Roy C Peterson Movie Reviews
Roy C Peterson Movie Reviews
In 2009 Roy C Peterson was a judge for the Las Vegas International Film Festival.
The 238 reviews below are intended only as supplement to IMDb plot summaries.
In the IMDb site there is a link to this site for each film, under Extrenal Reviews.
The Age of Innocence (1993)Good escapist period piece with Daniel Day-Lewis, Michele Pfeiffer, and Winona Ryder. I had no idea the extent to which moral pettiness prevailed during the Victorian period in a place like New York City. This film shows us people in love who feel that they cannot follow their true heartís desire because theyíre surrounded by and interwoven into the lives of people whose only real occupation is the minding of everybodyís business but their own. As I watched I felt that to suddenly be back there among such people would be like being a wolf among sheep. Having that much advantage over others would soon become tedious. The best excitement might be in trying try to change it all as a writer with novels showcasing the superior workability of free-thought lifestyles and the people one might attract in the process.
Interesting story, awesome spectacle, superb acting, but the more Alexander conquered, the more I found myself wondering why he bothered with any of it. Besides the usual personal reasons for conquest, all I could come up with is the basic imperialist assumption, which is always that one's own civilization is superior to all others and that people everywhere are being cheated by not having the benefit and glory of it.
All Fall Down (1962)
This is a coming-of-age story about the conflicts of an introspective young man, Clinton Willart, regarding the destructive behavior of his ne'er-do-well older brother Berry-Berry. The last time I saw this movie I was very young so I'll give the reactions I had at that time.
An adventuresome young man hitchhiking the Flagler Highway to Key West is a very cool way to start a movie. I saw the character Echo O'Brien as an eccentric colorful woman. With her restored phaeton and glamorous clothes she reminded me of a 1930s movie star. But kind of a fish-out-of-water in her vulnerability. For many personal reasons I identified with Clinton Willart and, like him, I admired Berry-Berry for his cool easy way with women and didn't want him to be a bad person.
I didn't want Berry-Berry to hurt Echo O'Brien because then I would have to dislike him. As I watched the film, I experienced the same conflict Clinton was having. The conflict between what we feel life should be and what it too often turns out to be. What we face in this movie is the terrible misfortune of dissipated energy and wasted potential, along with the the need to face realities in spite of our wishes and feelings. Because of my youth this movie made a very strong impression on me at the time. I liked it very much must recommend it highly.
Inspiring historical piece. Amelia Earhart has always been a person I admire and Hillary Swank never ceases to amaze me with her believability in very diverse roles. Besides the suspenseful aviation content, this is also a good love story with authentic period feel.
An American Werewolf in London (1981)Here I only want to talk about the fully changed-over werewolf himself. Seeing him is withheld for a very long time. When we finally do see him, it's at the bottom of an escalator for just a second and then once more in the street snarling at everyone around him with ferocious intensity. When hunting, such a creature will simply come after you and rip you to pieces, so I think the werewolf was trying hard to intimidate the crowd because his exposure made him feel vulnerable. Good special effects. Just wish I could have seen a bit more.
Suspenseful story about a giant snake eating people. Good rough n ready scene where Paul Sarone (John Voight) grabs a big live fish, chops out a two inch thick steak with his machete, and throws it into a hot frying pan. None fresher this side of Main Street. Mmm mmm good! Scary special effects. Visceral identification via bird's eye view of the giant snake coming up a pole after his dinner. I'll never live long enough to forget how the partially digested Sarone looks when the snake coughs him up.
Angels & Demons (2009)
Another masterpiece by Ron Howard picks up where the DaVinci Code left off. Very suspenseful, interesting story about terrorists who want to blow up the Vatican. Fervent belief in total disregard of science is, of course, a terrible setback for humanity, and yet always seems to spawn impressive fiction dramas.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
This is the movie that convinced me to stay with acting and writing, but never to get involved with production. To complete any feature length film is practically a miracle, but with a good film like this one it can only be called a triumphant miracle.
Francis Ford Coppola hired and supervised six hundred natives in constructing the jungle temple we see in the film. Martin Sheen had a heart attack on the set. Marlin Brando, who had already received three million dollars in advance, showed up looking elephantine and refused to allow the cameras to reveal his obesity.
There is a memorable portrayal of an officer in charge of surfboarding, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall). Also in general, there is way better than average use of period music to illustrate mood.
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974)
This is a very engrossing story about the romantic and business adventures of a lovable heel in 1940's Montreal. The period feel is very authentic. The movie was filmed in areas where the electric poles are from a much earlier time. This is something we usually see only in old photographs. Extremely effective background in a movie. The acting is superb and the story excellent. I take it a a serious drama. There are many comedic moments but no more so than in real life.
But how I wish there was a sequel! Duddy buys the big property on the lake. He gives Zaydeh a small piece of land for a nice little farm. Then he creates the dream resort and makes lots of money. New medical techniques allow Virgil to walk again, but only after Yvette helps him for several months with intensive physical therapy. Duddy pays for the operation as an anonymous donor. Yvette figures this out and finally forgives him but loves Virgil and remains married to him. Duddy finds a really nice girl. They get together for dinner with Virgil and Yvette occasionally. A little strained at first but not later. Etc. Etc.
Aspen Extreme (1993)
I can only think of four ski movies I've ever seen and I enjoyed them all. This one is no exception. It's a splendid story with adventurous buddies heading west, awesome mountain scenery with out-of-bounds skiing, a perplexing romantic triangle, deadly drug dealing in Aspen, and tragedy on the way to a happy ending.
The acting is excellent all around. For me, Finola Hughes is irresistible as Bryce Kellogg, who creates a real sex vs true love dilemma for the likable hero T J Burke played by Paul Gross. Deep down I've always thought I should have been a ski bum.
We need more movies like this one. There are many scenic ski resort areas in the US to shoot them in, often with nearby cities such as Seattle, Reno, Denver, and Boston for the addition of plot complexities and urban scenic grandeur.
Attack and Retreat (1964)
I last saw this in 1969 for about the third time and felt then that it was the best war movie I had ever seen. Nothing has happened since to change that impression. There are two scenes I especially remember.
One shows a young couple in a sunflower field run to each other and embrace. They are then suddenly strafed with machine gun bullets from a fighter plane and fall down to die in each others arms. In real life the bullets would chop them to hamburger, but still...
The other scene is happy about two hungry soldiers on opposite sides who come face to face but seem to sense that they might well have been friends under normal circumstances and so decide to just sit down, be real people, and share some potatoes rather than kill each other for governments.
What I like about this movie is that it makes the viewer question the viability of war at the very deepest levels of emotion, not just logically. War is the activity of fools. Even the fools who fight wars will often admit this but always seem to have a "but..." Get rid of all these alibis blocking the higher self and we'll be free of the wars as well.
The Aviator (2004)Leonardo DiCaprio is superb in Martin Scorsese's period masterpiece. At first his youthful look and demeanor felt wrong to me - for about one line of dialog - then I came to see his comprehension of and oneness with the role. Howard Hughes is a longtime hero of mine and I think the terrible burden of his incurable General Perisis from Syphilis makes his great achievements all the more remarkable.
The Awakening Land (1978)
Charming historical epic TV miniseries with one of the most admirable female characters I've ever seen in any movie. Sayward Luckett Wheeler (Elizabeth Montgomery) is spunky, independent, and totally positive as she takes on every kind of trouble a pioneer woman can face and still ends up happy and prosperous in a beautiful house. A fine American story about a really marriageable girl.
The Bad Seed (1956)
The ability to conceptualize morally is a type of intelligence. There is a part of the brain associated with it. In some individuals this ability is for some reason functionally diminished or almost completely absent. Such a person is what we refer to as a "moral moron" or more clinically as a constitutional psychopath.
Rhoda Penmark is a very charming intelligent ten year old girl with absolutely no conscience. This leads to a chilling series of events and a very surprising climax. This film is a suspenseful well acted masterpiece. Henry Jones is memorable as the sly handyman Leroy. Very sly indeed, but no match for little Rhoda. Watch this movie and see why.
Batman Begins (2005)Very engrossing chronicle of how Batman became the Caped Crusader. Disclosing these causal events helps give story legitimacy to all the other Batman movies. The tale starts when Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is a young boy and goes up to the time where the other Batman stories begin. I won't spoil it for anybody by telling anything, but there's a good deal of surprising story content here. Itís good content and I enjoyed it very much. The acting and special effects are superb all around.
Before and After (1996)
This a very good movie. Engrossing story, well acted, wonderful overcast New England atmosphere. Lots of winter eye candy. The family house and the location are something many search for but find only at a very high price. At the end you wish that Jacob had told the truth. The judge knows he's innocent, but gives him two years simply for not trusting the legal system. After he gets out the family relocates. Looks like the Loxahachee River in Florida at the end.
It's good to see old European tales like this one done as movies. The monster Grendel is scary but poignant, and has a strangely Swedish look. I always enjoy lines showing diverse viewpoints. Here King Hrothgar gives us a good one: "The time of heroes is dead, Wiglaf, the Christ God has killed it, leaving humankind with nothing but weeping martyrs, fear, and shame."
Best of the Best (1989)
The title describes the movie. It's one of the best of all the martial arts films I've seen. There's good human-conflict story content. The acting is superb. The Taekwondo fight scenes are intense, realistic, and at the end, downright heroic.
After seeing this I have a new respect for the compact power of this style. I once saw and photographed (at 1/1000 of a second) a Taekwondo warrior break, with his bare hand, three slabs of concrete. I was very impressed but this movie impressed me much more. I've always admired Eric Roberts as an actor, but until I saw this movie I had no idea of what an accomplished athlete he is as well.
Black Swan (2010)
Natalie Portman and Vincent Cassel are superb in this strange tale of a schizophrenic ballerina. Vincent's character Thomas is a good role model for any man of normal appetites dealing professionally with beautiful talented women. This movie made me think later about many of the events, and in some cases, to wonder whether they were actual or just hallucinations of the ballerina. Real life schizophrenia presents these same ambiguities.
Blackboard Jungle (1955)
This is one of the best movies of the 1950s. It's black and white and lacks the California eye candy we find in that other 1955 troubled youth film, "Rebel Without a Cause". I love both movies, but I love this one better because it leaves you with the knowledge that heroic idealism has intrinsic value just for it's own sake. The teacher Richard Dadier, brilliantly played by Glenn Ford, is a total all-American good guy. A true inspirational role model for people in daily life or high office.
The script and all around acting are superb. The scene where Vic Morrow as Artie West pulls a horn handle switchblade stiletto on the teacher and challenges him to come take the test paper away from him is one of the classic moments in American motion picture history. Where else would such a thing happen except America? A place with bad growing pains caused by rapid population influx and a postwar prosperity not experienced by many inner city residents. See this movie just for the sake of your faith in mankind.
This movie is the true story of an American fighter, Frank Dux, the first westerner ever to win the Kumite. The tournament is illegal because opponents can be killed, but it's held in secret periodically anyway. Dux developed his own fighting style based on the five principles: Focus, Action, Skill, Strategy, Tactics. He is played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, amazing because of his unusual combination of great strength with the agility to jump very high in the air. His main opponent played by Bolo Yeung has similar qualities and is magnificent and very scary as Chong Li.
Towards the end, Van Damme reenacts Dux winning even after being blinded by cocaine thrown into his eyes. This actually happened. In April 2008, I talked with a television production supervisor who has worked with Frank Dux. He told me an amazing story about Dux blindfolded knowing which of four men is hiding a coin in his clenched fist and being able to get this right time after time. Probably intrinsic extra sensory perception liberated by the discipline of martial training.
This is without a doubt one of the finest martial arts movies ever made. Very good story, all the more so for being true. Well acted. Well fought.
Excellent story and acting with Johnny Depp as George Jung, a very charming man who would go down in history as one of the greatest of all businessmen except that the private sale of cocaine in the USA is illegal. I was about five minutes into the film when I began to realize that I met George at a concert in Boston long ago. It took a while to make the connection, because the friend who introduced us never used last names.
It was August 6, 1971. The Who were playing the Music Hall that night, but we decided to see the Faces outdoors on Boston Common. George and his girlfriend joined us in the bleachers. They had a produce bag full of fresh cherries which they shared with us. Upon a subsequent occasion we visited them at their apartment in Boston. I remember being impressed by George's casual social skills. They were in the shower when we rang. He came to the door in a bathrobe and showed us in. We waited as he got dressed and then joined us in the living room. After a while, she came in looking very pretty in a robe combing out wet tangled hair.
I'm always glad to meet people who live on a gigantic scale and was pleased to see in this film that George never needed to use a gun until very late in the story. This was one of those situations where you find yourself saying "If only he had gotten out quick when it started to go wrong..." but people who do things really well never want to retire.
The Blue Max (1966)
This is one of my real favorites. Everything about it. When I was young and first saw it, I identified with Bruno's obsession that unconfirmed kills must be confirmed. That getting credit for work is hugely important. Seeing the movie again when older I identified more with Willie's position that unconfirmed kills are something that a gentleman must accept and that a patient sustained effort will bring just reward. Of course, Willie started two years earlier than Bruno and already has the Blue Max. What if the war ends too soon? Really good flying scene at the end. Reminded me of Manfred von Richthofen's final battle without the ground snipers.
Blue Velvet (1986)
After the first time I saw this movie on TV I was very sorry for the look into human depravity that it had given me. But when it was aired again the following week I just couldn't resist watching it again. Then four days later again. What they call a cult classic. An acquired taste like Kenya AA coffee which gave me pain behind my eyes the first time but which I got to like anyway.
In this very strange movie we see insane drug besotted criminals enjoying period music. This touched buried areas of my emotional understanding because I was at a vulnerable age when this music was popular. It showed me that but for good fortune and a tendency to avoid drugs that life might have been very different for me. This is a movie that makes me thankful not to be like the characters while at the same time fascinating me with their virulent depravity.
I'll never forget the "suave" weirdness of Ben (Dean Stockwell) pretending to sing "In Dreams" (Roy Orbison) using a light as a microphone. If I had played the evil Frank Booth as brilliantly and believably as Dennis Hopper I would be very worried about what it might do to my personal image. The writer and director or this morbid tale, David Lynch, is a true inspiration to me. Only great genius could have conceived all this strangeness and I must recommend this movie very highly. I should mention too that this film has a big pendulum swing in the form of an unlikely happy ending.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
True love doomed from the start. Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) is sexy and very beautiful. Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) is handsome and dashing. Bonnie shows girlish delight as Clyde leaves a wooden match in the corner of his mouth while drinking down an entire bottle of soda-pop without stopping. Clyde is just who Bonnie needs to take her out of her boring daily life as a small-town waitress.
If we accept the premise that it's okay to rob banks in the 1930s (and there are good economic arguments to support the idea) then the beginning of the story depicts a very enviable situation. It all too quickly goes sour, however, when Clyde shoots an aggressive bank guard unnecessarily. At this point the stakes are too high for comfortable living or optimism about the future.
Clyde Barrow was in real life, and is in this movie, a very dangerous shootist. He has mastery of most classes of firearms including the Browning Automatic Rifle and the Thompson Sub Machine Gun. He's consistently fast and accurate. If you take on Clyde in a gunfight it's not very likely that you'll live to tell about it. The lawmen know this and act accordingly at the end of the movie.
The Boys from Brazil (1978)
Well acted and suspenseful. Gregory Peck especially amazed me as Dr Josef Mengele in this strange fiction about the bizarre possibility of a future multiplicity of Adolph Hitlers through cloning. The progress of this project is ironically interfered with by three large Doberman Pinchers in the care of one of the clones.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)
Interesting story about two young German boys, one gentile, the other Jewish, who become secret friends through the barbed wire fence of a Nazi concentration camp. The story has a very sudden and thought provoking ending. Excellent acting, sets, and period feel.
Brideshead Revisited (1981)
One of the greatest of all masterpieces. I saw this wonderful story about eight times. Right from the beginning the way it's narrated to the end, a totally excellent, superbly acted production. Very charming lifestyles are showcased herein. Charles Ryder (Jeremy Irons) who "I'll have you know ... drinks Champagne at all times of day". Plover Eggs "the first I've seen this season" sent down to Oxford by Mummy from Bridehaed. Rex Mottram (Charles Keating) "who goes about armed" frequently enjoying "the second magnum and the forth cigar".
Too much worry by Sebastian Flyte (Anthony Andrews) about his mother, who is a little distant emotionally, but basically a nice woman. One could do a good deal worse. I wish there had been a little more wenching in Eastcheap, but that's the worst thing I can say about this story, except that it didn't go on forever.
Brideshead Revisited (2008)
At first I was reluctant to watch a short feature-length version of a story done so brilliantly as a longer miniseries by Jeremy Irons and others, it seems not that long ago. I was afraid I'd be constantly comparing the two versions, but was instead delighted to find this version very enjoyable as well. The smart script-writing emphasizes different aspects of the story and thus adds to the comprehension of the whole. Enjoy both.
The story is about the creation of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas by Benjamin Siegel 1946-1947. This is of particular interest to Las Vegas residents. Many of us consider Ben Siegel to have been a visionary.
From the Court TV website: "Modern folklore has it that Ben saw a vision in the desert in the days following World War II, that he kicked aside some rocks a few miles outside of town ... and decreed that here would be the Monte Carlo of the Americas, the place where high-rollers and penny-ante operators alike would come to strike it rich..."
