subject of the second "film," a courtroom drama featuring a black man wrongfully convicted of a crime. This is a fantastic movie and one of the best movies to come out of the 1960's. But the racial themes underlying this film is still relevant today, and perhaps people should pay more attention to Gregory Peck's speech at the end of the movie regarding racism. There have never been more truer words spoken on film. I loved every aspect of the film from the very tense drama to the excellent black-and-white cinematography to the satisfying ending to the excellent score by Elmer Bernstein.
Robert Mulligan's film takes us to a Depression-era town where a poor lawyer named Atticus Finch lives with his two children, Jem and Scout. Finch is assigned to a case where this black man is convicted for the rape of a young woman. The town gets riled up about the case, and Atticus and his two kids may find themselves in danger.
It's funny because a film based off a beloved novel would gain more of a well-known cast. But the only star here is Gregory Peck and he does a wonderful job as Atticus Finch. I think that speech he delivers in the end gave him that Oscar. Mary Badham does a wonderful job as the young Scout, and I am disheartened that she stopped her acting career soon after this film's release, because she gave such a magnificent performance. Also, this film is Robert Duvall's first screen role and with limited screen time, his character as Boo Radley is another memorable character this movie offers.
Overall, To Kill A Mockingbird is one of the best films of the 1960's or even in the history of cinema. Not only is it an effective drama, it has racial themes that occurred during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. This is one of the films that actually put sympathy towards the movement during this time period. One of my favorite scenes involves Atticus standing guard against a mob in which Scout comes to his rescue. That was a very moving scene and one of the many memorable scenes in the film. A fantastic movie that is part of our history and one for every generation to see.
My Grade: A+
A Fun Ride!
Spartacus is a historical epic that follows amongst the footsteps of prior historical epics such as Ben-Hur and the Ten Commandments. I have to admit this film is not nearly as great as those, but I am certainly not bashing this film. The fact is, the film is a tad overlong and the dialogue does not hold up well by today's standards. I can appreciate the fine performances, especially Ustinov's Oscar-winning performance, as well as the steady direction of a legend, Stanley Kubrick. The film has some great action sequences and as a history student, I can appreciate the historical aspect of this film. I also like, unlike other films of its time, where we are not stuffed the obligatory happy ending. Thus, that makes me appreciate this epic even more.
Kubrick's film talks about a slave uprising during the Roman era. Spartacus is a slave who does not take pleasure at the fact he is being used to fight at a gladiator school only to receive spoiled girls. He and the rest of the slaves revolt which causes other slaves in the countryside to do the same. Crassus, who is aiming to become a dictator, decides to meet Spartacus and his men in battle.
I really enjoyed the performances in this film. I liked Kirk Douglas's strength and perseverance as Spartacus. I liked the comedic timing in Peter Ustinov's performance as the head of the gladiatorial school, Batiatus. Jean Simmons gives a mighty fine performance as Spartacu's lover, Varinia. Finally, I really liked Laurence Olivier's deep, intense performance as Crassus, who wants nothing except for political power.
Overall, Spartacus is a fine, entertaining historical spectacle. It features some majestic battle sequences and many fine, if perhaps a little outdated performances. The screenplay was excellent, as it was written by none other than the black-listed screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo. Compared to today's quality, the film doesn't live up to it. But I had a fun time watching this historical epic. Not Kubrick's best, but that doesn't stop it from being a fun watch.
My Grade: B+
Dial M for Murder (1954)
Dial M for Murder is your quintessential Alfred Hitchcock thriller. Now it may not be his best work, but it's pretty darn close. The story is engaging, and often quite thrilling. Despite the location of the film being mostly in the single apartment room, the audience never gets the sense of claustrophobia. It takes a tight screenplay and fantastic performances to make a one-room setting movie and it mostly works here. There is one tense murder scene, but I love how the rest of the movie is mostly talk, but somehow does not take away the aura of tension and suspension. The build-up for the justifiable ending is really, really fun to watch, especially since we have to deal with the charm of Ray Milland's character.
