Monthly Archives: February 2010

February’s Over, Bring On March

Another month down and I am still as keen as ever to keep this thing up. During February I saw some really great films. I think that the films that I watched during this month were generally of a higher quality than those I watched in January. Some of the movies that I watched during this month were all-time classics.

Alfred Hitchcock was my director of choice this month, as I watched six of his films. Of those North By Northwest was the most enjoyable but I also liked Rear Window, The 39 Steps, Foreign Correspondent and The Wrong Man a lot. Spellbound was a good movie as well even though Ingrid Bergman spouting off psychoanalytical jargon every time she opens her mouth is a bit distracting.If you have never watched a Hitchcock film then I dare say that it is time that you did as his work is just so enjoyable. The Third Man is another enjoyable British film that features a lot of Hitchcockian elements, as well as fine performances by Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles.

The funniest film that I saw during February was probably The Court Jester, but I did like School Of Rock too. Other fine comedy films include Francis and Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein  whilst Chaplin’s The Kid is a bit more sentimental than funny, although there are a few humourous sequences. The General was another Buster Keaton film that I was disappointed with, just like I was with Steamboat Bill Jr. last month. The General worked more as a historical drama than as a comedy, in my opinion. I also found that while Sailor Beware was funny, it was just typical of most standard Martin & Lewis comedies.

  1. Invictus – Recommended
  2. The Simpsons Movie – Recommended
  3. The Wrong Man – Recommended
  4. Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein – Highly Recommended
  5. The Third Man – Very Highly Recommended
  6. Mystery Of The Wax Museum – Recommended
  7. A Night In Casablanca – Recommended
  8. The 39 Steps – Highly Recommended
  9. Foreign Correspondent – Highly Recommended
  10. Avatar – Very Highly Recommended
  11. The Return Of Frank James – Recommended
  12. Clash Of The Titans – Recommended
  13. The Incredible Shrinking Man – Very Highly Recommended
  14. Spartacus – Highly Recommended
  15. Spellbound – Recommended
  16. The Court Jester – Highly Recommended
  17. Born Free – Highly Recommended
  18. Francis – Recommended
  19. Sailor Beware – Recommended for Martin & Lewis fans only
  20. The Kid – Recommended
  21. Grease – Recommended
  22. The General – Recommended
  23. Rear Window – Very Highly Recommended
  24. School Of Rock – Highly Recommended
  25. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo – Recommended
  26. North By Northwest – Very Highly Recommended
  27. Bad Day At Black Rock – Highly Recommended
  28. Pulp Fiction – Very Highly recommended

The films that I enjoyed the most would be North By Northwest, Pulp Fiction, The Third Man and  The Incredible Shrinking Man, with Avatar rounding out the top 5.

I also must note that my review writing skills have actually gone backwards as time goes by. I often find that after watching a film I am lost with what I want to say and that thinking about what I want to write can affect my enjoyment of the chosen film. I still am going to stick with this thing and maybe if I get a chance I will rewrite what I have written in my reviews. I do acknowledge that most review writers make more than one draft of what they write while I mostly just write what is on the top of my head.

Poll Time – Movie Musicals

Pulp Fiction

Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Produced by Lawrence Bender
Written by Quentin Tarantino & Roger Avary
Starring John Travolta
Samuel L. Jackson
Uma Thurman
Harvey Keitel
Tim Roth
Amanda Plummer
Maria de Medeiros
Ving Rhames
Eric Stoltz
Rosanna Arquette
Christopher Walken
Bruce Willis
Cinematography Andrzej Sekula
Editing by Sally Menke
Distributed by Miramax Films (U.S. theatrical)
Release date(s) May 1994 (world premiere—Cannes Film Festival)
September 23, 1994 (U.S. premiere—New York Film Festival)
October 14, 1994 (U.S. general release)
Running time 154 min.
Country United States
Language English

Pulp Fiction is another film that I just watched on Foxtel. I have watched this film many times since I first saw it in the cinema in 1994. It is undoubtedly one of my favourite Tarantino films and perhaps one of my favourite movies of all time. It features lots of Tarantino’s clever and snappy dialogue full of obscure references. Much of the music is great too.

It’s pretty futile talking about the plot of this film, since most of the population of the Earth has seen it. Samuel L. Jackson is brilliant as Jules, whilst this film helped to resurrect John Travolta’s career. There is also the dance sequence between Travolta and Thurman as well that everyone remembers.

The film is great there are only two things about it that are disappointing: 1) that Tarantino has not made a sequel that features Jules walking the Earth getting into adventures and sharing his wisdom and philosophies, 2) that we never got to see Fox Force Five on TV, as that sounds one thousand times better than any of the shit that is currently on TV. Both of these ideas would be awesome.