Life isn't simple. Ben was a gangster who hurt people. I would not do much of what Ben did, but I like him anyway. I wish he had been able to control his adventure a little better so that he could have lived at least long enough to have seen Las Vegas in the time of Caesar's Palace. I think he would have been very proud.
Las Vegas is Cheyenne, Dodge City, Tombstone, Barbary Coast, Grass Valley, Silver City all rolled into one. The quintessential distillation of the Old Wild West. Nothing has been lost! (Similar to RCP review of CSN play "It's Only Business").
Cape Fear (1991)
There are two film versions of this story. 1962 with Robert Mitchum playing the villain Max Cady. 1991 with Robert De Niro in the same role. Both are superb and should be seen. I'm going to talk about the more recent one simply because I saw it more recently. I should mention that Mitchum also appeared in the second version, this time as Police Lieutenant Elgart.
De Niro's version of Max Cady in a particularly irritating character who has a strange and totally inappropriate sense of moral righteousness. He isn't at all entitled to this since he was a guilty rapist who got the conviction he deserved fourteen years earlier. It's his calm self assurance and relaxed personal candor that makes him so irksome and ultimately dangerous. Sam Bowden, played by Nick Nolte, should have shot Cady the minute he arrived in town, but idealistic people are too often hesitant when quick violence is the only thing that will save the day. He pays a big price for his delay.
Along with De Niro, Juliette Lewis was nominated for an Oscar as Danielle, Sam Bowdwn's teenage daughter. She did a remarkable job portraying a subtle and charming mixture of shy youthful innocence with adolescent hormonal excitability. Heavy, stormy, watery action at the end. Good resolution long overdue because of the hesitancy which handicaps human decency.
Captains and the Kings (1976)
This movie is about a real "Plutocrat". Very inspiring male-role-model stuff a bit like "The Carpetbaggers", but starting in 1850. The story is lightly suggested by the life of Joe Kennedy, but is really about an Irish immigrant named Joseph Francis Xavier Armagh (Richard Jordan) who makes it big in Pennsylvania oil. If I had to change my identity and time period, there is no one I would rather be in 1850.
The character of Joseph is perhaps the most exemplary I've ever seen depicted in any movie. I also read the book and am also influenced by that. I recommend both very highly. The movie cast reads like a Hollywood Who's Who. This was the first of the great TV mini-series that marked the high point of American culture along with the rise of heroic heavy metal bands in the 1970s. Don't laugh. Look at what we have now in October of 2008. A vile necrotic society infected with mindless Socialist cowardice and riding a fast train to Hell.
Carlito's Way (1993)
Excellent movie. Everybody's acting. Pacino's voice-over narration of the story. Content a little bit like a modern day "The Cotton Club". Gangster planning retirement. Centered around a big night club. Sleazy disco records instead of live blues. Cocaine instead of bootleg gin. Shows how American society has decayed culturally from the early 1930s to 1993. It's even worse now.
This is a story about self-created bad luck. If only Carlito (Al Pacino) had just humored Benny Blanko (John Leguizamo) a little bit. The kid only bought champagne for Carlito to impress his girlfriend. Carlito didn't have to shame him. Later, when matters escalate and he has Benny thrown down a flight of stairs, he then has to worry that he should have had Benny killed instead and that not doing so will surely come home to roost.
In the beginning just a little mature patience would have saved the day. Benny sends over the Champagne. Carlito jumps up, runs over quickly, and thanks him. Shakes hands. Meets the girl. Then removes any question about Benny joining his party by saying that he has to get back to his table quickly because he's talking serious private matters with his dinner guests. Benny, as a big time player himself, would of course certainly understand and sympathize.
Strange atmospheric Depression Era TV series about a traveling carnival in rural America. Lots of grimly realistic, well acted personal stuff, intimate lesbian relationships etc. Not always on target for the average person, but relevant to modern times unfortunately.
There's a wonderful scene where Samson (Michael J Anderson) goes to talk to a man who raped one of the girls in the troupe. Sampson casually draws the man out on the subject. The man speaks openly and even jokes about it. Sampson says nothing and then simply pulls out a big western style six-gun and blows the guys head off. Bravo!
The Carpetbaggers (1964)
This is one of my favorites. If I had to be someone else, the main character, Jonas Cord (George Peppard), is who I would want to be in that time period. His life is loosely based on Howard Hughes, but with a much happier ending. Jonas is good at business and with women. He gets involved in many interesting projects like making airplanes and movies.
I also read the book, which is really three novels in one. It also covers the lives of two individuals who appear as characters in the Jonas Cord story. I highly recommend both book and movie. If you read the book first you'll have the back-stories of the two characters and know things about them that Jonas doesn't find out until the end of the movie.
This one was shot before I arrived in Las Vegas. A friend of mine was in the scene where Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro) nearly gets incinerated in his car. Wish I could say the same. The movie is simply a masterpiece. It's the true story of mob activity in Las Vegas during the 1970s and 80s. A very engrossing and well acted story. Good use of period music as in all Scorsese films. Many I've talked to seem nostalgic about the mob. In 2003, the day after Binion's Horseshoe was robbed, a lady at the Riviera told me "This never would have happened when the mob was still running things. Nobody would have dared."
The Casino Job (2009)
I hope that I'm not prejudiced favorably just because I received an invitation to the premier and have two of the cast members interested in one of my own projects, but along with everybody else present, I enjoyed this movie very much. A great many of the Las Vegas film industry turned out for this event and I happily ran into people I hadn't seen for over three years. The producer, Christopher Hood, was on hand and gave us a good deal of interesting background information about production.
The movie is about five girls who heist a Las Vegas casino. The story is believable and all the acting is good. Irina Voronina (Paradise) shows range, here showcased by the always difficult need for tearfulness. I met the leading man Dean Mauro just before the screening. Dean is robust and big as Barry, the casino owner. I can see this guy doing gangster movies with Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro. Curtis Joe Walker is both serious and funny, not in any contrived way, but in the way that real life is at times both serious and funny. He has a subtle healthy quality very much like Jim Carey.
The thing that really clinches this film is a strange plot twist at the end which kept me thinking about the story all the rest of that evening and most of the next day. It challenges the viewer's identification with the characters. I won't spoil the ending by saying more. See for yourself.
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Interesting true story about Frank Abagnale Jr who passes more than four million dollars worth of bad checks in the 1960s. Inspiring performance by Leonardo DiCaprio. One line that especially delights me is when he's eating dinner with his girlfriend and her family and says "Well, now that I've finally passed the bar exam, I think I'll try my hand at pediatrics". What a guy. Even though everything Frank does is fake, he himself is the real deal, just for being so very good at it.
Epic thirty eight hour TV miniseries about a fictitious town located roughly were we find Colorado Springs today. The story coves the history of the town Centennial from the first white fur trappers up through the water issues of the late 1970s. I read the novel by James A Michener which covers a much bigger time span. Starts with the cooling of the Earth's core beneath Centennial, then lets you see life through the eyes of a Brontosaurus and later a Buffalo.
The cast for the TV version is almost half of everybody working in Hollywood. One of the biggest finest productions ever achieved by movie makers. A real American classic. My favorite character Pasquinel (Robert Conrad) is a man who is at home in almost every situation. He can dress up, waltz with beautiful women, and talk business with educated men. Wearing rawhide he can stand face to face with primitive tribal chiefs and be admired for his fearlessness. And he wears the red cap of Quebec.
Chain Reaction (1996)
Keanu Reeves playing Eddie Kasalivich runs a gauntlet of terrible dangers in this thriller and emerges as a kind of guy-next-door action hero. There's a wonderful scene where he commandeers a swamp buggy type vehicle and escapes across a frozen lake. Excellent winter eye candy. Morgan Freeman is brilliant as Paul Shannon, the ruthless wealthy director of a big science company trying to monopolize world energy production. Much suspense and a good surprise ending.
Engrossing period piece about the undying faith of a young mother whose son is abducted by a very evil man. I especially admired the heroism of the characters played by Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich in this story.
Excellent series dealing with the involvement of three generations of police chiefs with an ongoing serial murder case which occupies them for close to fifty years. The killer is for me a likable character except that he dispatches forty seven innocent victims over the period. This is a bad character flaw in any man. Set against the civil rights in the rural south. Engrossing and very well acted story.
Children of Men (2006)
This movie has an amazing sense of realism, because of very long takes and tracking shots. There is one shot where the camera actually pans everybody in a car from the back seats to the front non-stop as through the eyes of a curious hummingbird. I know exactly how this was done. Possible only because of the very latest technology. The content is exciting and suspenseful with a great deal of very expensive, well-choreographed, heavy action.
Peterson Political Commentary
As to the moral premise of the story, I have big trouble with who the good guys truly are in this. Are they really those who would allow massive influx into Britain from countries that have failed? Some would say that the emigrants are unfortunate victims of bad governments. Others might assert that in almost every case it was their own apathetic non-resistance that allowed their counties to fail in the first place. Should they just be allowed to come flooding in to ruin Britain as well? Could it possibly be that the real good guys are actually the people who would save Britain from being dragged under by the drowning refugees and after-the-fall pseudo-revolutionaries from less intelligently run countries outside?
Jack Nicholson plays JJ Gittes, a likable detective on a complex adultery murder case in the 1930s that involves him in all the complexities surrounding the diverting of water to the California Valley from lakes in the North. PBS had a six hour series about this project, one of the most interesting public works episodes in American history.
The movie is very atmospheric. It has many, but not all, the elements of a good film noir. Faye Dunaway is beautiful and sexy as the demure enigmatic Evelyn Mulwray. Bad ending unfortunately. A sequel "The Two Jakes" shows us some further adventures of the awesome Jake Gittes and an unexpected friendship with Jake Berman memorably played by Harvey Keitel.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Strange futuristic tale about crime and punishment. Explores questions about the value of attempted rehabilitation which simply defangs a natural predator rather than actually changing his motivations. The predator then becomes just another defenseless victim, having lost the proper fierceness that all people need to survive. Memorable soundtrack is good listening even today.
The Company of Wolves (1984)
Several tales in one. My favorite werewolf movie, this is probably also the most revisionist of all because it deals with the Freudian sexual connotations found in werewolf legends. It centers more around the loss of adolescent innocence than the usual classical horror themes.
Superb drama based upon the 1924 Loeb-Leopold murder case. Engrossing script. Memorable acting. Jonathan Wilk (Orson Welles) delivers Clarence Darrow's moving trial summation which speaks out against the death penalty. He argues that two boys should not be murdered by society for being what they would not choose to be if they new any better, immature and crazy.
Con Air (1997)
Very good story about convicts crash landing a big plane on the Las Vegas Strip. Locals will notice that the sequence of different places hit by the plane is geographically impossible, but the total effect is very exciting.
One thing I liked is that serial killer Garland Greene (Steve Buscemi) gets a new healthy perspective on life after a tea party with an innocent little girl. He seems headed very much in the right direction even without further intervention by prison authorities. It's always nice in stories when goodness prevails just for it's own superior value.
This film is yet another of the great Las Vegas movies that happened before I arrived. A friend of mine was in the final scene when Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) is reunited with his family amidst sreaming fire engines and general chaos. Wish I could say the same.
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
This is a splendid movie. There should be a boxed set of eight. If I ever get the chance, I'll try to talk Arnold into making six more. There is wonderful narration by the Chinese wizard about "the days of high adventure." The special effects are very realistic. Giant serpents, arrows which turn into serpents, the Tree of Woe with impatient vulture. The settings are superb. The temple of the snake cult, especially at night illuminated by fire pots. Exciting atmosphere. Also don't miss the one (so far) sequel, "Conan the Destroyer".
Confessions of an Opium Eater (1962)
Strange tale about Thomas De Quincey (Vincent Price) helping runaway slave girls during a Tong war in San Francisco. There's a scene where a man closes his shutters just in time as they are hit with a shower of Tong hatchets. There is lots of good decadent opium stuff for students of strange culture. De Quincey approaches an old Chinese shoemaker "I am a stranger in your city seeking a man by the name of..." The Chinese man looks at De Quincey's shoes and replies "By the look of your shoes you are a stranger in many cities... the man you seek will be found yonder in the house where rich men smoke the Pipe of Golden Dreams". Thomas visits the house. When he asks the whereabouts of a certain girl, the sailor on the upper bunk responds "What would you be wanting with a girl, mate, when you can have dreams?"
The Contender (2000)
The cast is good with excellent acting all around. It's an engrossing story about a woman vice-presidential candidate being harassed with irrelevant information about normal sexual activity in college. In so far as this aspect is concerned, the plot is viable and the good guys win.
Peterson Political Commentary:
Unfortunately, however, with the unworkable policies the candidate champions, the country and evolutionary destiny itself looses. When she mentions fighting for "the freedoms we hold dear" I nearly wretched. In a properly run country with well informed citizens, devolutionary social programs and talk about confiscation of handguns would be sad memories in the past.
The Cotton Club (1984)
When I was eight years old I used to ask my mother to put the Duke Ellington song "The Mooch" on the record player. What a delight when thirty years later I again heard the song used to open this movie. Later my Aunt Priscilla told me about seeing Cab Calloway at the Cotton Club in 1933. It's probably my favorite of all films. I lived in it as I watched and felt a sense of loss, like being kicked out of Paradise, when it was over.
Along with "The Sting", "Once Upon a Time in America", "Chinatown", and "Hard Times" it's one of the most quintessentially American films I can think of. It's two hours and seven minutes long. A reviewer on television in 1986 mirrored my feelings exactly "This movie has one very serious flaw. It's just too damned short!" Don't miss seeing the full length version of this period masterpiece.
It's a romantic story about a young couple whose love affair is complicated by their individual relationships with bootlegger Dutch Schultz. Apart from this main story there are many interesting and charming parallel subplots. Ted Turner did an edit for a two hour TV slot with commercials. This completely removed all the subplots. The result was still a very good watchable movie, but too much excellence was lost. I can't imagine Mr. Coppola being very pleased about this.
I think the most outstanding characteristic of this film was just the sheer total excellence of it. The script. The close up shots of subtle facial reactions. The entire look. Lighting. Costumes. Authentic hair styles. Duke Ellington's Orchestra. The Dance numbers with Gregory Hines.
Like Kirk Douglas doing Bix Beiderbecke in "Young Man with a Horn", Richard Gere learned how and played his own horn in this. And played very well too. Both of these fine actors could have made it just as easily as musicians. The Billy Holiday song "Am I Blue?" with Diane Lane at Vera's Place is beautiful with great period feel, sincerity, and serene smoothness. It reminds me of other classic 1920s songs like "Dream a Little Dream of Me" and "Deep Purple". There are wonderful exchanges of voice and horn like those between Louis Armstrong with Birtha "Chippy" Hill also in the 1920s when Louis was still doing serious music.
The Craft (1996)
Not everybody realizes that the TV show "Charmed" was inspired by this movie. This is a very charming tale made more so by four cute sexy young actresses in the lead roles. I have trouble with the placating story posture that anyone exploring their indigenous spiritual heritage or the powers of nature must necessarily be a person rashly seeking dangerous remedy to unusual troubles in their life, but these girls are very young and the power struggle which develops between them plays well here and is realistic in this context. I love everything about Witches and this story is better than most.
Cruel Intentions (1999)
I love all three of these movies. The story is very much a Twentieth Century version of "Dangerous Liaisons". The whole look is very chic, especially the clothes. The splendor of youth dissipated by cruel excess. The first one made me feel that I missed out in life somewhat by not spending three or four years in New York right after college. Sarah Michelle Gellar is sexy and irresistible as a very wicked Kathryn Merteuil. Great girl except for her cruel intentions. Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe) is the kind of guy I would want as a son except for his cruel intentions. But the general undefiled worldly wisdom and freedom from inhibition in both of these characters is something I dearly love.
"And it hurt none, do what thou wilt."
The Crush (1993)
Story about a psychopathic fourteen year girl with erotomania. Adrienne Forrester (Alicia Silverstone) will stop at nothing to actualize her desire. The plot is complicated by the fact that Adrienne seems like a twenty year old. I found myself thinking that the object of her affection, Nick Eliot (Cary Elwes) should indeed get involved with such a beautiful and eager girl. Very difficult to resist, especially if you don't know that she is under age. On the other hand if her parents object Nick will have to move out of the apartment he rents from them. Erotomania is a very rare disorder and should not make anyone inhibited about pressing ahead with romance.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Unusual fantasy about a man who begins to grow slowly younger. Absurd premise, but very well written. Thought provoking in surprising ways. Good atmosphere and acting.
Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
A magnificent movie about the self defeating strategy of an aristocratic cocksman who tries to milk too many cows at one time and who refuses to let go of his glorious past in place of an equally glorious (but very different) future. Valmont, now in love with Marie de Tourvel, should no longer care about the promise of a last night with Isabelle de Merteuil or his future reputation as a debaucher. He should not fight a duel with Darceny, but instead invite him out to a fine lunch and wish him well in his adventure with Isabelle de Merteuil.
The Da Vinci Code (2006)
Gripping thriller about waring factions within Christianity. Tom Hanks is great and it's always a delight to see Audrey Tautou without subtitles. This is a complex impressive tale beautifully directed by Ron Howard.
