Sunday, November 16, 2014

1946 - MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, another excellent Blu Ray from Criterion

A great disc from Criterion.  My Darling Clementine's photography really jumps out with it's stunning black and white images.

It's well documented that Darryl F. Zanuck ended up reworking the film much to Ford's displeasure but it appears that Zanuck got rid of a lot of Ford's cornball humor and indulgent character touches.  A pre-release version is featured on this new disc but it's no undiscovered Director's Cut of great scenes.

Henry Fonda had worked with Ford on Young Mr. Lincoln and his understated performance is very impressive.  Fonda was no John Wayne and the film really benefits from that.  The rest of the cast particularly Victor Mature as Doc Holliday was very good.

Ford directs, that's him on the floor staging the dance sequence he's between the flags.

This was the last picture on Ford's contract for Zanuck.  Zanuck made sure this was an "A" quality production.  The set for the town of Tombstone was actually constructed in Monument Valley to take advantage of the scenery.

Ford was a master of filming long shots.  His sophisticated visual scene is quite striking on My Darling Clementine.

97 minutes.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

2014 - THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, I think I've heard this same old song before

Doesn't anyone remember Star Wars Episode 4 anymore?  Guardians of the Galaxy borrows a lot from that film.  The green woman is a stand in for Princess Lea, Star Lord is Han Solo, the tree creature is Chewbacca and there's a couple of bad guys who are clearly modeled after Darth Vader and The Emperor.

A lot of drivel was written on the Internet about how this was Marvel Studio's phase 3 in their story arch series, but this film sure looks a lot like phases 1 and 2 to me.  There is an elaborate story arc connection with regard to some magic stones or something that has been in the works and referenced in the last several Marvel movies.  However I skipped the last Thor movie because I just didn't care so I don't know if the power stones were mentioned in that film or not.

This was the film that supposedly was to be loaded up with humor.  What passes for humor in the Marvel Universe is a talking racoon and listening to music mix cassette tapes from the 1970's.  Chris Pratt appears to have been hired to carry the comedic load and I guess he does about as well as can be expected with the script and story.  Speaking of the script the co-writer and director James Gunn plays it very safe in this film.  There is none of the subversive and sick humor that permeated his bizarre film Super.  I'm sure the studio wasn't about to go down any road that made fun of religious fanaticism. 

Come to think of it Guardians of the Galaxy also borrows from another classic film, The Dirty Dozen.  Assemble a team of people who barely get along with each other and have them work together to fight the evil Nazis Kree.  This is a very derivative film.

The audience I saw this film with loved it and this film apparently made a lot of money.

122 minutes.

2014 - THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2, is commercial filmmaking at its most cynical

The first reboot of the Spiderman series was no classic, the 2nd film unimaginatively called The Amazing Spiderman 2 manages to be even less successful as a commercial entertainment.  I lasted about 45 minutes to an hour on this turkey, skimming ahead to watch the final fight between Electric guy or whatever the villain's name is and the Green Goblin who shows up towards the end because you can't have enough action stuff going on unless you completely overwhelm the audience with noise and chaos.

The main leads in the film Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are supposedly to be playing teenagers graduating from school.  They are starting to look a little long in the tooth.  Garfield is 31 years old and Stone is 26 and the cuteness thing she had in the first film is looking a little rough around the edges.  The rest of the cast is clearly slumming in the great "where's my paycheck" school of acting tradition.  Particularly pathetic is Paul Giamatti who is supposed to play the villain "Rhino."  Giamatti shows up at the beginning of the film and the end of the film blathering in some ridiculous Russian accent.

The action scenes are the usual overdose of computer imaging Spiderman flying around New York looks like a cartoon character who would be at home in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  Spiderman is never in real danger because Sony Pictures had announced that there would be another film is this series with Spiderman taking on the Sinister Six, whoever they are.

Unfortunately for Sony, this picture was not the big blockbuster hit they had been hoping for.  The film made money but not the millions and millions of dollars they wanted.  Apparently the studio is spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to save this series from the ennui that seems to be settling in on these superhero films.

142 minutes.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

2014 - EDGE OF TOMORROW aka Live Die Repeat

Edge of Tomorrow was the summer action film that received good reviews from most of the critics and failed to be the big blockbuster Warner Brothers Studio was looking for.  After watching this film I would include myself in the "why didn't this film take off" camp.  However, I will have to admit I did not rush out to see it this summer.

In spite of the good reviews, the thought of sitting through another Tom Cruise movie was just not very appealing.  It's unfortunate, because Cruise actually has to put in a little more work on his character in this film.  For a guy in his 50's he seemed to be getting slightly long in the tooth to be playing his usual smiling preppy character.  At least that was my thought anyway. 

I had no interest in putting up pictures of Tom Cruise again

Obviously the influence of Groundhog Day and video games is in this film.  But director Doug Lyman stages the film in such an entertaining way it's not a distraction but a clever way to tell the story of yet another alien invasion.   

Considering all the hard work that everyone obviously put into a fairly original film for a change Edge of Tomorrow should have done much better.  Unfortunately this film will only add fuel to the fire of promoting sequels and comic book franchise films.  Warner Brothers has learned its lesson and has announced that it will be making at least ten films based on DC comic book super heros.

Well in spite of all the baggage that this film carried, Edge of Tomorrow is a very good science fiction/action film.

113 minutes

2014 - LUCY, science fiction action thriller from Luc Besson

In this highly ridiculous but highly entertaining science fiction thriller from Luc Besson.  Scarlett Johansson is forced to consume large quantities of some weird drug by an evil Korean gangster.  This drug expands the powers of her brain while draining her of her emotions and humanity.  She becomes sort of a "Mr. Spock" crossed with "Carrie" combination.

The emotionless character Lucy is the perfect part for the monotone none acting of Scarlett Johansson.  Throw in "anything for a paycheck" actor Morgan Freeman, a bunch of nasty Koreans and some French guys and you have the perfect bizarre cast to keep you watching.

At times Lucy seems like it's trying to say something about evolution and the human condition.  But just when things are getting a little pretentious, Besson throws in a gunfight between the bad Koreans and the French police guys  This is all highly entertaining if violent nonsense put together in an enjoyable manner.

Luc Besson may have made a ridiculous film but he was smart enough to keep the running time down to less than 90 minutes.  A very tall tale like this film doesn't bare a whole lot of scrutiny.

89 minutes.

1973 - THE MACKINTOSH MAN, a spy thriller with Paul Newman directed by John Huston.

Paul Newman takes another shot at an espionage thriller 17 years after appearing in Hitchcock's spy movie disaster Torn Curtain.  The Mackintosh Man was directed by another veteran filmmaker John Huston. 

Newman is a secret agent undercover for British Intelligence.  He is supposedly on the trail of a notorious British traitor but as in all of these serious spy films, all is not what it seems. 

The Mackintosh Man is smoothly and efficiently directed by John Huston.  Maybe a little too smoothly for that matter.  The veteran director doesn't seem to have much interest in the film.  The action scenes are tossed off so nonchalantly it's as if they were almost a second thought. 

This is a good looking film, well photographed by Oswald Morris in Ireland and Malta.  The film has a good cast beginning with Paul Newman, James Mason and Dominique Sanda.  There are also many British character actors like Michael Hordon and Harry Andrews.  It's unfortunate that Huston couldn't bring any interest to the film.  However The Mackintosh Man is still very watchable for the most part.

98 minutes