Bad Day At Black Rock

Directed by John Sturges
Produced by Dore Schary
Written by Story: Howard Breslin
Screenplay: Don McGuire & Millard Kaufman
Starring Spencer Tracy
Robert Ryan
Anne Francis
Dean Jagger
Walter Brennan
Ernest Borgnine
Lee Marvin
Music by André Previn
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) January 7, 1955 (United States)
Running time 81 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Bad Day At Black Rock is one of those movies that always seems to be shown on Foxtel, usually at about 1am on Fox Classics. It’s a movie that I have always been curious about but could never actually be bothered watching until today, after the book A Rough Guide To Westerns recommended it. I am glad that I watched it.

The film has an all-star cast headed by Spencer Tracy as Macreedy, a one-armed stranger who one day gets off the train at the sleepy town of Black Rock looking for Komoko. This get the members of the small town into an uproar for reasons that become apparent as the movie progresses. It doesn’t take long for Macreedy to realise that he is not welcome in Black Rock.

We find out that there is a dark secret in Black Rock that Macreedy’s snooping around will eventually bring to light. This secret involves Komoko, who was a Japanese farmer living near Black Rock on land sold to him by the film’s villain Reno Smith. The land that Smith sold Komoko was useless but that Smith became enraged that Komoko was able to grow food on the land. The day after Pearl Harbour Smith and his cronies attacked and murdered Komoko. Now they are afraid that four years later Macreedy will uncover this.

Tracy gives a great performance filled with quiet dignity as Macreedy. Despite the fact that the whole town is against him and have planned to murder him Macreedy does not stop in his quest to find out about what happened to Komoko. The villains featuring Ryan, Borgnine and Marvin are menacing as they harass Tracy and await darkness to fall so that they can kill him. It is only after one of the posse hears why Macreedy is searching for Komoko that the tables start to turn. Komoko’s son was a GI who gave his life in Italy to save Macreedy. Macreedy wanted to take the medal that Komoko’s son received to Komoko Sr.The film comes to a head when Macreedy is double-crossed by Liz Wirth, which culminates in Macreedy being ambushed by Smith.

There is a lot of tension in the film as we all know what Macreedy’s fate will ultimately be, but as he is the film’s hero we hope that he will find a way out. It is a really good film to watch.

North By Northwest

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Alfred Hitchcock (uncredited)
Written by Ernest Lehman
Starring Cary Grant
Eva Marie Saint
James Mason
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography Robert Burks, ASC
Editing by George Tomasini
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) July 28, 1959 (US)
Running time 136 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Along with Psycho and The Birds, North By Northwest is perhaps Alfred Hitchcock’s best known work. Of all of Hitchcock’s films North By Northwest is probably the one that is the most critically acclaimed. It is also the film that contains a couple of the most well-known scenes in all of Hitch’s movies and indeed of all of cinema. While the shower scene from Psycho may be the most famous of Hitchcock’s signature scenes, Cary Grant being chased by the crop duster through the corn field in North By Northwest as well as the backdrop of Mount Rushmore while Grant and Eve Marie Saint battle their would be assassins have both become just as iconic in their own right.

In this exciting movie Cary Grant plays Roger Thornhill, a nobody advertising executive who is mistaken for fictious spy George Kaplan. He is initially kidnapped by a couple of thugs who believe he is the spy Kaplan and who try to murder him. Once he escapes a cat and mouse adventure begins, with Thornhill being chased across the United States as he searches in vain for Kaplan. The film is just thrilling in every sense, with this being one of Grant’s best films. Bernard Herrmann’s score is once again brilliant and matches the excitement of each scene.  In my opinion this is simply a great film that everyone should see once in their lifetime.

* Early in the film watch for a cameo by Ed Platt as Thornhill’s lawyer. A few years later Platt went on to play the Chief in Get Smart, my favourite TV show of all time!!!

Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

Directed by Mervyn LeRoy
Produced by Sam Zimbalist
Written by Dalton Trumbo
Book: Ted W. Lawson & Robert Considine
Starring Van Johnson
Robert Walker
Robert Mitchum
Spencer Tracy
Phyllis Thaxter
Stephen McNally
Music by Herbert Stothart
Cinematography Robert Surtees, ASC
Harold Rosson, ASC
Editing by Frank Sullivan
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) November 15, 1944
Running time 138 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Anyone who has seen the terrible Disney film Pearl Harbour from a few years back will be familiar with the premise of thirty Seconds Over Tokyo as the events of this film were featured in the second half of Pearl Harbour. This is about the Doolittle Raid where a squadron of B-25 Mitchell Bombers took off from an aircraft carrier to hit Japan as a retaliation over Pearl Harbour.

The acting, especially from Van Johnson, is a little over the top as Ted Lawson, whose story this is based upon, while we don’t see that much of Spencer Tracy who plays Lt. Col. Doolittle. Robert Mitchum is featured in the film too in one of his earliest roles.