The Death of Adolf Hitler (1973)
About Adolf's last days in the Fuehrerbunker. A good personal look at Hitler and those who were with him till the end. Covers his marriage to Eva Braun, the demise of Blondie the German Shepherd, and the suicide of Magda and Joseph Goebbels with their five children. Good script very well acted.
Deep Winter (2009)
This is a well acted movie with footage of extreme skiing beyond anything I've ever seen before. A good watch for anybody who likes skiing or sports win-or-die stories in general.
The Departed (2006)This movie is aptly titled because a great many people die. I started watching it because I was in the mood for a DiCaprio period piece. First I see Leonardo. Next I see Matt Damon, then Mark Walberg and Martin Sheen, then Alec Baldwin, then Jack Nicholson. "Holy Kazoozis" I'm thinking "Is there any great actor who is not in this movie? I've made a very good choice on this one." Surprising sequence of events at the end.
The Descent (2005)
The emotional plot structure works very well in this movie, but from the first I found myself asking "How could so many foolish young ladies have found each other?" Maybe through a suicidal spelunkers' meet-up group on the Internet?" Really unrealistic situation.
The long narrowing descent down into the cave is very effective at giving the viewer claustrophobia. But who wants that? Not me. The movie is darkly lighted. Appropriate for situation but unpleasant for my tired old eyes to watch.
The special effects are excellent and scary but the scientific premise behind them is bogus. The only creatures that ever survive to reproduce and adapt after becoming cave-locked are tiny fish and salamanders who can subsist on the few insects that make it down from above. If these cave dwellers had a way out for food at night they never would have become cave-adapted. Even if they chose to hunt only at night they would retain their sight and probably develop even better eyes (like owls). Sometimes a talented director needs a science officer on board.
Desert Bloom (1986)
This is a strangely atmospheric film about alcohol abuse and troubled family relationships. The setting does not mitigate, but does make nice juxtaposition to, the ongoing difficulties. The 1950s time period is cozy and there is an attractive subtle use of bichomatic red and white in the house interior that gives a kind of Nevada-desert-style family holiday feeling. There was a type of ribbon candy popular in those days that had the exact same colors and look.
John Voight is excellent as the alcoholic father Jack. A good man in many ways but badly changed and made really evil by drink. Having a somewhat paranoid and misinformed character express discontent about the ongoing destructive interaction between politicians and international finance does not, of course, render this problem nonexistent, but what we have here is a very good film and the person who reads broadly will reach the best conclusions about how societies should be run.
The Dirty Dozen (1967)
Interesting World War II story about a dangerous raid behind enemy lines by a bunch of volunteers whose alternatives are to be executed or remain in prison practically forever. Features interesting character development with a large cast of fine actors playing some very bad but lovable hard-case types.
Story about an aggressive, ruthless woman who uses deception to punish a man for simply not being obedient to her will. Also gives a nice inside look at the esoteric world of likable computer geeks and the awesome work they do. Good story with good acting all around.
Dog Soldiers (2002)
The mystery of who is slowly killing off the platoon and then the upright gaunt scariness of the werewolves when we finally see them is very effective and memorable. They look like African Wild Dogs in uniform with guns. I got very impatient and angry, however, waiting to see them. When I finally did see them, I wanted to see more, but didn't get to. Good special effects, but a disappointing stingy use of them. This is, however, only my point of view. Many today feel this is the best way to sustain intensity and realism, because the viewer won't have a chance to get used to the imagery.
The Doors (1991)
I'm very proud of Val Kilmer in this one. Try to think of a more difficult role than the strange and mystical Jim Morrison. Not only does he look right for it but he actually sounds like Jim even when he sings. Superb performance.
There's an interesting scene showcasing social life among the artistic elite of America. The Doors are at a party given by Andy Warhol. In the background we hear the darkly cool and awesome Velvet Underground song "Venus in Furs". Morrison is milling around meeting all the New York people. No raids by the police but quite memorable anyway.
Downhill Racer (1969)
This is a skier's movie. I only wish there were more ski movies. I've seen this many times and enjoyed it every time. Robert Redford did all his own skiing for this and must be especially fond and proud of this particular film.
The character Redford plays, David Chappellet, is a very bleak and grimly determined individual. When David goes home to visit his father we see where he got his emotional approach to living. Their conversations are so minimalist as to be nearly autistic, but from their viewpoint probably seen as practical minded and verbally economical. I don't care what anybody says. There was something I liked about this character and found myself rooting for him. I was happy when he won at the end. What else would there have been to this story if he hadn't won? To love your work and to never betray it, whatever else happens, is one of the greatest gifts that life can give.
This is a wonderful movie. Excellent juxtaposition in story content where at first the old Grey Wizard seems more or less incompetent even in small matters of Magick. He even gets himself killed, but later when the real showdown comes for his apprentice, he reappears (as did Gandalf), now a White Wizard of great power and courage. The art design and special effects are superb. The dragon, his mountain perch, the lake below. The dragon battle is magnificent. One of my favorites in any movie. The film used for it seems rather grainy (like Ansco High Speed). I don't know why they did it this way, but I feel disposed to trust that there must be a good reason.
Easy Rider (1969)
This is a 1960s classic with nice large doses of what was both good and bad about the period. The good was the emphasis on freedom and individuality. The bad was the glorification of drugs. The LSD session in the New Orleans cemetery is one of the most boring and pathetic things I have ever seen depicted in any movie. This can be useful, however, in reminding us not to overly glamorize the period. There's a n awful lot to be nostalgic about in connection with the sixties, but doped up disgraceful behavior is not one of them.
This is a very good movie about a very bad subject, snuff porn. Definition: Snuff Porn is a documentary movie where a person slowly tortures or mutilates to death an actual living victim with the cameras rolling. People who make snuff porn movies are among the most evil on earth. In 8MM there is a very consciousness-raising scene depicting a conversation with a hooded snuff porn murderer who states that he was never abused as a child, that he fully understands that what he does is evil and wrong, but that he enjoys it and so does it anyway. So much for psychology. Yes, Evil does exist.
In this Nicolas Cage really delivers with as fine a piece of acting as I have ever seen anyone do. I totally identified with his character Tom Welles and when Tom finally got mad enough to start killing the bad guys it brought a tear to my eye. Please see this movie. We owe it to our fellow humans to at least be aware that this level of evil exists.
All this, of course, poses a question. Who buys snuff porn films and why? The same type, perhaps, who gather like flies around a traffic accident coldly eyeballing the victims until the police finally shoo them away.
The Emperor Jones (1933)
O'neill's basic theme has been used in many movies since he wrote the play. A greedy man from the outside modern world with a little advanced technology in the form of a gadget or two ruling and exploiting people of a primitive culture by making them think he is much more than he really is. A very tenuous and suspenseful situation to be in.
Jones should have left the island the minute he knew the natives had become aware of his non viability as a leader. He assumed that just because they would believe the superstition that he could be killed only by silver bullets that they would also lack the resourcefulness and will to get silver bullets and kill him. He was very foolish in this. I was surprised, however, by the ending because I thought that Jones would first die of heart failure first because of the way the islanders were scaring him.
Enter the Dragon (1973)
This is the first oriental martial arts movie produced by Hollywood. It's a real movie with good story, acting, and production values. There are exotic sets and location with fairly grand spectacle because of the large number of skilled people cast in the outdoor tournaments.
My favorite scene is one that showcases Bruce Lee's extraordinary power. He's pitted against Oharra, a really big guy who outweighs him by quite a lot. They lock arms first and then Lee knocks him down two or three times with only one inch to build inertia. This is practically impossible to do. Very superior use of Chi. Oharra becomes so angry that he goes nuts and disgraces himself with unfair practices like a broken bottle.
At the end there's a strange fight scene inside a labyrinth of mirrors. This time Lee is up against Han, who has a prosthetic hand with knife blades instead of fingers. Lee picks up bad abdominal scratches from this and loses a little blood. This is a real martial arts classic and should be seen by all who love the genre.
Splendid movie about the last days of the Dragon Riders. Superb air battles and special effects. There are a great many stars in this film. I was impressed to see Jeremy Irons wield a sword so well. I realize he has done other swashbuckling roles, but this is the first one I've seen.
The Expendables (2010)A great many fine action heroes and superior action footage put this film in a category with "Commando" and "Die Hard". Three scenes especially delighted me: a short cameo with Arnold Schwarzenegger, a guy avenging a beat up girlfriend, and a returning airplane with two heroes hell bent doing a very good thing.
John Cassavetes more than accomplished his stated goal of "an attack on contemporary middle class America, an expression of horror at our society in general,..." I honestly can't remember when I've spent a more unpleasant hour and fifteen minutes.
The movie follows a bunch of middle class fools through a typical social evening. My reaction shows me what an elitist snob I have grown up to be. If the film crew had trained their cameras into a pig pen for an equivalent duration the result for me would have had equal impact to what I saw on the movie screen.
The characters were a bunch of pathetic guilt-ridden drunkards draping themselves all over each other, being generally obnoxious, and singing really stupid songs. Their conversations and philosophical meanderings were tepid, shallow, and immature. As I watched these poor souls disgracing themselves I kept thinking "This is really what the entire rebellion of the 1960s was all about - just to keep from growing up to be like these idiots".
The biggest private personal struggle that life gives us is between what we want to do and what we think society will condemn us for doing. One of the greatest keys to being well adjusted and happy is to eliminate all the false conflicts about simple human pleasure. We don't have to drink to justify our sexuality. When the animal and spiritual nature are completely on the same page most of life's problems disappear.
There were interesting closeup looks at characters' facial expressions often of longer duration than filmmakers today would use to confirm emotion. For example: the long look we have at Richard's wife's expression when he asks her for a divorce. I found the look very effective and quite memorable.
I especially admired the acting of John Marley and Gena Rowlands. Richard Forst was my favorite character in the story and I'm glad he connected with Jeannie at the end of the evening. Most of the other actors and actresses were unfamiliar to me, but I think they all did a fine job because the sense of realism in this movie was very great.
If this film was less than a big financial success I think it may be because Cassavetes overestimated the desire of society to be informed in movies about stupid drunken behavior. All you need to do is go to a booze party and you can see the exact same thing without having to buy a theater ticket.
Falling Down (1993)
William Foster has lost it and causes quite a fuss among the police in LA, but most of the problematical people he encounters on his walk home more or less deserve what they get. Ironically Foster mostly doesn't do anything to them. It's just the circumstances caused by his presence and the people's reaction to the circumstances that produce the damage.
A man who is emotionally out of control relative to the preservation of his own freedom doesn't necessarily have bad judgment about the relative moral value of others. But he may be just a little too angry about it all for his own good. I was pleased by most of the casualties in this movie, but not by the death of Foster himself at the end. He was a good guy who just needed the right means of livelihood and to read a bit more for the emotional balance which accrues to being well informed.
Very good acting in this movie. I had never seen Reese Witherspoon or Mark Wahlberg before this and was very impressed with both. The story is quite suspenseful. The decapitation of the family dog really helps the fear factor with an expectation of much worse things to come. William Peterson is excellent as the father, but he should have arranged an accident for the villainous boyfriend long before things got so out of hand. One should never be patient with evil.
Interesting story which explores the guilt which many people carry about the self-important way they treated others in youth. Further self importance fuels this ongoing guilt which is unmitigated by the glaring fact that the similar treatment they themselves received in youth from others doesn't bother them in the least now.
Realistic special effects enhance this scary disaster film about the flooding of London during a heavy ocean storm at high tide. One wonders if global warming with polar ice melt will make this danger an increasing reality. Staring Robert Carlyle. Good acting all around.
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (2007)
This is a very grim and unpleasant movie which, via long unedited takes, gives us a hard look at the realities involved in illegal abortion. I think that simple undiluted reality is the very successful intention of this film.
I have been asked what I think Cristian Mungiu's position on abortion is. There is no way for me to know this so I'll say simply say that any movie which shows the truth serves the pro-choice viewpoint.
I say this because, like it or not, there is going to be a certain number of unwanted pregnancies in any society. Healthy people like to have sex. Sometimes condoms fail, as do contraceptive devices and drugs. There is therefore, like it or not, also going to be a certain number of abortions, legal or illegal, in any society.
All the danger and squalor connected with abortion occurs only in societies where abortion is illegal. Unless we are to throw away liberty say that a woman must serve as a mandatory government incubator, forced at gunpoint to carry to full term, then pro-choice is the only position which is served by truth.
Frenzy (1972) and Alfred Hitchcock's Imagery in General
From 1939 until 1980, Alfred Hitchcock lived in Hollywood. He made very good use of the time. He became and remains a great star of American culture, one of the few directors of his generation whose name is still completely familiar to most theatergoers.
Hitchcock's films often showcase a series of small but humorous ironies. In "Frenzy" the murderer's tie pin clutched in the rigor-mortised hand of the victim who is in a bag of potatoes bouncing along in a delivery truck. Later the police inspector's breaking of bread sticks as he tells his wife how something had been forcibly taken from the victim's rigidly clamped fingers.
Sometimes Hitchcock's characters say things that are very memorable. In "Frenzy" when the bar matron mentions that the murderer doesn't just strangle the women with his necktie, but also rapes them first, the police inspector says "Well, every cloud has a silver lining, eh?" The good natured bar matron blushes deeply and laughs. But Hitchcock's movies deal mostly with images, not words.
Sometimes the images are historical and iconic. A man dangling from the Statue of Liberty and then falls receding from our view. A man and woman talking on the San Francisco side of the Golden Gate Bridge with the gray cliffs of Sausalito in the distance and suddenly she jumps into the bay. A fight right on George Washington's nose at Mt. Rushmore. Looking up at London Bridge as we pass under it in a boat.
Sometimes it's not iconic imagery but deeply seated primal or archetypal imagery. The struggle of a girl being strangled to death as reflected in the lens of her own glasses which have fallen to the ground. The wide open eye of a freshly murdered woman lying on the floor of a motel shower stall. The same woman's blood mixed with water spiraling down the shower drain. An insane old woman (we still think) with a kitchen knife stabbing a man repeatedly in the face as he runs backwards screaming down a long staircase. A beautiful cool demure blond in a fur coat driving a silver Aston Martin roadster north up the coastal highway from San Francisco to Bodega Bay.
Sometimes it's just imagery we are very unlikely to see anywhere else. Like something more appropriate to a dream. A well dressed gentleman running through a cornfield chased by a small airplane. Seagulls floating on a thermal just ahead as we look down on a lengthening stream of gasoline which suddenly ignites two hundred feet below. A playground Jungle Gym slowly filling up with ravens behind a woman who sits peacefully smoking a cigarette. One big raven mercilessly pecking at a little girl who is lying on her tummy kicking her legs in terrified frustrated protest. Next to these amazing images everything else in Hitchcock's movies is ancillary.
Hitchcock's films are heavily dramatic, dealing with very basic human emotions such as desire, guilt, and fear. He possessed a remarkable power to enchant and frighten the viewer. His iconic, primal, and out-of-the-ordinary images remain permanently fixed in the psyches of all who have seen them.
From the Terrace (1960)
Inspiring role model stuff for young men in the 1960s. Explores questions about what limits an ambitious man should tolerate before reacting decisively in both career and romance. I also read the book and highly recommend both. The film, however, has a much happier ending.
Gangs of New York (2002)This is an engrossing film. In the beginning we see a cold winter day long ago in Five Points. Two big groups of men with jumbo size meat cleavers are arraying themselves for a fight to the death. Leave me out of this matter, thank ye. Excellent acting all around and fun to watch from a safe distance. The strange and dangerous character William Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis) is based on a William Poole who was the leader of the Bowery Boys in that period. See Wikipedia about this.
The Garden of the Finzi Continis (1970)
When I was younger I asked a very old woman what place and time she most enjoyed in her long life. She said it was living in Ireland, not before or after, but during World War II. I asked why and she said she didn't know. Then I asked if perhaps it was because news about the war going on just over the hill gave a feeling of danger and excitement while at the same time accentuating the tranquility of everyday living and the value of peace. She said yes, that is precisely why.
This movie gives us even greater juxtaposition and closer at hand. It shows us the enjoyable and sometimes frivolous options of daily living among aristocratic Italian Jews in the late 1930s as things grow very dark and dangerous just outside their garden walls. Will all this trouble outside finally close in?
The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)
Scary well-acted true story with really good special effects. A lion leaping through the air to mangle the beautiful young wife of Colonel John Henry Patterson (Val Kilmer). Fortunately it turns out to be only in a nightmare of his, but for us, seeing is believing.
Memorable point-of-view photography of what the professional hunter Charles Remington (Michael Douglas) sees as a lion drags him out of his tent into the tall grass to be eaten alive. I'm surprised that I've never seen this technique before. Easier than showing us the lion dragging the person, but more effective because we totally identify. The lion has us by the leg too. Later, out in the tall grass, people look down at the remains as someone explains how the lion first licks off the skin with his sandpaper tongue to drink the blood before he devours the meat.
Rags to riches in oil wells for Jet Rink (James Dean). Too bad he can't handle it. Within Dean's main feature films this is both the meanest and also the weakest character he played. Jet works hard and attains a good deal, but he just can't except not getting everything he wants and drinks to fill the emptiness. This never works for anybody and the way Jet ends up is one of the most memorable portrayals of human disgracefulness in motion picture history. I was truly embarrassed for him.