Hitchcock's film is about a pro-tennis player named Tony who decides to settle down and be there for his wife. Meanwhile, his wife Margot, had an affair with an American named Mark. One day, Mark comes to visit. As they were going out for the evening, Tony decides to stay at home so he can plot a murder. The murder of his wife. But not all plots go according to the plan .
The acting cannot get much better than this. Ray Milland injects his character with such charm, and one can see why people never suspected him of murder or blackmail. His charm even won me over despite me knowing exactly what is going on. Also, Grace Kelly delivers a magnificent performance. Her performance during the murder scene should have alone nominated her for an Oscar. Robert Cummings does a fine job as the man at the other end of the love triangle, Mark. Finally, I have to mention John William's fine performance as the police inspector who little-by-little pieces together the hidden clues.
Overall, this is a film that shows why Hitchcock is the master of thrillers. He takes such simple stories and turns them into twisting tales that pierces the heart with thrills and dread. Despite a one-location, talkative movie, my heart kept on churning wondering what was going to happen next. I love how Alfred Hitchcock pays close attention to stuff like the keen details, the small camera movements to further enhance the audience sense of terror. This is a really captivating thriller thanks to amazing performances, a tight screenplay, and wonderful directing.
My Grade: A
A Solid Historical Epic!
Unconquered is one of those old, swash-buckling epics that came out during the era of epics during the 1940's and 1950's. Is it the greatest epic ever? Of course not, but all that matters to me was the entertainment factor of the movie. In that part, the movie succeeded. I had a fun time watching our main character, Chris Holden pick fights with the Natives, his fellow countrymen, and even the women. I'm not sure if this film is entirely historically accurate and some whitewashing may be prevalent, but does it really matter much? Especially in an older movie like this film? This film was filmed in technicolor, which of course added to the "expensive" budget, but it really gave definition to the epic as lighting and color techniques helped this film out.
Cecil B. DeMille, known for his great 1956 epic "The Ten Commandments," directs a film that takes place in pre-Revolution colonial America. London gal Abby Hale is sentenced to slavery in the colonies, but she is bought and freed by colonist Chris Holden. But her freedom is taken away by a rival of Holden, Garth. This rivalry helps culminate a disastrous relationship between the colonists of Fort Pitt and the Indians, who want their land free of the white men.
We get some good acting here. No one is particularly great, but it seems like everyone is having a fun time. The biggest star, Gary Cooper, is no stranger to Westerns and this film uses his talents very effectively. He definitely delivers the charm of a leading man. Paulette Goddard was pretty good as Abby, but I feel like her character is annoying at times. I liked Boris Karloff as the chief of the Indians, despite the fact this is clearly an example of Hollywood ancient bias. Finally, Howard Da Silva does a solid job as the villainous Garth, who takes advantage of the Natives for his own self.
Overall, Unconquered is a solid, old-fashioned historical epic. There is nothing remotely special about the film and it doesn't try to be. It just wants to entertain movie-watchers of all ages, and it succeeds in that category. As a history student, I would be wary of accuracy. The tone may be historically accurate, but one should overlook the details. Anyhow, this was a fun adventure movie.
My Grade: A-
Keeps You In Suspense!
Vertigo is the first Alfred Hitchcock film I have experienced and that is one of the many reasons why the film will stick to my heart forever. I was surprised how this film received mixed reviews when originally released, but I guess the contemporary audience was not ready for him just yet. This film fits the definition of a mystery, but it is much deeper than that. It's a love story, and a painful one to boot. The love expressed here is desirable, but also painful, yearning, and something that can be hard to watch. That is what makes this movie a classic and one of Hitchcock's best movies in a long line of memorable, successful movies. I really enjoyed the film and the dark attributes it possesses.
Hitchcock's film is about a retired detective named Scottie who suffers from acrophobia, or the fear of heights. He is tasked by a former colleague to follow his wife, who has been acting strange lately. Scottie reluctantly agrees to take the case. Once he does, he realizes something strange is happening. Not only that, he begins to take a painful obsession over this girl, Madeleine.
