Sunday, September 25, 2016

2016 - CAFE SOCIETY, a very weak Woody Allen film

Woody Allen seems enamored with the Hollywood social life of the 1930's because his screenplay sure names drops a lot of old Hollywood stars which probably means nothing to a modern audience.

This is another one of those Woody Allen movies about star crossed lovers which ultimately ends with one of his typically melancholy endings.  The premise of the film is that Jesse Eisenberg travels to Hollywood, California to work with his uncle played by Steve Carell.  Eisenberg falls in love with Kristen Stewart but doesn't know that Stewart is having an affair with his uncle.  Eisenberg eventually ends up marrying Blake Lively who isn't exactly chopped liver.

All the typical Woody Allen cliches are here.  The black and white credits, the jazz music, the weird way all of his characters talk mouthing his stylized dialog etc.  The conceit in this film is that Kristen Stewart is a woman who is so attractive that she has two men who are head over heels over her.  Really the film needed a young Diane Keaton to carry that one off.

As usual with a Woody Allen film the production is top quality and the cinematography by Vittorio Storato is very good if maybe a little to heavy on the golden California sunshine look.

96 minutes.

1962 - SERGEANTS 3, a remake of a remake

The last film containing all of 'The Rat Pack" before Frank Sinatra kicked Peter Lawford out of the group.  This film is a remake of George Steven's Gunga Din which was a remake of The Front Page.

The director is John Sturges who had worked with Sinatra before and had probably knew what he was getting into.  For the most part the first half of the film works pretty well since it sticks to the first half of Gunga Din.  After a while the film starts to take a toll on my patience especially with the Sammy Davis Jr. character Jonah the freed slave civil war slave. 

The film has nice scenery since it was filmed Utah and Sturges as usual was good at deploying his actors in rugged landscapes.

An OK time killer.

112 minutes

2015 - DE PALMA, a documentary about the director Brian De Palma

The director Brian De Palma sits down for some interviews where he reviews his films and career.

For one of these documentaries about about a film director this is pretty good.  De Palma is a pretty good raconteur and is probably a little more truthful about the way films are made in Hollywood.  

De Palma with the directors of this documentary

The film ends rather poignantly with De Palma who is now in his 70's acknowledging that his best movie making days are probably behind him.

An interesting film about a controversial director who calls himself the true heir to Alfred Hitchcock.

110 minutes.

1950 - SO LONG AT THE FAIR, attempt at a Hitchcock like thriller

A brother and sister travel to Paris to attend the Paris Exposition of 1889.  The brother mysteriously vanishes or does he?  Everyone the sister meets tells her that she traveled alone and no brother ever existed.  Let the mystery begin as the sister and some guy she meets attempt to figure our what is going on.

The stars are the very pretty Jean Simmons and British matinee idol Dirk Bogarde before he became a real actor.  The brother is played by David Tomlinson who everyone will recognize as Mr Banks from Mary Poppins.

This film kind of plods along as the mystery of the brother's disappearance unravels.  Frankly the film is so stolid and kind of lifeless that the resolution is disappointing.  The film really needed an Alfred Hitchcock to whip it into shape and juice up the suspense situations.

86 minutes.

1947 - FOREVER AMBER, some sort of English soap opera

A trashy novel about an English slut dressed up with lots of 20th Century Fox production money and filmed in 1940's technicolor. 

Clearly the idea was to do a version of Gone With The Wind set in 17th century England.  The audience is supposed to be interested in the social climbing adventures of one Amber St. Clair a woman who sleeps her way up to social status and power.  However since this was filmed in the 1940's all that sex stuff was pretty much implied.

What you get in this picture is American actress Linda Darnell playing an English woman.  Darnell doesn't even attempt an accent .  Come to think of it the cast, a mixture of British and American actors and the director Otto Preminger didn't seem to sweat all of that dialect stuff.

This is the kind of film where the men run around in those goofy 17th century wigs and look like a bunch of fops.  The women heave their bosoms and Amber gets her comeuppance for being a naughty girl.  The whole thing is watchable only for the sets and a decent music score from David Raskin.

138 minutes.

1937 - KING SOLOMON'S MINES, version 1 with bonus musical numbers

The old H. Rider Haggard novel about adventurers in Africa searching for the lost diamond mines of King Solomon was filmed for the first time.  The cast is a rather interesting one.  Cedric Hardwicke is Alan Quartermain.   Anna Lee is the female lead.  Roland Young is Commander Good and Paul Robeson is the mysterious African native they pick up in darkest Africa.

The film is a little creaky but actually pretty entertaining.  You have lost diamond mines, native uprisings, 2nd unit African scenery and a volcano ready to blow.  A lot of stuff crammed into an 80 minute film.

Probably the most interesting aspect of the film is the actor Paul Robeson.  An African/American actor and singer, his left leaning political views in a very conservative and racist American during the 40's, 50's and 60's caused him to be persecuted by the United States Government.  Robeson was a noted singer with a strong bass voice.  He sings very improbably several times throughout the film.  At times it's like watching a strange hybrid of adventure film and musical film.

The film was directed by future Walt Disney studio director Robert Stevenson (Mary Poppins, That Darn Cat etc.).

80 minutes

1995 - JADE, a sleezy sex thriller

William Friedkin, a director who is challenged to control his over the top impulses when it comes to making a film, takes on a script by sleezy writer Joe Eszterhas.  Friedkin apparently did an uncredited rewrite which apparently didn't make Eszterhas very happy.  I'm not sure Friedkin improved on it much but I will assume the sex titillation stuff was in both versions of the script.

This was a big expensive Paramount studio production.  The on location photography and the sets could not have been cheap.  The film also has one of Friedkin's famous car chases and I'm sure crashing cars around San Francisco wasn't cheap either.

Say what you want, but the film is well made.  Friedkin knows how to assemble a film.  He just seems to have some issues with his tendency for excess which seems to be a running theme in a lot of his films.

I guess if you are feeling in a " I want to watch something kind of slimy" mood.  Jade will probably deliver the goods.  The film is under 2 hours which is a selling point.  A little of this stuff goes a long way.

95 minutes