I was lucky to see the director's cut of this one. It gave me sixteen extra minutes. Nothing I would cut. Russell Crow is superb as always and the tigers coming out of trap doors after him in the Coliseum are startling in a deeply visceral way.
The Glass Menagerie (1987)
The Four Characters:
Amanda Wingfield - Mother of Laura and Tom. Grew up in the genteel South and yearns for the past. Talks very much about all her "gentleman callers". Shows normal motherly concern for the future of her children, but engages in an endless harangue of both children over mostly minute and trivial things. This flaw drove her husband away and unfortunately keeps her from being taken seriously by her children about things that really do matter.
Tom - Amanda's older child. Undiscovered writer working in a warehouse. Drinks. Goes to movies to escape Amanda. When at home fights back at times, but ineffectively. Ends up leaving to keep from squandering his entire life arguing when all he really wants is to travel. Never contacts home. This is an immature over-reaction. One can lead his own life and still keep in touch occasionally. Tom is likable, but by today's standards he's an oaf.
Laura - Amanda's younger. Has one leg too short from childhood illness. Makes too much of it. Is far too nervous and self-involved. Much too afraid of Amanda. Is a very nice and likable girl who one hopes will somehow find normalcy and happiness.
Jim O'Connor - Laura's gentleman caller. Model of perfection and achievement in high school. Finds real life more difficult, but is advancing nicely because of his good work ethic and very positive attitude about everything. Tries to help Laura. This scene leaves one disappointed that they don't continue as a couple and wondering how much Laura is changed by their meeting and what effect it will have on her future.
Gone with the Wind (1939)
This movie is one of the great classics. I'll never get tired of seeing it again once in awhile. It's an expensive Technicolor Civil War epic which set the standard for all great films thereafter. The story features one of the cutest and most admirable heroines of all time Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh). Also one of the best role models for a self determining Southern gentleman, Rhett Butler (Clark Gable). This film was the 1939 precursor to two of the finest 1980s TV miniseries "North and South Books I & II."
Interesting interplay between a college professor being slowly drawn into the Third Reich agenda and an old Jewish friend. Unless I missed something, the movie ends abruptly without any real plot resolution, but I liked it anyway. Good setup for a sequel.
Good Advice (2001)
Charlie Sheen makes good movies and this is no exception. It's a love story which I found thought provoking in the way it dealt with the kind of male-versus-female values which often keep couples from getting together.
The Good German (2006)
In this George Clooney plays a likable character who had me worried for awhile. It seems that just about everybody was beating him up. When he finally turned this around, I felt relieved for him. Life is in color - the film is in in black and white, but is otherwise a good period piece with authentic feel.
The Good Son (1993)
This film is a masterpiece. It has pleasant atmosphere with New England locations, overcast weather, and spectacular coastal scenery. The story is very suspenseful and deals with the same basic subject matter and emotional conflict as The Bad Seed. It's about a psychopathic child who does whatever he wants from murdering his three year old brother to causing huge car accidents just for sport.
Early in the film there is insightful talk about the nature and non curability of intrinsic evil. Then comes a long period of slow and painful discovery. At the end of the movie, the child's mother is forced to make a very difficult choice between goodness and parental instinct.
The Graduate (1967)
Very traditional theme of young lovers trying to escape from the life planning of bossy adults, but with a wrinkle. The writers did a good job with story set-up. For Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) to be believable in his initial reluctance, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) had to be not just any older woman, but the wife of his father's business partner who Ben has known since babyhood, practically an aunt. Also she's the predatory cat with her silent brooding and jaguar-skin skirt. This way Ben's youthful idealism can still be intact when he starts seeing Elaine (Katherine Ross). I liked the "fully baked" remark followed by the toast popping up. Corny but cool. Also the happy ending with Ben basking is his success.
The Great Waldo Pepper (1975)
Robert Redford plays the affable Waldo Pepper doing what Hermann Goering and many great pilots did after World War I, acrobatic flying and barnstorming, in this case all across America instead of Europe. Unlike many of the others, Waldo wasn't in the war, but fortunately finds motion pictures as a substitute path to aviation glory. Superb acting and lots of good flying scenes.
Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957)
Classic about the events which lead up to a face to face shootout between the Earps with Doc Holiday and the Clantons. This historic event provides a unique story with a confrontation which many western movies try to recap as a dramatic convention. In truth this shootout was one of the only such fights that ever occurred in the Old West. Most shootings were done by ambushing or dry gulching the victim as he left town. Most of the discord centered around gambling and the average gambler killed three men before he was killed himself.
A Handful of Dust (1988)This is a very nice look at the pleasant life of the English upper classes. Tony Last (James Wilby) is handling his divorce very well, but makes a bad mistake in Africa that gets him into a jam that absolutely cries out for a sequel. We just can't leave him in such a situation.
Hanover Street (1979)This is a nice World War II love story. It has a perfect balance of romance, suspense, espionage, and military action. Well acted all around. As I watched Patsy Kensit playing Sarah Sellinger I found myself thinking that a well educated polite little English schoolgirl is (to me) the most charming generic category of human being on this planet.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)All of these are excellent for kids or adults. They're linked by an interesting ongoing story, but each film also stands well by itself. Many mythological situations are explored. Many legendary beasts are depicted. There are awesome sets and special effects with charming characters and superb acting. It must have cost a good deal to make these but they're worth every penny.
He Loves Me He Loves Me Not (2002)
This movie uses restricted editing to show first the viewpoint of a young student, Angelique, who is in love with a cardiologist, Loic. Then the narrative resets to the beginning showing the viewpoint of Loic relative to the same sequence of events. In the end the two versions converge with surprising consequences.
Angelique is totally delusional about everything that happens. At the beginning we see her with a rose. We see the light of love and romance in her eyes. She thinks, and makes us believe, that Loic is her lover. Later in the Loic version we see that he just vaguely remembers handing a rose (from a large bouquet he just bought for his wife) to a pretty young girl (Angelique) to celebrate his wife's pregnancy. Marital effervescence to a pretty stranger and nothing else.
This is a very taught, complex, and cleverly presented story about how a constitutional psychopath afflicted with DeClťrambault's Syndrome will stop at absolutely nothing to actualize delusion. Also called erotomania, this is a very rare disorder and should not discourage anybody from the uninhibited expression of desire and love.
If you like suspenseful crime drama with complex character development then this one is for you. Fine cast. Superb acting. Good story. Heavy action. There's a scene which looks more like war than cops and robbers. The crooks are outgunning the police with powerful high caliber military type weapons. Very intense. Some chaps I once talked with in a restaurant line told me that there was a real shootout like this in LA and that this scene was probably inspired by the event, but I haven't been able to verify it. No matter. Ultimately real events inspires all films.
A History of Violence (2005)
Viggo Mortensen is one of my favorites. He always delivers and this film is no exception. All the acting was good and the story skillfully poses the question of just how much blame a man should have to bear for wrongful actions long past if he has truly changed since that time.
Masterpiece about WWII centering around the Jewish Family Weiss and the problems caused them by Third Reich policy.
There is a very bleak scene with gaunt naked people being herded to the edge of a ditch, lined up, and machine-gunned. Then we see the officers with their pistols walking along finishing off those who are still alive moaning in bottom of the ditch. Very stark and visceral, and especially educational for this reason.
I felt bad for Karl Weiss (James Woods) because he's a likable and inspirational character who I was rooting for. He struggles heroically and makes it through the long hellishness of Auschwitz almost to the end only to die just two weeks before the camp is liberated.
Hotel Rwanda (2004)
This film is not about the kind of subject matter I like, but a friend asked me to review it so here I did.
The movie is the true story of Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a very savvy hotel manager skilled in flattery and bribes. Now in 1994 he is caught in the middle of the massacre of one million of the Tutsi tribe being killed all around him by the Hutu tribe.
Even with all his worldly knowledge Paul finds his skills severely tested as things begin to grow worse politically. Every day people are being dragged into the street and beaten or killed. As the Hutu militia are about to take away Paul's family he bribes the officer in charge to let them go. When the money runs out he promises to get much more. It works and he takes his family back to the hotel.
More Tutsi come to the hotel from the overflowing UN camp. The UN forces, led by Colonel Oliver (Nick Nolte), are forbidden by treaty to intervene militarily in this struggle because they are "peacekeepers, not peacemakers." When the UN forces try to evacuate the Tutsi at the hotel including Paul's family, they are ambushed in the street and must flee back to the hotel.
Paul at last gets a long overdue meeting with Rwandan Army General, Augustin Bizimungu (Fana Mokoena). The general is innocent of many things he is suspected of, but fears being tried as a war criminal, and introduces the subject himself early in the conversation. Paul has nothing left to bribe with so he blackmails the general by acting reluctant about testifying in his behalf.
During this entire film, the way that Paul navigates through all that is happening around him, playing both sides of the fence, reminds me very much of another situational hero, Oskar Schindler. By this I mean a steady competent business oriented individual who normally does not seek heroic expression in his daily life, but who can and really does deliver splendidly for other people when it counts.
Finally Paul's family and the others sheltered at the hotel, leave again with a UN convoy and this time actually make it to safety behind Tutsi rebel lines. Like an island of contentment in the midst of a story sea of tragedy, can there be a happy ending for just this one family? Will Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo) ever see her and Paul's other two children again or at least get some word of what happened to them?.
The House of Seven Gables (1940)
The thing I best like about this movie is the adaptation from the Salem Witch Trials that Nathaniel Hawthorne made in writing the story. The character played by Vincent Price is Clifford Pyncheon. In the story a curse is placed upon him and comes true twenty five years later at the end of the movie. The true history version is as follows:
From Witchcraft at Salem. Chadwick Hansen, Mentor (NY, NY: 1969). P 167
.... At the gallows the Reverend Nicholas Noyes called on Sarah Good to confess, telling her she was a Witch and she knew she was a Witch. Her reply is justly famous. "You are a liar," she told him. "I am no more a Witch than you are a Wizard, and if you take away my life God will give you blood to drink."
.... But tradition has it that twenty-five years later, when Nicholas Noyes lay dying, he choked upon the blood that poured copiously from his mouth..... This is, of course, the incident Hawthorne adapted for The House of the Seven Gables.
This is of special interest to me because, on my mother's side, I'm a direct descendant of Timothy Noyes, the brother of Nicholas, who I call Uncle Nick. I never told any of my lady friends from Salem MA about this, because they probably would have castrated me.
Unusual atmospheric story about two girls who come to live with their free spirited eccentric-but-lovable aunt in the 1940s. Visiting welfare workers show ongoing concern about the housekeeping and this leads to a very unexpected ending. Good coastal British Columbia eye candy.
The Howling (1981)
The big advance here is in the special effects used to showcase very long and agonized transformations into a werewolf. This movie changed our expectations about cinematography in this regard and paved the way for sequels and movies like "Fright Night" with similar horrifying transformations to or sadly back from the werewolf state when dying.
Human Trafficking (2005)
This is one of those films that changes any decent person who sees it. It enraged and saddened me, but in a way that made me a better person for knowing more about the worldwide traffic in young girls. After the girls burn out the damned bastards kill them. At the end we learn that, after illegal gun sales, this crime now ranks second. One way any man can help keep our dear females safe and free is to, when seeking hookers, date only freelance girls in free-range situations. This means to avoid any situation where an intermediary sends you to an address where the girl is in a room. The captors tell captive girls that the customers know that they are captives and that they will be punished severely if they speak about it. If anyone tells you about captive girls, report it to the FBI. This is a federal crime.
Peterson Political Commentary
When I was young we still had the death penalty for kidnapping and rape. Children learned from an early age that these are considered such bad things that good people cannot ever again trust anyone who would transgress to such degree. Many will say that the death penalty is too cruel. Perhaps I am being overly simplistic, but all one has to do to avoid any legal penalty is to simply not do the thing for which it is given.
The Hustler (1961) + The Color of Money (1986)
Paul Newman does a very good thing here. The two movies are like a pair of bookends with twenty five years of a man's life in between. Each movie enhances the other. It's good to see Eddie Felson again and know that he's doing OK. I wish others would do long term character followups like this.
What I get from "The Hustler" is: Play your best game, don't be overconfident, don't be negative, stay away from booze and bad people. What I get from "The Color of Money" is: Don't try to relive through somebody else what you should have done yourself the first time around. Do it yourself now to whatever extent you are capable.
I, Claudius (1976)
Seeing this splendid presentation made me want to read the book, so I did. Equally splendid, a real page turner. Based on the actual diaries of Emperor Claudius fleshed out as a novel by Robert Graves.
I don't remember how many of Livia's family were murdered by her, but I do remember that she was the real power behind Augustus and that during her period of influence/rule the Roman Empire prospered and remained free of insurrection and civil war.
All the actors are superb and the sense of Roman decadence is total, especially relative to Tiberius and Caligula. This is a very grown up story. Not adult in the usual sense because there is no nudity, but in terms of the personal histories revealed. Probably not for young kids.
Imaginary Crimes (1994)
Authentic feeling story set in the 1950s. The acting is what I liked most about this one. An intense daughter perhaps overly critical of a rationalizing oaf-like father who really loves his daughters and is doing the best he can to support them. The forgiveness at the end and the winning through of love is what worked about this movie. It left me with a good feeling in my heart and that's very rare for me with movies today.
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
Classic 1950s science fiction. Unusual story with excellent special effects in this suspenseful thriller about a man exposed to a combination of chemicals finding that he's getting a little smaller every day. As time passes scary scenes include one when he's the size of a mouse and the family cat gets after him. Another when he's the size of a grasshopper in the cellar and must fight a hungry tarantula using an eight penny nail as a spear. Strange philosophical ending.
Indecent Proposal (1993)
Unusual situation melodrama exploring the relative importance of sex and romantic love. An absurd premise, but well enough written and acted so that it passes muster anyway.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
I had to admire Inide's focus and determination in this story because the way his adversary Kate Blanchaett looked with her cute pageboy haircut would likely have compelled my complete cooperation with her every whim, but Indie didn't yield at all. Far fore important, this episode has surprising romantic disclosures and consequences which bring an end to Indie's lifetime of successful bachelorhood.
This is a very unusual and well done movie. It has an atmosphere all it's own based on Alaska as the "land of the midnight sun". The dilemma here is: How far should a good cop go to stop evil? At what point does he bend the rules too much? The story is very suspenseful and the acting superb. There is some very good under-water photography of Al Pacino swimming for his life in icy water. I don't know the production details here but it seems that actors really earn their money at times.
Robin Williams playing a bad guy gives an unexpectedly chilling performance as the murderer. The script takes us into the rationale of why he did what he did. We are made to understand the logic of the events from the murderer's viewpoint. We almost empathize except for the insane premise that a middle aged man should be cultivating a close relationship with a seventeen year old girl in the first place.
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
This is my idea of a really good horror movie. The acting is superb. I could see this one in late October every year for the rest of my life and never get tired of it. The story keeps to historical vampire mythology, which is important to the pure of heart. In spite of this, it is also a brilliant and totally original approach to the genre. It has strong scary visual imagery, but also compels the viewer to contemplate many strange things both moral and philosophical. In the depraved vampire way it is also strangely glamorous and enviable. A classic masterpiece in every way.
James Dean (2001)
James Franco doesn't look anything like James Dean which makes me appreciate all the more the remarkable job he did in portraying him. Not an easy role. This is a very excellent movie especially for actors who wish they had gotten stared a little earlier. The idea of being that age, alone in New York, with the talent and determination to make it as an actor is a very exciting prospect. Terrible ending, of course.
Jaws is a masterpiece. The story uses good juxtaposition of the peaceful Cape Cod resort community with the sudden appearance of a twenty five foot man and woman eating monster shark. Then there is the adversarial mayor who uses denial to sweep everything under the rug because the truth will be bad for business and his re-election.
The acting all around is unbelievable. Robert Shaw as Quinn and Richard Dreyfus as Matt Hooper do an excellent scene with each bragging up his various sea scars and shark bites. Quinn's description of mass shark attack around a sinking ship is unforgettable. Shaw actually drank during this scene and the alcohol effect is perfect because his character is drinking.
The scenes with Roy Schneider and the shark himself are wonderful and really scary with just enough shark visibility to preserve realism. Very suspenseful movie. Highly recommended.
Jeremiah Johnson (1972)
The American mountain men lived the way many American truckers do today. Hunt and trap furs, then stay drunk in a fancy whorehouse for two weeks, then back to the mountains. Serious and war weary Jeremiah Johnson (Robert Redford) stays sober and remains in the mountains.
The acting as always with Redford is superb. When I think of Will Geer now I only think of him in this film. He was realistic to the point of being iconic as Bear Claw. I found the strong sense of wilderness and impending danger in this story strangely refreshing, even enviable. Sometimes I felt like I was sharing the campfire. To me this level of excellence is what movie making is all about.
There's a wonderful scene where Jeremiah is chased by a grizzly bear. Actors do earn their money at times. Even tame bears can be unpredictable and dangerous. When I visited Bolton Valley in Vermont I used this scene as an inspiration. There was a trail called "Bear Run". Each time I skied it I visualized the movie bear running close behind. The bear was very fast but I was faster.
