Thursday, June 30, 2016

1928 - THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK - excellence in all areas

Probably as good as you are going to get in a film.  Director Josef Von Sternberg a filmmaker who struggled in the Hollywood systems always struggled with his artistic intentions and the commercial considerations of the studio.  The Docks of New York is a rare example of both of these objectives being fulfilled for a change.

The story such that it is, is about lowlifes along the waterfront in NYC.  The screenplay was written by Jules Furthman who had a long career in Hollywood.  Furthman is mostly remembered for working with Howard Hawks.

The director Josef Von Sternberg was probably as close to an artist as Hollywood would put up with.   Von Sternberg was considered a difficult individual to deal with and his abrasive personality and lack of commercial success affected his career.

This is one of Von Sternberg's best films, with great photography and lots of atmosphere.  Highly recommended

76 minutes.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

2016 - LONDON HAS FALLEN - a time killer about a killer

Terrorists are running amok in London at the state funeral of the prime minister  The President of the United States is in danger.  Good thing our top Secret Service agent Mike Banning is on the job.  If someone needs to be shot or as is Banning's apparent speciality sticking knives in people's heads, he's the man for the job.

This film is strictly a by the numbers action flick.  After about a half and hour of set up the action kicks in with non stop violence.  But for the most part this is just movie violence.  The action scenes are directed to titillate and aren't particularly exciting.

The conceit of the film is that the city of London is completely overrun by middle eastern terrorists dressed as London police officers.  In a way it's almost kind of an insult to the British government and security forces.  As usual the terrorists instead of being ex Nazis are now 3rd world Arab slime balls.

How does it all end?  Will the ruthless agent Mike Banning save the president or will the Pres get his head chopped off on Youtube?

99 minutes.

Monday, February 29, 2016

2005: XXX: STATE OF THE UNION - Spy vs Spy stuff

Stuck in the house on a cold Saturday night with nothing to do, I found this piece of action movie trash.  This is the kind of film where you sit slumped in a chair watching one hyper action scene after another roll by in a plot that I would call a poor man's version of 7 Days in May.

Anyway, Ice Cube is some former hot shot soldier stuck in a federal prison for a crime he didn't commit.  At least I think it was a crime he didn't commit, I wasn't paying attention to closely.  Well Ice Cube is broken out of prison by the head of the NSA played by Samuel Jackson in a variation of a role he has played many times before.  It seems that evil William Dafoe who is a General or the Secretary of Defense is planning on staging a coup to overthrow the government.  Like Jackson, Dafoe has played variations on this type of role as well.

Plot, characterization and dialog in this kind of a movie really means nothing.  This is an action show from the first scene to the last.  Never mind if the scenes make any sense or are a part of the plot, they are just in the movie as a sort of violent low grade pornography.  I can sit slumped in my chair and be sort of entertained but not exactly stimulated or excited

What XXX: State of the Union comes down to is another cookie cutter action film not well made but not poorly made either.   I've seen this movie many times and I will probably spend the rest of my life watching this stuff.

101 minutes.

Saturday, December 19, 2015


If you can get through the first 30 minutes of this film with all the Millennium Falcon won't fly jokes
with Han Solo and Chewbacca hamming it up, this is a pretty decent sequel.

Geoege Lucas gave up direction on this film turning it over to a decent director of actors named Irvin Kershner.  But for the most part this was a Lucas production with his hand prints all over it especially in the special effects sequences which are still very good.

There may be a touch of what Andrew Sarris calls "strained seriousness"  running through this film but it certainly plays better then what the future held for the series.

124 minutes.

1955 - THE MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, the stripped down version.

The stripped down version of the holiday film from the 1947 film to put it mildly.  This version has a decent director and cast and is not too offensive.  Apparently this version was part of something called the 20th Century Fox which was some sort of anthology series that at times hacked down and remade their old movies for TV.

The direction is by Walt Disney's go to guy Robert Stevenson and has a good cast with Thomas Mitchell, Theresa Wright and MacDonald Carey carrying the load.

60 minutes.


Preparing for the new Star Wars film and thought I would sit through the first three films.
So called episode 4 plays pretty good.  This was the enhanced version that George Lucas fooled around with adding more digital stuff to the film and so scenes that were previously cut.  Adding all this junk really didn't do anything for his film but it didn't hurt it. 

The cast looks incredibly young and The idea to add Peter Cushing and especially Alec Guinness was an inspired idea.  They brought some gravitas to what could have been a very silly film.  The trend setting computerized special effect were also a big deal at the time.  Before this with the exception of 2001:  A Space Odyssey did a science fiction film look this good.

It didn't escape many critics that Lucas "borrowed" from a lot of other films.  If is a film buff's dream to do a spot the reference to other movies particularly the final attack on the Death Star which is a mix of The Dam Busters and 633 Squadron.

Like I said the film still plays pretty well.

121 minutes.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

1955 - BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK - in Cinemascope

The director John Sturges shows Hollywood how to film in Cinemascope in this thriller that doesn't over stay it's welcome.

This is an MGM production a studio not exactly know for open mindedness when it comes to technological innovation or story content.  So it's kind of amazing Sturges was able to shoot on location instead of some Burbank soundstage.

Again, Sturges use of composition in the wide screen format is very impressive.

81 minutes.