Johnson, who died in December 2008 at age 92, is a little hammy in his portrayal of Lawson, whose plane crashed on the Chinese coast after bombing Tokyo and had to have his leg amputated. During the films ending Lawson does not want to see his wife until he has an artificial leg and has learnt how to dance, whilst his wife, played by Phyliss Thaxter, does not want him to see her because she has put on a little weight. Oy Vey!!! Such melodrama. In the end they embrace because they are both glad that Lawson has survived.

However despite the over acting this is a fine film with great scenes of the hulking bomber taking off on their dangerous mission from the confines of the aircraft carrier. Whenever Spence is on-screen he gives the audience a reassuring feeling that he is in control and that everything will be alright in the end. The film is even quite even handed about their portrayal of the Japanese, which is quite surprising since the war in the Pacific was still raging when the movie was released.

School of Rock

Directed by Richard Linklater
Produced by Scott Aversano, Steve Nicolaides & Scott Rudin
Written by Mike White
Starring Jack Black
Joan Cusack
Mike White
Sarah Silverman
Music by Craig Wedren
Cinematography Rogier Stoffers
Editing by Sandra Adair
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) October 3, 2003
Running time 108 min.
Country United States
Language English

School Of Rock is a 2004 comedy starring Jack Black. It’s not really that ground breaking, as it takes a pretty old premise, that being a loser/misfit being thrust into a group of stuck up/up tight kids where he teaches them how to live.

And so Jack Black plays Dewey Finn, a guy who doesn’t realise that his rock ‘n’ roll dream has disappeared. In a case of mistaken identity he becomes a substitute teacher at a snotty pre-school where he teaches the kids all about rock ‘n’ roll, and their parents discover that there are other worthy lessons for kids to learn other than the three r’s.

The film may not be original but there are many amusing scenes and most of all the music is great. It especially refreshing to hear the music of AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix and other great rockers, in a movie when these days you are more likely to hear bland pop music. (Thankyou Simon Cowell!!!) The soundtrack is fantastic and it’s worth watching the film for this alone.

Rear Window

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Cornell Woolrich (story) & John Michael Hayes
Starring James Stewart
Grace Kelly
Thelma Ritter
Wendell Corey
Raymond Burr
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography Robert Burks
Editing by George Tomasini
Distributed by Paramount Pictures/Universal Studios
Release date(s) August 1, 1954
Running time 112 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Rear Window is one of Hitchcock’s most acclaimed films which came from his most prolific period of the mid-1950s. It features two of Hitch’s favourite stars in Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. Stewart is L. B. ‘Jeff’ Jeffries who has a broken leg and spends his time viewing the world from his apartment window.

I think that everyone knows the plot of this film. Jeff sees what he thinks is a man murder his wife. Grace Kelly’s character Lisa investigates but then the suspected murderer returns home. It is a great film that goes from Jimmy trying to work out whether a crime has occurred or not, to the suspense when Grace Kelly is in the murderer’s apartment, to when the murderer realizes that Jimmy has discovered his secret at the climax of the film. My words don’t really do the film justice, all I can say is that if you haven’t seen Rear Window you really need to watch it. If you have seen it you need to watch it again!

The General

Directed by Clyde Bruckman & Buster Keaton
Produced by Joseph Schenck & Buster Keaton
Written by William Pittenger (memoir)
Screenplay: Al Boasberg, Clyde Bruckman & Buster Keaton
Uncredited: Charles Henry Smith & Paul Girard Smith
Starring Buster Keaton & Marion Mack
Music by Carl Davis (1987)
Robert Israel (1995)
Joe Hisaishi (2004)
Cinematography Bert Haines & Devereaux Jennings
Editing by Buster Keaton & Sherman Kell (both uncredited)
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) February 5, 1927
Running time 75 minutes (times vary with different versions)
Country United States
Language Silent film
English intertitles

The General is regarded as Buster Keaton’s greatest masterpiece. In my opinion it is indeed a fine piece of film making that seems to be more of an action or adventure film than a comedy.

The movie is based on true historical events from the American Civil War. It involves the theft of the train The General, by the Union Army and how the group who stole it, Anderson’s Raiders, were pursued by one determined Southerner named Johnnie Gray. The film is very exciting and some of the cinematography is brilliant, considering that the film was made in 1927 and there are a few amusing bits, but nothing really laugh out loud funny. The final chase between the Union train The Texas and The General from back to the south is particularly exciting, as is the blowing up of the Rock River Bridge.

The film is more of an action/adventure film than a comedy. Although it was a critical and box office failure on its release, it is now considered one of the greatest films ever made. I enjoyed the film but more as a historical artefact than as a piece of entertainment. It has moments of excitement and drama but it isn’t really a comedy film.

* 29 years later Disney made their film The Great Locomotive Chase which was also based on these events but from the point of view of the Unionist who stole The General rather than the South.

Poll Time – Universal Monsters