Kingdom of Heaven (2005)Orlando Bloom is superb as a young knight, Balian de Ibelin, during the Christian occupation of the Holy Land in the 12th Century. I donít know anything about the history of this period, so I will not comment upon it. In any case, Ridley Scott did a magnificent job of making this excellent story totally realistic and visually splendid. The swordplay, the wind fanning temple incense, and the vast legions of Saladin are totally spectacular. Wonderful acting by all concerned. Donít miss this splendid picture.
King Solomon's Mines (1985)
This is the same genre as Indiana Jones but more tongue-in-cheek. There's a scene where Alan and Jesse are captured by cannibals who plan to boil them up for dinner. The big round kettle must be ten feet in diameter. Far bigger than anything ever seen in Europe or America where big iron kettles are made. If you really like this type of story, I would say see it and judge for yourself.
Just want to add something interesting from the book "King Solomon's Mines" which I really enjoyed. H Rider Haggard mentions that on Safari in Africa favorite delicacies enjoyed by European hunters are giraffe leg bone marrow, elephant heart, and ostrich liver. Elsewhere I later read that other favorites are cross slices of elephant trunk pan fried and ostrich eggs. Since an elephant once befriended me, eating one seems to me like eating a dog or horse, secondary cannibalism. But thinking about the other food items makes me feel hungry.
A Knight's Tale (2001)
A story about genealogy and jousting based on Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Well acted and engrossing, but badly damaged by the inappropriate use of modern music at special moments. I find this practice a real authenticity spoiler even when the modern music is very good as some of it was in this movie. Imagine the better atmosphere in using the greatest most rousing music of Twelfth Century instead. This kind of pandering to the present day, especially to urban monkey culture, is all the more obnoxious when the film is so good in every other way. Like a beautiful embroidered table cloth with a big steaming turd sitting right in the middle of it.
Knocked Up (2007)
This is wacky comedy about unplanned pregnancy. There's a strange scene where Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) is watching Russian acrobats in the Mystere Theater at Treasure Island. He suddenly hallucinates a giant baby in old-fashioned bonnet playfully puhing a huge beech ball at him. One of the funniest things I've ever seen because of how the baby looks and behaves.
I was in this one, but only as a hungry theatergoer. Upside I'm sitting with a girl who looks just like Drew Barrymore. As we talk and watch the amazing acrobats I eat five quarts of popcorn before dinner.
Knowing (2009)This is a suspenseful interesting escape-to-another-planet film. It has truly awesome special effects. I choose to see the ending as the fulfillment of Ragnarok, not a universal theme, but a Norse one. Looks like the World Tree Yggdrasil to me. For this reason nobody should belly-ache about not being aboard the evacuation ship. If you feel left out, just write an escape myth story for your own culture.
This is a very good movie badly hurt by inappropriate music. I'm not saying the music isn't good, just that it's completely wrong for the film. This is a common problem today and seems to primarily afflict American films based on European heritage which pander to pluralistic culture. By the third viewing I had trained myself to ignore the music.
Michelle Pfeiffer is superb as Isabeau d'Anjou. She wrenched my heart strings. Rutger Hauer as Captain Etienne Navarre is magnificent. There's a scene where he drops his visor, draws his sword, and slowly rides into the cathedral to settle accounts with the evil Bishop of Aquila. Clip-Clop. We hear the iron shoes of his mighty horse on the stone floor. One of the most impressive scenes I've ever seen in any movie.
The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975)
I loved Elizabeth Montgomery so much that even if she were the real Lizzie Borden I would still want to date her but would say something like "Please just promise me that if I ever say or do anything that makes you feel hurt or angry that you'll first speak openly to me about it before taking any decisive action."
Before the real life ax wielding Lizzie got naked to avoid getting blood on her clothes. The scene depicting this is very sexy in the darkest possible way. Years ago I had an old ax from the Victorian period. It hung in a prominent place in my cellar. When I was selling my house I would point to the ax and tell the customers it was "a gift from the Borden Family of Fall River Massachusetts".
The Libertine (2004)Johnny Depp is amazing as usual. The film suffers from a silly inappropriate introduction and afterword, but otherwise is a gem. A man who goes completely to Hell with himself for the lust of beautiful shapely women will always rate highly with me, even if he is foolish enough to self destruct in the process, but he should never be arrogant about his success with women. Like Heidi Fleiss said in a very different context "It's only sex."
The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
Housewife Geena Davis does something I once did in New Hampshire and hope never to do again. She hits a buck deer at high speed in her car. With a quick twist she deftly breaks the deer's neck to end his misery but wonders how and where she learned to do this. Samantha Caine turns out to be a female James Bond in this unusual adventure involving amnesia. There's a very refreshing scene where she speed skates across a lake shooting at people. She survives drowning tied to a wheel which is made to stay under water. Suspenseful well acted story.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2002)I read the trilogy thirty five years before seeing the movies, but as I watched, the details came back to me more or less as I had visualized them. I think everybody did a wonderful job with this great epic. The treatment of the Balrog intrigued me because this character is very important in Sauron's hierarchy and is here depicted as insubstantial but powerful, more spiritual than material. Minas Tirith delighted me beyond words and if I live forever I will never forget the teeth of the "Mouth of Sauron" at the Gate of Mordor. I'm looking forward to the two part production of "The Hobbit" coming soon.
This is a very intense, well acted, and interesting account of the relationship of Adolf Hitler (Noah Taylor) to gallery owner Max Rothman (John Cusack) who tries to encourage the young war veteran as an artist. The acting and settings are very excellent.
Because of the variety in human agendas one must always be especially on guard with historical movies, but this one seems objective. There is one scene, however, where Hitler's enthusiastic style in outdoor speech making is badly exaggerated relative to anger. He is made to sound so out of control and vicious that had he actually spoke this way he would never have gained support from anybody for anything. View this otherwise superb movie and see if you agree.
McCabe and Mrs Miller (1971)
Atmospheric western with a nagging suspense that comes from a bad mistake the hero makes which will probably get him killed. Because he's a likable character we hope he can rectify the mistake in time, but increasingly we feel that he's probably not going to get the chance.
McCabe is offered a competitive price for his whorehouse-restaurant operation from some very dangerous and impatient mining people. Like any good businessman he wants to get the best price he can and holds out for a better offer. He underestimates the amount of time that the buyers want to spend dickering with small business owners. When McCabe's refusal reaches the top people they dispatch henchmen to deal with the problem. McCabe wants to do business at this point, but no one will talk. The tragic ending is strangely softened by deep snow and the cozy closeness of opium.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
My qualification and impulse to review a film about boxing are nonexistent. I don't like stories about the private lives of society's little people and have no sympathy with those who willingly get their brains knocked out for nothing: in gang rivalries, on battlefields, or in the boxing ring.
In society there are two kinds of masochism, sexual and social. Masochism in sex, when well directed to please a beautiful feisty partner can be very productive, but in every other area of life it is self destructive and stupid. A friend asked me to review this film, so despite my disqualifying personal values I will say a few things about it anyway.
Clint Eastwood is and has always been a great actor and excellent film director. This movie offers no exception to this. The general details of production, lighting, sound, lean powerful dialog, and the acting all around are superb.
Hillary Swank is charming as Maggie, a simple back country girl who seeks training as a boxer. She's a likable person and shows a nice mixture of innocent vulnerability with tough directness. What Hillary does with facial expressions and reactions to Frankie's initial refusals to train her is better than anything she could have said with dialog.
As Maggie learns to box well she becomes hell-bent on winning fight after fight and she does. She knocks out all her opponents in the first round. Frankie has to get after her about not nailing them quite so quickly. It scares away the competition.
I was surprised about the discretionary power that fight managers have to keep their boxers out of the ring with anybody that might beat them. I thought the idea was to see who is best. Apparently a well managed fighter has to lay back like a pool hustler to build the opponents' expectations and then let loose with their true ability in the final matches nearer to the championship fight.
Morgan Freeman narrates the story and as usual is impressive with his disarming aura of calm self-assured wisdom. He plays Eddie, a retired fighter who works at the gym training younger fighters. Most of the exposition for backstory is between Eddie and Frankie as dialog about relevant events of years gone by.
There are things in this movie that make me shiver: The reference to "detached retina". Frankie's instruction to "keep hitting the sciatic nerve". Also the warning Frankie gives Maggie, after snapping her nose back into place, that in two minutes the nose will "spray blood like a geyser all over the front row".
True toughness is always impressive, but in my humble opinion only false values will allow people to seek out this kind of life for themselves. I was going to write a treatise about heroism: Eddie's toughing it out, round after round, in a long ago fight only to lose an eye in the end. Maggie's unflinching persistence to win. The problem is, I'd be faking it. I like to say only what I really think.
The one thing which really tweaked my emotion in this tour-de-force of human misery is the question of assisted suicide. I consider hospital personnel who keep people alive against their will as being nothing more than evil torturers who use a misapplied Hippocratic Oath and societyís fanatical religious-based laws as an excuse handed down to them from other more important evil torturers. "We are just following orders" they say.
Happily I did find my needed ration of heroism at the end of the story, but I won't tell. Something Frankie does shows him, in my eyes, to be a true hero in the highest sense of the word. It led me to wonder what might have happened afterward, because there is little mention of any aftermath in Eddie's narration. If you like boxing movies, see the ending to this masterpiece for yourself.
Mississippi Burning (1988)
Engrossing suspenseful true story about the murder of three young civil rights workers in the 1960s. Interesting interplay of ideas between the uninvolved idealistic northern viewpoint of Agent Alan Ward (Willem Dafoe) and the experienced practical small town southern viewpoint of Agent Rupert Anderson (Gene Hackman).
Murder in the Heartland (1993)
Seeing true stories is the best use of time for the viewer and this is a really good one. Very suspenseful and chilling the way Charles Starkweather kills Carol Ann Fugate's family and the way she, out of infatuation and fear, goes along with him. Then follows a spree of other murders. Eleven in all. Tim Roth and Fairuza Balk are totally realistic. The period feel is good. Badlands dealt with this same story twenty years earlier and was also an excellent movie but this one uses the real names and numbers which seems like a good idea with a true story.
British TV mini series staring Katherine Schofield as Nana, the actress and courtesan. Not only does she have the men standing in line, but making complete fools of themselves, selling off all their chateaux to be with her, and even worse. Faucherty, after squandering everything, locks himself in a burning stable with his prize racehorses to die with them rather than be parted from them in life. This is 1870s French decadence at it's very finest. Very well acted. I saw this on PBS in the early 1970s.
The New Kids (1985)
This is a better than average film about teenage bullies harassing the good guys. The bullies are more determined and go much further than usual. I found the ending poetic and deeply satisfying.
This is a very good movie. Kind of a film noir without as many dark shadows. Mostly nice daytime scenery instead. Dramatic and suspenseful and in many ways very much like an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The visual imagery is superb. Iconic Niagara Falls flanked by archetypal Marylin Monroe. With a few days in a nice little motel room who could ask for more? But the husband gets more than he expected.
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Robert Mitchum is very scary in this story about an insane minister who murders widows for their savings. I read the book as well. Also excellent. The two children of Willa Harper see their mother underwater in the river displaying an "extra mouth" where the preacher cut her throat the night before. He chases the kids down river to get the stolen bank money hidden in the little girls doll. Very well acted and suspenseful.
North and South (1985)
One of the great epic TV miniseries marking the Golden Age of American culture in the 1980s. Historical dramas simply don't get any better than this. The script, settings, costumes, and acting are superb. It's a nice touch to see "Gone With The Wind" veteran, Olivia de Havilland, as Mrs. Neal.
Kirstie Alley is striking and memorable as Virgilia Hazard. What a disarmingly beautiful and charming woman. If only George's sister weren't crazy. Imagine her as a wife with him as a brother-in-law. Terrible ironies surround everything about the Civil War. The splendid story continues in North and South Book II.
Northwest Passage (1940)
This is a true story about an impossible overland trek by Rogers Rangers. Lack of food leads to many difficulties. One ranger becomes mad with hunger and resorts to cannibalism. In camp there is an appetizing daydream which made me feel hungry. What I roughly remember is "....yams, and hams cured black, with sweet brown rum and red cigars from the Sugar Islands."
At the end there is a memorable scene where Langdon Towne, remaining behind this time with his beautiful new wife, listens as Major Rogers tells the next group of men about the great adventure ahead in search of the fabled Northwest Passage. This is real American stuff and makes one very proud except for the ranger conflict with first-wave immigrant populations. The new thinking is that the Injuns are erroneously called "native" because they came here from Europe via the Alaskan Land Bridge fourteen thousand years ago.
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
This is one of my favorite of all movies. Great American epic. Realistic and grim. They cast this very well, including the kids that played the gangsters as children. I felt involved right from the beginning because three of the kids looked just like tough kids I knew in Natick MA from age five to seven. In Winter we had long ruthless snowball fights and in Summer used rocks instead.
There's one very well acted scene where young Patsy (Brian Bloom) is about to have a visit with a young girl. This will cost him a fancy frosted cake that he brought for her. As he waits he studies the cake and realizes he can scoop some of the excess frosting with his finger without anyone knowing the difference. But his appraisal of what is excess frosting keeps growing and he keeps scooping. Finally he just can't stand it any more and ravenously devours the entire cake.
Overcast skies add the perfect mood to this dark and suspenseful story about an adopted child who turns out to be very different than anyone could possibly suspect,
The Other (1972)
Most people call this a horror movie. I call it a suspenseful psychological mystery with occult overtones. It's about a little boy who is both psychopathic because he does very bad things to other people and schizophrenic because he does these things in a complete fantasy world of total hallucination. The narration follows just the boy's perceptions so we don't know that they are hallucinations until the end. The occult part is enchanting but ancillary and involves either real or imagined astral projection into a flying crow's body so as to see through the crow's eyes what he sees. I also read the book. Both are equally as brilliant. Tom Tryon was a very smart man for an actor.
Out of the Past (1947)
Classic film noir with Robert Mitchum as Private Eye Jeff Bailey. I envied Bailey because of the 1947 eye candy as he drives through Bridgeport California to meet with Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas) who lives in a fine house on Lake Tahoe with a beautiful view of Emerald Cove. A very nice time and place to have had a little money.
The Outlaw Josie Wales (1976)
One of Clint Eastwood's best characters. Josey Wales is a peaceful southern farmer during the Civil War who loses his family to murdering Union renegades. He joins Quantrill for awhile to hit back at the Union. In a surrender betrayal where many unarmed men are chopped to pieces with a Gatling Gun, Josey turns the gun back on the bad guys rendering himself a fugitive in the process. Then he heads west, meets Granny Hawkins, teams up with settlers, finds a pretty girlfriend, and makes peace with the Injuns. His past finally catches up to him but the story ends very well. Very good movie.
Pale Rider (1985)
Much has been written about the parallels between this movie and "Shane". There are too many to be coincidental, but this movie is by no means a remake. Even with all the enjoyable similarities the feel of this movie is very different from "Shane". Like many of Clint Eastwood's fine westerns this story has a subtle underlying mystical component. Is this stranger with pale horse more than just a minister? Is he the Rider mentioned in prophesy? In any case he makes a big difference for all the people he encounters. Michael Moriarty plays a likable cool headed family man Hull Barret. And it's great to see John Russel again as Marshall Stockburn. Of the long ago Sunday night Warner Brothers westerns "Lawman" was my one of my very favorites.
Paper Moon (1973)
"Drink your Knee High. Eat your Coney Island!" This is a really delightful movie with interesting story, charming dialog, wonderful acting, and good camera work. One of my real favorites. I'll never tire of seeing it again every now and then.
The black and white format works very well in this movie, but I personally feel that black and white does not give genuine period flavor, because real life is in full color. Just because most of the movies from an earlier period are in black and white doesn't mandate that contemporary movies set in that period need to be black and white as well. Many will hate me for saying this, but to me, black and white is simply inferior technology. Although many creative people did good things with it, I doubt that if good color film had been available at low cost long ago, that anybody would have bothered to develop black and white expressionism for it's own sake.
Parrish is a very well acted morality play about the conflicts, compromises, and troubles a young man (Troy Donahue as Parrish McLean) must overcome to be successful and happy in the Connecticut River Valley of the 1950s. When the story was current I was very young and enjoyed both the book and and the movie immensely.
Dean Jagger's portrayal of Sala Post will always remain to me a prototype for the good friend and mentor. For a large portion of the story I even liked the villain Judd Raike (Karl Malden). I admired his fierce driving ambition, mental sharpness, and fatherly determination to teach Parrish the tobacco business. At the end, however, I suffered a big disappointment in the way he treated his wife Ellen (Claudette Colbert). At this point I saw that he was really a weak sleazy lack-love, not just a wolf among sheep.
Similar movies are "From the Terrace" and "The Young Philadelphians" both with Paul Newman. I like "soap operas" because I think of them as the struggles serious people will cook up for themselves and endure during peacetime. To me this beats living in Bosnia, where the ongoing war determines too much of what happens to individuals and takes up too much of their time. When all our entertainment comes to center around murder, insanity, and cops vs dope dealers we have then become too accepting of evil and are not demanding enough of life. People who enjoy all these vile themes, however, think of themselves as "facing reality" and will call my attitudes unrealistic and escapist.
Splendid epic account of how George Patton manages to fulfill his chosen military destiny in spite of minor military protocol which threatens to keep him from it. All this in connection with winning a war that should never have happened in the first place. I love the spirit of the man I see portrayed in this movie. I wish I could have known him. I grew up in a later time with better historical information so I cannot share in what I see as his fantasy about the necessity of World War II. His intentions however remain to me unimpeachable.