We get some fine, professional displays of acting here. James Stewart does a great job as Scottie. He, along with the new camera-work displayed by Hitchcock, really showed how paranoid he is with heights. And that really gave me the creeps just watching him be hesitant to even climb stairs. Kim Novak does a great job in two roles of hers, especially as Madeleine Elster. She brings a sensitivity to her character which I found to be reassuring when it comes to female characters during this era.
Overall, Vertigo is a very suspenseful thriller that is often scary to watch. If you have seen this film and suffer from agoraphobia, perhaps this is the film to blame. But nonetheless, films like these is why Hitchcock have been called the master of suspense. Even conversations have an aura of what is going to happen next? The ending is unexpected and really good. If you like masterful suspense films, then Vertigo is the film for you.
My Grade: A-
Children of a Lesser God (1986)
An Authentic Love Story!
Children of the Lesser God is a love story, but before the grumbling begins, it is not your typical love story. The film has the pleasure of it's main female lead actress and character being deaf, though that does not impair her ability to fall in love. I love how the movie is very warm and funny, as well as the ability to engage the audience. The film is about courage and the strength to not lot anything stand in the way of happiness. I can actually relate to the movie because I have hearing problems myself, though not nearly as bad. This is a beautiful, well- written film that displays a vast amount of authenticity.
This film is about a young speech teacher named James who falls in love with one of his pupils, Sarah. But she shuns him at first because she feels he is making fun of her disability. But as they spend more time together, Sarah begins to have feelings for James whom reopens her eyes to the world.
William Hurt does a very strong job as James as he made another 80's movie that featured a strong performance of his. However, the award of best performance has to go to Marlee Matlin who played Sarah. Her powerful performance, which gave her the Oscar, shows that strong performances can be given without words. It's all about the heart.
Overall, Children of a Lesser God is a fantastic movie and is one of those hidden 80's movies that you should check out. The movie starts a little slow, but the acting and the screenplay are excellent. The movie always keep things light, which is good for this kind of subject matter. The film may be a love story, but it's a different kind of love story.
My Grade: A
Game of Thrones: Garden of Bones (2012)
A Delightful Episode!
This is the fourth episode of the second season of Game of Thrones. One again, we have ourselves another magnificent episode. There is nothing "big" that goes on around here, but each storyline is once again, clever and engaging. We get great acting again as Peter Dinklage continues on his roll of magnificent performances as Lord Tyrion. We also get to see some barbaric cruelty from King Joffrey, with a very similar feel to a pornographic video. But that is a powerful scene to witness.
In this episode, "Garden of Bones," Robb Stark defeats Lannister forces and he meets a nurse named Talia. Tyrion puts a stop to his nephew's cruelty against Sansa. Vaenarys is introduced to the desert city of Quarth. Arya is imprisoned in Harrahall where she eventually meets Lord Tywin. Catelyn wants to unite Renly and Stannis, but that proves harder than thought. Finally, Lord Baelish visits with Renly who makes a promise to keep her daughters safe, but in return for Ser Jaime.
Overall, this is a rather entertaining episode that has a lot going on. But I'm happy to report that each storyline is equally impressive. I loved the introduction to Quarth, the oasis city in the middle of nowhere. Just seeing the gates open brought chills down my spine. A very fun episode.
My Grade: A
Sex Tape (2014)
Not the Greatest Comedy....
Sex Tape, it seems was only made just to exploit sex and to see how many cuss words are sputtered in a minute. Now mind you, I love films with lots of cursing, but those films have a point. There is no overall point to be found in this film other than what I mentioned above and product placement. It seems like Apple got a big paycheck from marketing their products in this film. The film is not a complete bomb, as I liked the performances and the ending scene was actually incredibly hilarious.
Jake Kasdan's film is about a married couple named Jay and Annie who decide to make a sex tape. After they completed it, Annie asks Jay to delete it. Instead, he accidentally synchronizes it in the Cloud, thus making it public. Now Jay and Annie must find out who have seen the tape before their reputations are ruined.