Peterson Comments on World War II
Narration of protagonist Waldron Sigfried Valdison in "Of Heroic Destiny" by Roy C. Peterson ~
November 20, 1945
War trials begin in Nuremberg. Too bad those who framed the Treaty of Versailles won't be held accountable as well. They structured things so that their banker friends would be able to finance another war, and it worked. Under such terms good hardworking Germans would have to elect a strong leader like Hitler to save them from Communism. The virulent anti Semitism was an accident of history that few could have forseen.
October 1, 1946
Attend last days of trials at Nuremberg. Get a few pale smiles from old friends, but mostly the whole business is very sad. International Military Tribunal hands down twenty one verdicts. Eleven are sentenced to death. The Russians murdered far more people than the Nazis, but they are not criminals because they are on the winning side. The entire struggle is a very clownish enterprise. National Socialism vs International Socialism. Two equally false economic ideas with the international bankers manipulating the politicians and lending money to both sides. Just as in the last war I love all the people involved, but they are all just a bunch of dopes when it comes to economics. The world has been made safe for Democracy by leaving half of Europe under Socialist dictators. Capitalism is what works, not Socialism. None of this had to happen. It's a pity that phony economic theory could have become so interwoven with high Christian ideals and heroic Norse values connected with the simple preservation of our race. Both sides have been led equally astray. This war only illustrates the terrible consequences that can occur when men of power and those who support them are not well rounded in their education. I know that Russia will slowly build a capital base and will be able to initiate free enterprise eventually. I just hope I live long enough to see it. ~ from "Of Heroic Destiny"
The Pawnbroker (1964)
One of the finest jobs of acting I've ever seen. Rod Steiger is brilliant as Sol Nazerman, a concentration camp survivor whose whole family was killed, now struggling to keep humanity and love alive within himself. It isn't easy in the ghetto environment of New York City. Near the end Sol deliverers an angry historical diatribe about what it is to be a Jew. One of the best monologues I've ever heard in any movie. I almost chose it for my acting class, but as a Swede felt that I could never do it justice.
Peyton Place (1957)
A friend of mine knew Grace Metalious. She told me that things Grace said made her believe that "Peyton Place" must be based on Clairemont New Hampshire. In "Return to Peyton Place" however, White River Junction Vermont is mentioned as being a short drive away, making West Lebanon or Hanover New Hampshire the more likely.
I have been on location in many of the areas filmed in both movies and they vastly exceed in number the locations mentioned in the IMDb production details. This, of course, is only geography. Life in small towns everywhere is like Peyton Place. That's why everybody loves this story so much, because it's about the generic American small town. Many joys and sorrows and worth every minute.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
The formal analytical approach on this one was requested by a friend.
A likable 18th century pirate captain joins a blacksmith to rescue the
Governor of England's daughter, which quest is complicated by an evil pirate
captain and his crew, all of whom can't be killed because they're already dead.
Pirate Captain Jack Sparrow
Fast ship and crew wanted by Jack for ongoing piracy.
Jack may not get what he seeks. This would force him to
seek normal employment. Also he could lose easily his life.
1. The British Navy wants to hang Jack.
2. Captain Barbossa and crew want to kill Jack.
3. Jack falls under the Aztec curse.
Situations and people are not always what they at first appear to be ~
1. Humble blacksmith is also a master swordsman and swashbuckling adventurer.
2. Barbossa's crew look like normal thugs until you see them in the moonlight.
3. Yes, Jack is a scallywag, but not really a bad person at heart.
Love and simple human decency are vastly more important
than rigid protocol and the absolute letter of law.
This is a charming movie. I especially enjoyed the cute scene
with two happy people singing "It's a Pirate's Life for Me".
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)Thank goodness for Walt Disney. There is much strangeness here. There is a sea captain who has tentacles where his beard should be. I felt sorry for him until I saw that the tentacles could play organ in accompaniment to his hands. Long ago Disney gave us a scary giant squid in "20,000,000 Leagues Under the Sea" but wait till you see his cousin, the octopus, in this one.
The Prestige (2006)
Christin Bale and Hugh Jackman are adversaries in this complex and strange tale about turn-of-last-century stage magicians. The mythology surrounding electrical wizard Nicola Tesla (David Bowie) is an important part of that period and very much enhances this film. Good special effects and acting all around. Totally fascinating.
I saw Psycho in 1960 like everybody else. The story and the characters have stayed with us. In 1971, I was co-owner of a small motel recently knocked off the main tourist route by Route 495 in Massachusetts. Business was very slow. There was even a swamp behind the place. I was in charge the front desk. One day an old school chum and his wife dropped in. He slyly asked me "So, Peterson, how is it out here? You getting into the Norman Bates trip?"
Hitchcock's use of deeply seated primal imagery is legendary. This movie is no exception. Marion's wide open eye as she lies murdered on the shower floor. Her blood mixing with water as it spirals down the drain. An insane old woman (we still think) with a kitchen knife stabbing a man repeatedly in the face as he runs backwards screaming down a long flight of stairs. This will certainly teach Detective Arbogast not to break into Norman Bate's house ever again!
Psycho is one of the most shocking and scary movies ever made. The night I saw it I had to walk some distance on a dark street to get home. In those days I always carried a stiletto when hitchhiking, but this particular night I was unarmed. I've never felt so completely and deeply terrified in my life before or since.
Hitchcock possessed a remarkable power to enchant and frighten the viewer. The primal images in this film remain permanently fixed in the psyches of all who have seen them. Even to this day there are many who are very careful to lock the bathroom door whenever they shower.
Public Enemies (2009)It's good to see Johnny show his range by playing a real tough guy for a change. The acting was good all around. There is a scene I found particularly moving. Dillinger's girlfriend, Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard), is being beaten up by a bad-ass interrogator and is rescued by Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). Good and evil sort out in very strange ways among people and there are very big differences between men. Watch the movie and see what I mean.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Much is made about the strange sequencing of component stories in this American classic. I think it would be just as good with normal sequencing. What really makes this movie good is the situations, dialog, character development, and very fine acting. All the characters, no matter how likable Tarantino makes them, are very bad or stupid people except the hero, Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) because he grabs a Samurai sword and greatly imperils his own future to strike a blow for human normalcy. There are levels of evil and a man must make choices. Some things are just to rotten to endure. See what I mean when you enjoy this landmark film.
The Quest (1996)
This a very good movie with Jean Claude Van Damme as the hero triumphing against all odds. Van Damme also directed and did a very fine job. It's like a synthesis of Indiana Jones with Bloodsport. The story is set in the 1930s and the tournament is not the Kumite, but an equivalent called the Ghang-gheng. The script is actually based upon an amended version of the Bloodsport story which never got produced. The pageantry here is greater. Really exotic settings with a more spectacular tournament venue. More diverse ethnicity via costume. I don't know enough about any of this to comment upon authenticity. For some reason I enjoyed this movie much more the second time I saw it.
The Quick and the Dead (1995)
Very surrealistic western with really memorable scenes. Ellen "The Lady" saving Cort from hanging by shooting the rope.
One really snazzy scene with "The Kid" demonstrating pistols to Cort. Close hand shots with lots of fancy gun twirling and cylinder spinning.
Another scene with the fight between John Herod and Sgt Clay Campbell. The first time I saw the movie, a big hole appears in Campbell's back with sunlight coming through. Unrealistic but very cool. Last time I saw the movie there was no hole. Delayed action reality editing I call it.
Then there was the fight between John Herod and Ace Hanlon. Beautiful photography of the sheriff lighting a cigar in between shots as he shoots guns out of both of Ace's hands. And Ace himself is no slouch with pistols.
Near the end we see Cort shooting two guys off rooftops at the same time with a pistol in each hand and his arms crossed.
Many very memorable images. If you love westerns, especially the suspense of gunfights, don't miss this movie.
Raging Bull (1980)
When I was told that we were going to see "Raging Bull" I had no knowledge of the film and said in all seriousness "I really don't see Robert Deniro as an Indian Chief, but if anybody can do it, he can".
The fight scenes are done meticulously. The brutality is really intense. There are lots of short takes, fast clusters of hard combination punches. The sense of realism and visceral identification with the fighters is very great. The viewer feels like he is in the ring being hit.
Outside of the ring Martin Scorcese uses a much more relaxed pace with longer takes so we can see subtle facial expressions and absorb dramatic complexities. One good example is when Joey introduces Jake to Vickie with a chain link fence between them. Jake is very shy and awkward because Vickie is so young and beautiful. But Jake is also courageous, knows what he wants, and asks her for a date anyway.
After Jake and Vickie get married the picture becomes a close study of Jake's unreasonable worry about Vickie's fidelity. Scorcese uses slow motion to grab the viewer's attention and heighten the dramatic effect of Jake's glaring anger and jealousy.
There are good tracking shots such as the long one of Jake going from the training room to the ring. There is also a very impressive shorter one of Jake strutting victoriously, smirking proudly sideways towards the camera. Very good wiesenhiemer smirk by Deniro.
The Razor's Edge (1984)
This is such a fine story there should be a movie sequel even though there is no second novel. How could Sophie MacDonald die? We cannot permit this. It was someone else's body found in the Seine. She really just went home to visit her mother for a few weeks. Yes, Larry Darrell has seen a great deal of the world, but there's so much more to see. Berlin in the 1930s. Lotte Lenya. Larry, don't spoil this marvelous adventure by settling down too soon. I had never seen Bill Murray in a dramatic role before. I was very impressed and identified completely with Larry. Very excellent movie.
The Reader (2008)
Interesting study of how someone can be drawn into participation in the false agendas of government because of fear. Film also takes a good look at the viability of long term romantic relationships where there is an age and maturity difference. Beautifully acted. Good period feel.
Red Rock West (1993)
This is an exciting suspenseful story with lots of unexpected plot twists. Nicolas Cage as Michael Williams is a quick and ready man of action. Dennis Hopper as Lyle restores my faith in the idea that the Old Wild West is still with us. In this case a fancy horse and saddle are replaced by a Cadillac with horns on the hood, but that's the main difference. Very good acting here too.
This is simply a masterpiece in every way. Warren Beatty wrote, directed, and stared in it. The ultimate satisfaction that any actor can have. It's a true story and has short interview responses at intervals from old people who actually knew the real characters back in 1912-1917. There are good educational insights about economics and politics starting with Jack Reed's reply to a question about why the USA is entering WWI. He stands up and simply says one word "Profits" and everybody in the room get all atwitter and reporters chase him for further comment. Later in the film there is much greater specificity, but it's given in small doses which is the best way to educate in movies about unpleasant realities.
Peterson Comments on the Russian Revolution
I've always despised Socialism, but when the Communist Party in Russia finally dissolved I developed a new perspective. Many had always said that Russia should have gone directly from Agricultural Feudalism to Capitalism in 1917. With no capital base, however, this would have required massive foreign ownership which is a terrible evil in itself. Seventy years of Industrial Socialism ultimately paved the way for Capitalism which is much like having the "state wither away" as Marx said it would. With true Capitalism plus further Libertarian refinements first in the USA, then Russia, and ultimately China and the Arab countries we will have prosperity and peace everywhere on Earth. How long will this take?
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
This is a very grim and unhappy movie about the hard realities of drug addiction, both prescription and illegal. A forceful and visceral identification with what's going on in the story is accomplished via the masterful use of short takes, fast match-on-action cuts, and time elapse photography. A person would have to be insane to go anywhere near any drugs after seeing this movie.
The viewer is struck by how incredibly out-of-control events become once drug use is started. Values change drastically to accommodate the compromising situations incurred by usage. The capacity to rationalize what is happening increases to a level of total unreality. We see a boy whose arm is turning black with necrosis shoot cocaine into the rottenest spot as though the mere relief ot pain will fix everything. Later when the arm is more dead than alive we see spattering blood as it's amputated with a high speed saw.
A very educational and well done movie. The way things are today, a short version of this with a simple voice-over explanation should probably be shown to little kids in third grade at school.
Rich Man, Poor Man (1976)
What can be said? Falconetti, you no good bastard, leave my friends the Jordache family alone or I'll kill you myself. This because Rudy Jordache (Peter Strauss) keeps finding excuses not to do it. Never have I seen a more scary and persistent villain than Falconetti, superbly played by William Smith. There is lots more to the story than just this particular conflict, but all this time later it's the main thing I remember about one of the first of the excellent TV miniseries that marked the high pint in American filmmaking.
Rio Bravo (1959)
Most movies prior to the 1970s pander stylistically to the time period in they were made. This movie is no exception but is still a very enjoyable great Western classic. Two later John Wayne movies El Dorado and Rio Lobo are pretty much remakes of this film, but there's nothing wrong with this one, especially if you're a fan of Ricky Nelson the king of smooth crooner coolness in the 1950s.
Rise: Blood Hunter (2007)Lucy Liu is very impressive in this strange suspenseful tale of a girl who is made a vampire and decides to take revenge on the bloodsuckers who recruited her. There is a good deal of story truth here in that the biting and drinking of the vampires is not the neat antiseptic process we have become used to, but a disgraceful, disgusting mess with blood all over the face and clothing of both drinker and drinkee just as it would be (or is) in real life.
The River Rat (1984)
This movie reminded me a little bit of Tom Sawyer because of the long trip taken by Billy (Tommy Lee Jones) and Jonsy (Martha Plimpton) down the Mississippi River to New Orleans in a small boat. They are dogged at every step by a scary villain Doc Cole (Brian Dennehy). Well acted suspenseful story.
Excellent suspenseful action drama with Patrick Swayze as Dalton, a western legenad hired as a cooler to reclaim a local roadhouse and ultimately the whole town from crooks. Sam Eliot is very cool as Dalton's buddy Wade Garrett, another legend who arrives on a chopper just in time. I wish more of my friends growing up had been like these guys. Fine acting. Good music and fights.
Rob Roy (1995)
Liam Neeson is awesome in this movie. Rob Roy is a brave man of utmost integrity, but there is a more complex character, Archibald Cunningham (Tim Roth). Archie is everything a man should be and everything a man should not be. He is well educated, but also a moral moron. A brave and skillful soldier, but also a back-stabbing murderer. A charming and successful ladies man "Love is a dunghill, Betty, and I am but a cock that climbs upon it to crow" but also a sadistic rapist.
Archie is the perfect profile of the man who has everything and just throws it away with both hands. Easy come, easy go. Archie needs badly to be killed and Rob Roy does this for him in a very memorable scene which I will not further spoil for the viewer. This is a fine, inspiring historical piece and should be seen by all of British heritage.
Robin Hood (2010)Russel Crowe is always excellent as a stalwart hero. The story unfolds in a way I didn't expect at all. We see archer Robin Longstride during the days before he becomes the outlaw of Sherwood forest. Cate Blanchett is amazing as Marion. Her entire look and demeanor transported me back in time. Good mythological period piece.
The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone (1961)
In this movie Warren Beatty is an excellent role model for what a charming lady's man should be. He helped set the tone and style for myself and many friends during the period. We all became more fastidious about our clothing. I started carrying a silver cigarette case and doing the sensuous-looking French inhale a bit more often than previously. Lottie Lenya is splendid as the countess smoking her Sobranie Black and Gold cigareetes. A decadent story and yet it's nice to know that horny older women can get what they need even if by means other than their own attributes. It's should never be too late to enjoy life.
Run Lola Run (1998)
This is a plot deadline movie based on quantum physics. Yes! Little things that happen in different versions of Lola's desperate time-sensitive errand radically change the final outcome even though the particulars along the way are the same. We see just three parallel realities of the greater number that quantum physicists say are not only possible, but which actually run concurrently for all of us. Pretty far out, but thought provoking, especially if the principles are applied to one's own life history. What if....?
St Elmo's Fire (1985)
I call this the Brat Pack masterpiece. I like the story and all the actors and actresses in it. It shares a certain chic 1980s tone and texture with many of the Brat Pack flicks but is somehow richer and more potent than the others. Something about the look and characters. Whenever I think of this movie I especially think of Demi Moore as an eccentric and problematical (but lovable) girl named Jules.
'Salem's Lot (2004)
Fine remake of Steven King's story about vampires in a small New England town. Good pastoral atmosphere. Almost made me want to live in such a place again. There's a scene where Rob Lowe, as a returning writer, addresses a high school class. The wording is poetic as he explains to discouraged teenagers how they should never underestimate the importance and uniqueness of their individual human needs and feelings.
Salt (2010)If you like hard continuous action, this movie one of the finest I've ever seen. Anjelina Jolie is an action hero in the same room with Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Willis. So tough and so beautiful. What a girl! I would sure feel safe and happy with her around.
Schindler's List (1993)
True story about Oscar Schindler who saved the lives of 1000 Polish Jews during WWII. Life is in color and feature period pieces should be too, but interesting scenes, close up shots, superb acting and directing make up for it here.
Two main stories in this very engrossing TV miniseries. The one I focus on is that of world class cocksman Spider Elliott (Barry Bostwick) who, while sewing wild oats with beautiful fashion models he photographs, manages to postpone an inevitable love affair with dear little sweetheart and very talented fashion designer Valentine O'Neill (Marie-France Pisier). I say inevitable because I too fell in love with her as I watched the story. I also read the book which is based on real life experience. The world of fashion seems to be a really heavy-duty place and is recommended for mature serious players only.
Season of the Witch (2011)
This is a very engrossing movie. It opens with a scene of huge armies facing each other. Nicholas Cage and Ron Pearlman are great, and there is a ongoing buddy story between them, watching out for each other in battles to see who buys the ale that night. There are awesome special effects, especially the demon.
Peterson Political Commentary
There is a little phony stuff about wolves being a threat to people. Animal defamation has long been a problem in movies. Bad propaganda in general has led to the wolf being hunted nearly to extinction everywhere. The summer I turned nineteen, I raised a timber wolf. I would say "I know that you're a cub, but you look like a puppy to me." Wolves are very much like dogs, but burdened with a great deal of rigid instinctual behavior related to hierarchy and hunting.
The Servant (1963)
This is a very sophisticated story about how the role of servant and master become reversed. I saw it in 1969. The script and acting are superb.
There's a scene when Tony (James Fox) visits a pub. There's a guitar player-singer (Davy Graham) doing background with an interesting rendition of "Rock Me Mama". Forty years later I finally followed up on Davy. It led me to some very fine music. Wish I had done it sooner.
The end of this movie is probably just the beginning in terms of story possibility, but the next chapter would be much too arcane and "last tabu" for commercial success.
The Shadow (1994)
The story and acting are excellent, but what I like best about this movie is the general look of it. Lamont Cranston's chauffeur driven limousine, a souped up Cord disguised as a taxi cab with driver. Dr. Lane's laboratory. The lighting of it. I wanted it for my own and the imagined life that would go with it. The cigarette sign outside with a chap blowing smoke rings into the still night air. I've never seen any sign like it (closest is giant tea kettle in Boston that blows steam during Winter).
But most especially I like the Cobalt Club. Magnificent cobalt blue and silver art deco supper club with high soaring ceiling. Dramatic open feeling, but somehow lighting makes the individual tables seem private and cozy. In the 1980s in Boston I knew a tall beautiful champagne redhead named Wilhelmina. She looked and dressed like Penelope Ann Miller in this film. Where else would I want to take her for dinner than the Cobalt Club? But I can't! Oh, no! It's only a movie! A very good movie.
Shadow Of A Doubt (1943)
I've seen three excellent versions of this story done in 1943, in 1958 called "Step Down to Terror", and in 1991 for television. All are engrossing and suspenseful because of converging plots illuminated through omniscient narration allowing the viewer to know what the characters do not know individually. In 1991, the 1943 Alfred Hitchcock version was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
"Shane! Come back, Shane. Mother loves you, Shane!" This is one of the greatest of all westerns. Excellent story. Opulent scenery. Superb acting. Jack Palance is especially memorable as the gunfighter Wilson. He shows an almost eccentric ichiness and overly cautious demeanor around Shane, because he can instinctively sense the gunfighter in other men. "Wilson was fast, fast on the draw". But not fast enough.
Excellent exotic Marco Polo type story of shipwrecked Englishman in Seventeenth Century Japan. Offers many insights into Japanese culture, folkways, and mores. There is one surprisingly vivid scene, resulting from the Japanese literal interpretation of an English remark intended figuratively. You'll know it when you see it. Very well scripted and acted.
The Shootist (1976)
Without a doubt John Wayne's best movie. Excellent story about the changing West. Carson City in 1902. Queen Victoria has just died. They are beginning to electrify the street cars. The first automobiles are putting around town. Out of the 1880s rides the renowned gunfighter J B Books. Tight script. Excellent acting all around.
Shutter Island (2010)This is a strange suspenseful thriller set on an island in Boston Harbor in the 1950s. Leonardo DiCaprio is great. The police officers are period classics. The scenery and weather are spectacular. Without supernaturalism this film takes you completely out of your daily routine into a completely different ballgame for awhile. A strange vacation for the viewer.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
I love this movie. Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins set a new standard here for excellence, but I question the psychology part. In this engrossing bizarre tale, the murderous activity of a brilliant psychiatrist Hannibal Lector is based upon the true case history of an individual who is not in his background, education, or any other way the least bit like Hannibal Lector. Real psychiatrists must go through psychoanalysis themselves just to qualify for the job. Would a man who could make it as a successful shrink actually end up like Hannibal Lector?
Silver Bullet (1985)
Wonderful juxtaposition of the small pastoral southern town with the frightening events which soon invade it. One morning a local railroad employee / drunkard is found mangled on the train tracks. What else would have done this but the nightly train? With his habit of passing out all the time this accident was really long overdue.
But it wasn't the train. It was a werewolf. A really big, unusually angry werewolf. In size he is more like a were-bear. In the first scene where we see him, he appears at a girl's bedroom window, then disappears, then suddenly reappears, smashes through the window casing, and comes right in after her. Then, with long claws like a bear, he just rips that girl to shreds. Very good adaptation of the werewolf legend to America. The story is engrossing with surprising plot twists, and the acting is excellent.
Please be warned that I was in this one. Only as a rock fan with no lines, but the reader is cautioned that I'm very prejudiced because I saw so much of the good work that went into making this film.
I got a special invitation to the premiere in Las Vegas. It's fun to experience the finished product of something when you have thus far seen only diverse segments. All kinds of good music got edited out. I felt bad about this at first but later on of the producers at Stage Left Productions cheered me up when he explained that editing has to be this severe or movies will just end up being too long.
It's my opinion that Michele Fiore-Kaime is a very smart resourceful woman. She wrote, produced, and stared in this film. She tool it up to Park City, rented a location, and screened it during the Sundance Film Festival. Eventually she got distribution via Galactic Pictures.
The story is the best treatment I've seen of the theme about the need within marriage to give your spouse enough slack when it comes to the most important things they need for self fulfillment.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)Johnny Depp is superb as usual in this strange story. I dispute, however, the necessity of rewriting a great American classic so that Ichabod Crane can be the police investigator needed for this particular tale. It would have been just as easy to make him Ichabod's younger brother returning to Sleepy Hollow in a continuation of the original story. He wouldn't even need to be aware of the prior events involving Ichabod. We need an ethic in Hollywood, taught in the film schools, to never rewrite history or well entrenched legend, but to fictionally interact with it by augmenting and embellishing.
The Spirit of St Louis (1957)
Charles Lindbergh (Jimmy Stewart) is one of America's greatest peacetime heroes. This movies shows why. It covers the entire struggle to cross the Atlantic from New York to Paris, including the flight itself.
I'm always amazed by some of the little unrelated thins that I find charming or cool in a movie. Here it's a brief scene where Lindbergh and another man fry some fish for lunch atop a very hot industrial apparatus not intended to be a stove. I don't know why I like stuff like this, but I always do. Maybe we could call it "casual innovations punctuating lives of greatness".
Stand by Me (1986)
Excellent well acted story. Stephen King is quite accurate here about American junior high-school boys in the early 1960s. At twelve my friends and I were very much like these guys. Like a personal flashback, I too walked down the railroad tracks (in Massachusetts) with friends singing "Have Gun Will Travel". We hitchhiked everywhere, carried switchblades, smoked, and were beginning to experiment with booze and girls. The only real difference was that we didn't do the true confessions and crying episodes, but these kids had bigger problems than we did. Richard Dreyfuss does wonderful a follow up narrative at the end
The Sting (1973)
Simply one of the best movies I've ever seen. I may be a little prejudiced because I'm in love with the 1920s and 30s, but good period feel is just one thing that makes this film so excellent. The story, dialog, and acting are superb. I always feel bad when a movie like this is over because I become so much a part of it that I just don't want it to end.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1968)
Time and space are irrelevant in the subconscious realm. In the ninety minutes we dream at night, we can subjectively experience several years duration. Many things come into play here, including the tapping of hereditary memory encoded in DNA. We can become aware that we are dreaming, can consciously control events in the dream to some extent, and can learn to remember whatever is accomplished upon awakening. Dream creativity often greatly exceeds in quality that of the waking state. This is a tremendous resource, since dreaming constitutes a total of six years of the average person's life.
Robert Louis Stevenson was a genius. He harnessed the power of dreams to write stories. One of his best is "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde." Because of the many movie versions, we are all familiar with the territory covered by the story. I happen to like the energetic portrayal by Jack Palance best but every version of this superior story is good and well worth seeing.
Perhaps the biggest private personal struggle that life gives us is between what we want to do and what we think society will condemn us for doing: Nature vs Society. Desire vs Inhibition. Id vs Superego. Hyde vs Jekyll. Reptilian Complex vs Cerebral Cortex.
It is often asserted, but wrongly, that man must first learn to overcome his animal nature before he can develop his spiritual nature. The animal in man is a foundation and energy source upon which to build. One cannot be a good human without being a good animal first. Animals do not live immorally, and the task is to fully realize the glory and perfection of the animal nature while at the same time developing the intellectual and spiritual natures.
People use tobacco, alcohol, and drugs to disable the cerebral cortex so that the reptilian complex can be unimpeded. So they can let Mr. Hyde out for awhile and blame it on the drug later. When Jekyll and Hyde become friends you don't need drugs or excuses. When the two natures are finally on the same page most of life's problems disappear. Simple animal pleasure and evil are not the same thing. One of the greatest keys to being well adjusted and happy is to eliminate this false conflict. The fact that popular institutions have fed on perpetuating repression need not deter the individual in this regard.
Stranger Than Paradise (1984)
Eva (Eszter Balint) is a cutie from Hungary. Very likable in the same way as Felix the Cat. She rarely speaks. You just watch her behavior and get to like her. Jim Jarmusch's minimalist approach probably softens the normal obnoxiousness of characters in general. People usually screw up the most when they speak. When they don't say anything, we try to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Willie (John Lurie), a musician from a group The Lounge Lizards, is a likable sleazo who earns a meager living playing poker and betting on horse races. He has a friend Eddie (Richard Edson) who shares this lifestyle. These are sporting men, perhaps at the low end of the totem pole of success, but real sporting men nonetheless. A good comment one of them makes about a man they ask for directions on the way out of town shows how sorry they feel for him because "it must be tough working in a factory like that".
Overcast weather prevails throughout from the shore of Lake Eerie in Cleveland to the Atlantic Ocean in "Florida". It gives the film a soft coziness that helps to offset the grimness of poverty level surroundings. It's also easier to shoot with that kind of even lighting.
At the end all I can think about is further adventure. Where will these guys go next? Will Eva and Eddie have a romance? Will the guys hit it big in Atlantic City and then head for Las Vegas to consolidate their gains? Will they buy Lamborghinis?
Swing Kids (1993)
I've found over the years that the music which older people say they love best is the music they loved when they were eighteen or nineteen years old. This age offers the best balance between fierce youthful emotion and worldly adult sophistication.
When I was eighteen, my friends and I were just like the guys in this fine movie. We were well heeled and very hip to music, but not so hip that we couldn't get up and dance to it. We wore nice clothes, drove sporty cars, and pursued beautiful girls at dance halls all around Boston. Alas, it only lasted one year. As we became more deeply hip to music the dancing began to seem self oriented and exhibitionistic. Of course at this point, we were having weekly parties with the girls we met at the dance halls and now spent our time with them far more intimately. Swing heil!
Taking Lives (2004)
Superb study of a rough-and-ready homicidal psychopath. His brilliant career of opportunistic murder spans a period of twenty years. The FBI finally stops him but not easily.
Taxi Driver (1976)
Anachronistic masterpiece about an alienated loner who has a strange spark of heroism towards making a better world. Life is not easy for Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro). He attains a status that some might question, but which I personally feel comfortable with. You really need to see this one so you can decide for yourself. As always with De Niro and Scorsese excellent acting and directing.
There Will Be Blood (2003)
Daniel Day Lewis is more brilliant than usual in this strange story about an enigmatic oil man's rise to wealth and ultimate self destruction. Thought provoking with very good period feel.
This Boy's Life (1993)
Authentic 1950s feel in this suspenseful well acted story about a bullying stepfather. Robert De Niro is a classic as Dwight Hansen. He has a perfect 1950s look and demeanor with crew cut, tweed jacket, and Zippo. Toby Wolff (Leonardo DiCaprio) stands up to this dry-gulching bully and the movie ends well.
This Earth is Mine (1959)
Interesting Falcon Crest type family story about the wine country during Prohibition. Lots of good California vineyard eye candy. Rock Hudson plays John Rambeau who has a son John named after him. Much later in another movie the John Rambo played by Sylvester Stallone mentions that he comes from the wine country. There is no connection at all here. I'm just sleuthing.
The Thorn Birds (1983)
Excellent TV miniseries spanning sixty years of problems caused by the rule of clerical celibacy for an ambitious priest, Ralph de Bricassart (Richard Chamberlain). The story is set mostly in Australia although filmed in Simi Valley California. Barbara Stanwyck is memorable as Mary Carson, a vivacious older woman attracted to the young priest. There's a good scary scene hunting gigantic wild boars who attack people when provoked.
3:10 to Yuma (2007)In this remake we have a standard suspenseful western plot of good guys trying to get a bad guy, Ben Wade, onto a train heading to prison, and how the bad guy has a good many capable gang members who work very hard to keep this from happening. This is where the standard part ends. This film is an excellent, fairly deep character study of how an intelligent bad guy has his good side and his own complex reasons for doing bad things. Perfect for the profound acting talents of Russell Crowe. I hated to see what happened to the main good guy, Dan Evans (Christian Bale), but despite this there is good story set-up for a sequel. Sure hope they make one. Iíll watch it.
A Time to Kill (1996)
Engrossing drama about problems in the rural south. Deals with very basic issues about the sometimes big difference between due process of law and true justice. Good script and locations with a large cast of fine actors who do their job very well.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
In 1932, Attorney Atticus Finch, defends a sharecropper against false rape charges in rural Alabama. The film is narrated through the eyes of Scout, the daughter of Atticus Finch, now grown but remembering back to childhood.
Book and script develop the small pastoral southern town theme so that the audience is charmed, delighted, or even envious of the magical quality of Scout's childhood. Via juxtaposition every event after this seems very large. For example, the rabid dog coming down the street seems like Godzilla coming out of the sea.
I haven't seen this film for twenty five years, but I remember how the facial expressions of the children are used to develop the story. I especially remember the curious expressions of Cousin Dill who seems at first like a frail indoor type kid but turns out to be a really cool and likable little guy who I would want on my team in any venture. At the climax of the movie there are very effective shots of trees swaying in the night wind with long street light shadows cast by the branches. This gives a very eerie and suspenseful backdrop to the action.
Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987)
This is a really engrossing and very strange movie. In many ways it's like David Lynch's masterpiece "Blue Velvet". I don't say this just because Isabella Rossellini is in both, but this may have first triggered me to notice the other similarities. The two movies almost comprise a sub-genre unto themselves. I'll leave further refinement of this premise to the individual viewer.
The strangeness here is almost funny at times. There's a scene where Tim Madden (Ryan O'Neil) finds a woman's head in his hidden marijuana bag. Later another scene where two guys haul the headless woman's naked body up out of a pickle barrel at the end of a rope just to show it off like a Halloween porch ornament. There are many other complexities and a happy ending.
I was scheduled for the production callback on a small speaking role in this one. The first weekend of shooting my agent lost the gig to another agency because too many of her background people canceled. I therefore watched this movie with a broken heart, but must say they did a fine job of it even without me. The story has good plot twists, the acting is excellent, and I always enjoy seeing the Vegas action that I miss by not being a gambler.
Twilight (2008)I like these movies, from the story content to the dark brooding weather of Washington State. The story is a bold revisionist treatment of the vampire genre. We find the vampire gift / affliction as more of a physical condition to be managed than something determining the state of the individual's soul. Edward Cullen is a good guy who cares about the long term well being of his girlfriend Bella Swan. The werewolf Jacob Black is another good guy in love with Bella. Usually I disapprove of tampering with legend, but America is a long way from Europe. Maybe here vampires and werewolves can be good guys and adversaries.
2012 (2009)This is a magnificently produced Noah's Ark themed story. John Cusack is great, and his character Jackson Curtis is very lucky to survive at all, as he moves through the terrible dangers of this exciting story. The special effects are a tribute to the industry. The ending is not very encouraging though. Other than complete annihilation, it's the worst possible thing that could happen. A Swiss mathematician friend of mine tells me that scientists estimate that the survival of only the African Continent would set back human evolution two hundred and thirty thousand years. I won't dispute of defend his figures, but I still think it was a lousy ending pandering to phony limp wristed Socialist viewpoints about race and human achievement.
A retired gunslinger, Bill Munny, is called back into action on a heroic quest to avenge young whores slashed by drunken cowboys. Bill is joined by a young amateur, The Schofield Kid, and his old partner, Ned. There's a Jekyll-Hyde mechanism here with alcohol, because Bill did most of his earlier killing when very drunk and doesn't remember much about it.
There was a good makeup man on this one. Bill Munny with deep shoe cuts on his face, swigging on a bottle of whiskey, watching the town from a distance is an image I will not soon forget. A sadistic sheriff, Little Bill Daggett, gave him this kicking at gunpoint and badly needs killing. There's a spectacular gunfight at the end. Bill Munny guns down Daggett and several other men just like metal ducks in a shooting gallery. The ability to read people is an important characteristic for survival in any fighter, especially a gunfighter, and works like precognition. A penny dreadful reporter, W W Beauchamp, wonders about this and asks Bill how he knows what order to shoot people in when there are so many. Bill says that he doesn't really know, but that he's just always been lucky about sequence.