One of the things I found okay about the movie were the performances. Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz are really funny people, and they have some moments to shine in the film. I'm not sure if I liked Rob Lowe's performance as Annie's boss. His performance seems a bit off.
Overall, Sex Tape manages to be a forgettable comedy and I can see why critics dismissed the film. There are some good moments, but they are far apart. The story has an interesting premise, but the film could have been better if it wasn't an excuse for marketing purposes and lame, unfunny jokes. But everyone has a clunker, and this is Kasdan's clunker.
My Grade: D
A Clever Tyrion!
This is the third episode of the second season of Game of Thrones. This is one of my favorite episodes of the season so far. I loved the themes of betrayal and cunning stealth. Peter Dinklage steals the show as the Hand of the King who uses his cleverness to prove loyalty to him. There is a good amount of action, especially when it comes to the end of the episode. The episode may be free of Vaenarys, but this is still an engaging episode.
In this episode, "What Is Dead May Never Die," Tyrion wants to prove the loyalty of the council, so he decides to test them. Theon Greyjoy is given a command of a ship as they decide to attack the North while Robb's forces are at war. Tyrion wants his new girlfriend, Shae to become a handmaiden of Sansa's. Bran is having his dreams, but he comes to realize they may be visions. Jon Snow is reprimanded after his encounter with Craster. Catelyn Stark meets with Renly Baratheon to see if he would join Robb's forces. Finally, Arya is taken captive.
Overall, this is an outstanding episode in part to Peter Dinklage's amazing performance as Tyrion. The main reason to watch is just to see him outfox his council foes. But I found the other story lines to be actively engaging which makes this a very strong episode.
My Grade: A+
White Fang (1991)
A Story About Friendship!
White Fang is loosely based on stories written by famous author, Jack London. The movie is a family-friendly adventure with themes on friendship. Friendships between humans and animals are always a sweet story to tell, which makes this film even more valuable. The film itself is pretty realistic in portraying this relationship. The film does show animal cruelty at times, so I was rooting against the sadistic abusers in the movie the entire time.
This film is about a teen named Jack Conroy who travels up to the Yukon Territory in Alaska in search for gold. Along his travels, he meet this half dog/half wolf and becomes fascinated with it. The half-breed on the other hand, has been abused most of his life after hunters killed his mother. He has been forced to fight in dog-fighting matches and is trained to be a cold-blooded killer. But this unlikely friendship between boy and dog is a key to survival for them both.
The film is reasonably acted. Ethan Hawke does a really good job, in one of his younger roles as Jack Conroy. This isn't his best role, but it's an effective one. Also, the Alaskan malamute, Jed deserves props as well because he does darn well as the half-breed.
Overall, White Fang is a fun family movie about friendship. The movie is suitable for children, although there may be a few scary scenes (one involving an open coffin). I really enjoyed watching the film and particularly the scenes that showed the friendship between human and dog. A very realistic portrayal, I might add.
My Grade: A-
Game of Thrones: The Night Lands (2012)
This is the second episode of the second season of Game of Thrones. For the most part, the episode is enjoyable. I particularly loved the acting of Peter Dinklage as Tyrion. He has two key scenes that will invoke laughter. His scenes regarding the dinner and with his sister are very memorable. I also liked the acting of Maisie Williams as Arya, who also provided some amusement. But one thing that may worth keeping an eye on is the use of gratuitous sex and incest. This episode uses those a little more than usual, and it's growing a bit weary.
In this episode, "The Night Lands," Arya becomes friends with Gendry, a child heading to the Night Watch. Tyrion tries to add balance to the king's affairs as he pleas with Cersei to set things right. Theon Greyjoy heads home to the Iron Lands where he sees his father for the first time in nine years. Vaenarys gets news back from her messengers as she and her people lay in the wasteland. Finally, Jon Snow investigates the actions of Craster.
Overall, this is a really good episode that is fun and often entertaining. The use of sex is getting a little too much though, and it's clearly not a show to watch with your children. It's a slow episode in a manner of speaking, but still a good one.
My Grade: B+/A-