Bill retires to San Francisco with his two children and prospers in dry goods. I was hoping he would marry up with the nice blond girl, Delilah, but I reckon he didn't. This is an excellent movie and adds yet another volume to the fine collection of Clint Eastwood's splendid westerns.
The Untouchables (1987)
This is a totally excellent movie completely disemboweled by a bogus rewrite of history. Would we tolerate a story which tried to tell us that George Washington was really a renegade Hindu Swami living incognito in America to avoid the Thugee Faction in India? Of course not, so why should we tolerate rewrites about 20th Century American gangsters. This is our history too.
The real spoiler for me here is that he false part makes me doubt all the rest of the details. Billy Drago plays a cooler and more stylish than real life version of Frank Nitti. That part is fine. We want characters to look good. But this movie has Eliot Ness push Nitti off a roof to his death while Al Capone is still on trial. As we all know, the real history of these events is the following:
In 1931 Frank Nitti and Al Capone were both convicted of federal income tax evasion. Nitti got eighteen months, Capone eleven years. Nitti was released in 1932. Everyone called him boss under Capone, but he was a front man. Paul Ricca seemed to be Nitti's lieutenant, but Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky would deal only with him as the real boss of the Capone Organization.
The Usual Suspects (1995)
The Usual Suspects has a complex plot difficult to fathom because Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) is not a reliable narrator for the viewer. He's a career criminal in the process of outwitting Dave Kujan of US Customs (Chazz Palminteri) with a complex mixture of lies and truth.
In the beginning we get a "director's view" of a ship blowing up. All of our flashback views of what allegedly happened to cause this are just Kint's version depicted on screen as he relates the story. Most of the narration is tied only to Kint's viewpoint, even when he is not in the scene. At intervals we get important information that Kint does not have from a burned man in a hospital. This adds the suspense of converging plots.
At the end we get Kujan's viewpoint briefly in a very good scene where he suddenly figures it all out ("The "Aha Effect") and then goes running out after Kint (aka Keyser SŲze) who he has just released. Then back to Kint escaping, the camera tied to his action, as we also see Kujan just miss him drive away in the inconspicuous little blue getaway car. The story is a masterful mixture of restricted narration (Kint) with omniscient narration (others mentioned).
Van Helsing (2004)
This movie is not at all what I expected and would call it a bewilderingly complicated linking of many subplots. I found the story very hard to follow, but this doesn't matter much since it's mostly action anyway, a continuous exhibition of special effects. I enjoyed watching this film, but that's all. For some reason I expected to gain insight, to be deeply impressed, but neither happened for me. There just didnít seem to be very much to get my teeth into intellectually or spiritually.
First we find out that the Catholic Church has been putting hits on evil creatures for a long time. Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) works in their assassination division like a Victorian Era James Bond. In this episode they have a contract out on Count Vladislaus Dracula (Richard Roxburg). I assume that there is some connection of kinship between this current hero and the Abraham Van Helsing in Bram Stoker's Dracula, but I don't know what it is. I may have missed it.
Carl (David Wenham), a Friar, reminds me of the ordinance man at headquarters with James Bond. He walks Van Helsing around explaining all the high tech gadgetry available to him in the field. There is some really neat stuff which reminds me of the Victorian high tech gadgetry on the old TV show "The Wild Wild West." The functional difference here is that some of the items work supernaturally as though gifts from God. For example. a powerful crossbow that can keep firing arrows with no limit. Van Helsing takes this item. I could certainly make good use a slightly smaller that would fit into my briefcase.
The Frankenstein monster (Shuler Hensley) is fairly standard. He reminds me a little of the Peter Boyle version in "Young Frankenstein". Mr Hyde (Robbie Coltrane) is like an ogre on steroids. He's way too big and ugly and has a very deep voice which Iíve heard somewhere before. Starting with Hyde I couldn't see most of the action because it was shot primarily in the dark. Real life, even with supernatural creatures, has far better lighting than most of this film. Why so dark? Maybe to make the subject matter seem all the more so. The special effects I did see are interesting, but the creatures move much too fast. Says me, but they are after all, supernatural creatures, so I suppose super-fast is appropriate as well.
In Transylvania Van Helsing is joined by another vampire slayer, Princess Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale). Her interest in the quest is to lift a curse of the undead from her family, one of whom must kill Dracula. Dracula's brides are pale and ghastly with fangs always apparent. They have big white wings like angels, fly really well, and remind me more of Valkyries than vampires. At times they seem slightly transparent like ghosts. Count Dracula himself is young and healthy looking. Pink cheeks and no pallor at all.
The Wolfman (Will Kemp) is my favorite. He's charcoal gray, huge, ferocious, and totally awesome to behold. You don't mess with this guy. Besides the claws, his teeth alone are six inches long. Get out of line with this fellow and he will take your head off like a cherry off a cupcake.
Things happen at the end with Anna Valerious, but I'm not telling. Good ending, but see for yourself.
Wall Street (1987)
This is a very exciting and interesting movie. We see lifestyle and sexy women, but ethics are dealt with here as well. As a Libertarian and Capitalist, the address of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) to the Teldar Paper stockholders marks one of the great moments in motion picture history.
From the script:
...greed is good. Greed works,
greed is right. Greed clarifies,
cuts through, and captures the
essence of the evolutionary spirit.
Greed in all its forms, greed for life,
money, love, knowledge, has marked
the upward surge of mankind, and
greed, mark my words, will save
not only Teldar Paper but that
other malfunctioning corporation
called the USA... Thank you.
Whether in real life a man who would say these things would also make the bad moves that Gekko made with Blue Star Airlines is beyond my specific ability to report. I would like to think that he would not. I do know however that a very good friend of the USA, Margaret Thatcher, proudly displays the character Gordon Gekko among her top MySpace Friends.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)I love it when good closure to a really good story is given as a sequel a long time later. It gives a nice feeling of continuity to life in general. Itís great to see Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) finally get out of prison and get on with his inspiring capitalist activity. We see Bud Fox again but only briefly at a party. This is a completely different story and has a very happy ending for everybody who deserves it.
War of the Worlds (2005)
Tom Cruise is excellent as usual in this updated adaptation the Orsen Welles story about the invasion of Earth by alien beings. The plot is engrossing, the special effects realistic, and I admired the scientifically plausible ending.
To me the Warlock (Julian Sands) comes across as a stylish hero in a world full of weaklings and imbeciles. It's difficult to see why one so totally superior should want to undue creation. For him it's the endless opportunity afforded being a wolf among sheep. Why hate them just for being sheep? All that is necessary for worldwide perfection is to set creation back on an evolutionary path, not to start over from scratch.
Of course the Warlock is supposed to be evil and and therefore wants to spoil everything. Trouble is that most of the idiots he would obliterate are nearly as evil as he makes himself by killing the few good people on the planet along with them. Too much analysis from Peterson here. This is a very engrossing and well acted movie. Probably better to just react emotionally as you watch and enjoy it your own way.
The Werewolf (1913)
The first werewolf movie. The only film based on the American Indian werewolf legend. A real wolf was used in the transformation sequences which are done with simple camera dissolves.
A Navajo woman, thinking she was abandoned by her husband who was actually killed, becomes a witch. She teaches the craft to her daughter Watuma who transforms herself into a wolf and takes vengeance against invading white settlers. One hundred years after Watuma dies she returns from the dead to kill again.
White Mischief (1987)
This movie showcases the comfortable elegance of British decadence in pre WWII Kenya. To me the murder story here seems ancillary to the atmosphere of the setting and the lifestyle of the inhabitants. I wanted to be part of it because the women were fetching and adventurous, even the middle aged ones. It excited my imagination. From what I've read about the beautiful land and splendid climate in this part of Kenya, it's easy to understand why there would be a British colony there.
This movie strikes home somewhat because I was once captivated by a very beautiful wealthy woman who lived for a long while among the elite of Kenya during the 1970s. She looked like Greta Garbo, her hair was styled just like one of the ladies in the movie, and during the time she was in Kenya she had a pet Cheetah. I'd like to think that I knew her well enough to suggest that as of the early 80s, when she left Kenya, that life there was probably not that different than in the early 40s, as portrayed by this very excellent movie.
White Oleander (2002)
Ingrid Magnussen is everything a tough minded and loving man would want in a woman. She's beautiful, self supporting, healthy, liberated, intelligent, talented, and very developed spiritually. The perfect woman in every way except for one fatal flaw - murderous jealousy. This is a total contradiction to the rest of her character. Such a woman should not be more than lightly affected by infidelity in a lover. She's worth too much for any kind of self doubt or deprecation, but love is not rational. Alison Lohman is charming as Ingrid's daughter Astrid, and is really the main character of the story.
The Wicker Man (2006)I almost always like Nicholas Cage movies. This is a suspenseful and engrossing one. It gives Pagan and Heathen religion something of a black eye, but not in any malicious or nagging way. I enjoyed the story in spite of this. The eye candy of British Columbia is a big plus and the ending is very strange and visually memorable.
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
We identify with movies for many reasons. For this one, here's mine: October 30, 1977, preceded by a month of mandatory celibacy, I was privileged to enjoy a thirty six hour interlude with three beautiful Witches from Salem MA. In the same variety: blond, brunette, redhead. Years later when I saw this movie, I jokingly wrote in my personal journal "Perhaps there is some ancient precedent here which I am merely fulfilling."
I was in a hotel in the theater district of Boston across from the Music Hall when they were doing the interior mansion shots. I saw the vehicles and asked the cop what was going on. He said "Jack Nicholson is inside shooting The Witches of Eastwick." This piqued my desire to see the film. A friend of mine had a similar experience in Ipswich at the Crane Estate where they were doing the exterior mansion shots. The rest was done at Tanglewood in Lenox.
My favorite scene is where Jack plays violin for Susan Sarandon and then she gets horny playing cello. I found it very intense and excellent, but only one of many. This is a really superb movie. Comedic, but heavy enough to be very cool.
What's interesting here is the way that becoming a werewolf helps floundering businessman Will Randall (Jack Nicholson) become more energetic and competitive with greatly heightened senses. All this leads to a romantic relationship with his boss's beautiful sexy young daughter Laura (Michelle Pfeiffer). Very interesting and appealing story. The stuff of normal wish fulfillment for human males.
The Wolf Man (1941)
A really likable Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr) returns to his ancestral home in Wales after living for a long time in America. Script accommodates accent. Right away Larry gets bitten by a werewolf and many social difficulties soon follow.
The scene I like best is one pertaining to lore. The mother of the werewolf who bit Larry, an old gypsy woman named Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) mysteriously tells Larry what will happen as the moon approaches fullness, how he will see in his palm the sign of the pentagram, how he will go upon all fours and become as a wolf. More good scripting.
Working Girl (1988)
This is the movie that made me fall in love with Melanie Griffith. A real American sweetheart is this very special girl Tess McGill. Sexy but also loving and good. I'm usually more attracted to evil women, not because they are evil, but because evil women are usually just sexier. Probably something to do with unattainability related to inaccessibility. For example, Katharine Parker played by Sigourney Weaver, in this same movie. Tess makes a wholesome exception to this perilous rule at last. Nice story. Well acted. An interesting look at business in New York City, reminding me, in this particular, of "Valley of the Dolls". Good use of theme song "New Jerusalem".
Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992)
This is a splendid TV series showing all the boyhood situations that made Indy into the man of steel he grew up to be. It's a wonderful look at much of what was best in the early Twentieth Century. Unfortunately I didn't see all the episodes but interesting ones that stand out in mind are one about Ernest Hemingway, one about the Theosophists Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater, and another about Freud, Jung, and Adler arguing the fine points of psychoanalysis at the dinner table. Indy leads a very enviable life in his formative years and later too.
The Young Philadelphians (1959)
This is a fine melodrama about the moral dilemmas faced by an ambitious young attorney Anthony Judson Lawrence (Paul Newman) in Main Line Philadelphia during the late 1950s. The acting througout is impressive. Well conceived dialog produces many memorable exchanges such as the courtroom cross examination of butler George Archibald (Richard Deacon) about "Royal Tartan Scotch". This movie, Newman's "From the Terrace", Troy Donahue's "Parrish", and George Peppard's "The Carpetbaggers" provided inspiring role models for young men in the early 1960s just before all the phony "consciousness expanding" drug nonsense got started. I wish there had been more movies like them.
Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
This one is simply a masterpiece. Everything about it. Story. Dialog. Acting. Costumes. Settings. For example: Horse drawn carriages everywhere. A busy street in Victorian London at dusk when it's snowing. Windows illuminated by gas light. A portly gentleman goes into a fine restaurant and orders a nice game bird. The sumptuous bird with gravy is brought to his table, the waiter serves it up and leaves. The delighted man begins to cut with knife and fork. Suddenly the bird comes alive and attacks, growing larger, monstrous, and very angry, pecking mercilessly at the screaming man's bleeding face. Totally realistic, and only one of many astounding scenes in this really fine atmospheric film.
More at story, we learn the roots of Holmes's lifelong relationships with Professor Moriarty and John Watson. There is also his tragic romance with a beautiful young girl Elizabeth Hardy. Nobody with European roots should miss seeing this splendid classic.
Essay for Actors:
What Stanislavski Taught
Constantin Stanislavski's "Method of Physical Actions" in acting uses the ability of the conscious mind to determine subconscious action. Stanislavski knew that every inner experience always has an external physical expression. The science of the period confirmed this knowledge. I M Sechenov said that our body expresses thoughts before we are even aware of it. Stanislavsky came to realize that the actor can program the subconscious to feel the emotions appropriate to his character by first executing the main physical actions of the character. Eventually the appropriate emotions join in and the finer nuances of physical action which lend realism come along with them.
Elements of Action
1. "Magic If" addresses the actor's question "What would I do if I were this character?" In attempting to answer this question the most natural performance will result as per the actor's ability to truly immerse himself in the character's circumstances and pursue the character's goals onstage.
2. "Given Circumstances" include everything about the play which is beyond the actor's control. The actor must study the script thoroughly so that he can truly become part of the given environment of the play.
3. "Imagination" is something the actor should develop to the ultimate degree. It will enable him to project into the circumstances of the play and to develop unique, tasteful, impressive tactics in pursuit of the character's goals.
4. "Concentration of Attention" involves the actor's focusing on anything within the play which will eliminate being distracted by anything offstage. A small circle of attention is easier to sustain than a large one. The actor can achieve a feeling of "public solitude" by concentrating upon the physical action within the stage environment. The actor should truly see, hear, and think within the context of the play. If he does this the audience will experience along with him the same things he experiences.
5. "Truth and Belief" does not require surrendering to unreality or hallucination, but simply developing the ability to convey scenic truth. This involves executing physical actions with logical consecutiveness according to the "Magic If" within the constraints of the play's given circumstances. This is especially important in tragic scenes to avoid overacting through the forcing of emotion. Truthful execution of even small physical actions helps the actor to believe the play. Actions should be imaginative and unique, but also simple and not involve irrelevant detail which could distract from the actor's goals or intentions.
6. "Communion" is a sustained emotional interaction between those onstage and draws the audience into the circumstances of the play. The actor must commune with his acting partner, not just with the imaginary character. Successful communion means seeing, hearing, and understanding your partner and making sure that they see, hear, and understand you.
7. "Adaptation" involves overcoming obstacles in achieving a goals. The proper adaptation for execution of an action comes with the answers to the questions of "What, Why, How do I do this?"
8. "Tempo-rhythm" is important to truthfulness in acting in that it must be appropriate to the circumstances. Tempo is the speed, and rhythm is the varying intensity, with which events are experienced and actions executed. These will vary greatly depending on circumstances. (e.g. Seeing cows grazing in a field vs. meeting a grizzly bear in the woods).
9. "Emotional Memory" in acting best involves drawing upon the cumulatively imprinted knowledge we all possess about the emotional states appropriate to various circumstances. Stanislavsky came to feel that this is preferable to replaying the remembered emotional reactions to specific events in our own lives.
Emotional Memory ~
Archetypal knowledge of emotion is innate in all normal humans and will come into play for the actor. A baby knows how to cry and laugh in the human way at birth even though at that stage neuronal imprinting is yet only at an invertebrate level. Concentrating on specific events from our past life to summon emotion for acting is a misuse of our treasured memories and will eventually cause our feelings to burn out.
Understanding the Character ~
There is a little bit of everybody in everybody else. No matter who the character, there is some small part of the actor which mirrors that person. The key is to explore this common ground unashamedly, keep your findings to yourself, and then skillfully portray the character as per your understanding. If you despise the character too much to want your name associated with him then don't take the role.
Using the Conscious Mind to Determine Subconscious Action ~
The conscious mind is the boss. The subconscious mind is a skilled and capable executive assistant whose abilities are superior in many ways to those of the boss. Essentially the actor states his main blocking to the subconscious with the admonition - Take care of the details here. I don't want to be bothered with them. A specific example. The role calls for anger so the actor decides to walk briskly across the stage and confront the encroaching enemy. He farms out the details of vocal intonation, facial expression, and hand gestures to the subconscious. The proof here is that when the actor does the scene really well he usually doesn't remember very much about what he did.