Tuesday, December 29, 2009
AGE OF CONSENT (1969) - Michael Powell's last directorial hurrah after the debacle that was PEEPING TOM (1960). James Mason is the burnt-out artist who retreats to the Great Barrier Reef to recharge his batteries but encounters wild child Helen Mirren. The future dame's copiously-displayed pulchritude is also a plus.
THE BIG KNIFE (1955) - Robert Aldrich's backstab at Hollywood is nice and trashy in that mid-50's kinda way. Jack Palance (perhaps miscast but not really a problem) as the big star trying to get out of his movie contract with tyrannical movie mogul Rod Steiger (chewing the scenery as usual) while trying to save his marriage to Ida Lupino. Able support by Wendell Corey, Shelley Winters and Everett Sloane completes the picture.
BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (1955) - The rock and roll juvenile delinquent classic that still has guts. Richard Brooks directs new teacher Glenn Ford as he takes on a group of unruly, violent students. Sidney Poitier, Vic Morrow, Richard Kiley and Louis Calhern fill out the cast while Bill Haley & the Comets blare out "Rock Around the Clock".
BLACK NARCISSUS (1947) - Classic Powell & Pressburger mad nun movie! Beautiful colour photography and breathtaking scenery. The usual brilliant direction by P&P with a brilliant script and superb acting provided by Deborah Kerr, Kathleen Byron (in a stunning performance), Flora Robson, an incredibly young Jean Simmons, David Farrar and even Sabu!
BOB LE FLAMBEUR (1956) - Jean-Pierre Melville's answer to TOUCHEZ PAS LE GRISBI, this French caper film may miss the presence of Jean Gabin (he was too expensive) but Roger Duschesne as "Bob the Gambler" is an adequate substitute.
BREATHLESS (1960) - Godard's assault of the "new wave in French cinema" starring the immensely appealing Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg as the murderer on the run and his enigmatic American acquaintance. Hugely influential, it took me a couple viewings to really become immersed in it.
CALLAN (1974) - Veteran director Don Sharp takes the TV series starring Edward Woodward and makes a superb . . . what is it? . . . a crime picture? . . . an espionage picture? . . . I'm not sure. What it IS is a breath of fresh air!
DAY OF WRATH (1943) - Director Carl Theodor Dreyer (of VAMPYR fame) takes us back to the witch trial hysteria of 17th century Denmark and gives us a multi-layered, subtle film about the power of evil.
DOUBT (2008) - Yes, I do watch new films. Trouble is most of them ain't worth watching. This one, while not what I'd call a "great" film concerns the by-now-hackneyed child abuse angle in a Catholic school. However, the film is saved by an intelligent script that draws deeply-layered characters and by the uniformly excellent acting of the cast headed by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep.
HIGH AND LOW (1963) - Akira Kurosawa reunites with Toshiro Mifune in a departure for the director: a police procedural in modern-day Japan. Mifune plays the shoe company executive about to try a buyout of the company. A kidnap attempt on his son mistakenly takes a servant's boy instead. Will Mifune scuttle his takeover attempt and bankrupt himself to pay the ransom for his servant's child?
LE JOUR SE LEVE (1939) - The great Jean Gabin plays a murderer holed up in his apartment while the police set up a siege outside. Director Marcel Carne utilizes a series of flashbacks to show us what led this decent-seeming guy to murder.
LADY IN THE WATER (2006) - M. Night Shyamalan's generally lambasted movie is actually a superbly-realized fairy tale which didn't deserve it's incredibly hostile reception. Super acting by all involved with nice special effects that serve the story.
LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN (1960) - Frankly one of the greatest "caper" films I've ever seen. Jack Hawkins leads an all-star cast of delightful British character actors as they plan and execute a bank robbery. Basil Dearden's direction is sure and crackling.
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008) - Frequently hailed as one of the best horror films ever made, Tomas Alfredson's exquisitely realized vampire tale is unbeatable!
MASK OF DIMITRIOS (1944) - Far from a classic film, the creepy atmosphere provided by director Jean Negulesco combined with the mystery maguffin element and the reteaming of superb screen team Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet make this a barrel of fun.
ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (1969) - I've never been THAT much of a James Bond fan but this has shockingly become probably my favourite Bond film of them all! No one could be more surprised than myself. Sure, the absence of Sean Connery is a huge blow to the film but George Lazenby makes an acceptable 007 and, I'm firmly convinced had Connery actually starred in this film it would be known as the best of the lot. Hell, it's even got Diana Rigg in it! What's not to like?!?
RED DESERT (1964) - Michelangelo Antonioni's fourth chapter in his trilogy, I guess you'd call it. The first colour film by the director makes breathtaking use of the colour film. Oh, and Monica Vitti's back! While not up to the heights of L'ECLISSE or L'AVENTURA, it's still wonderful.
ROAD HOUSE (1948) - Director Jean Negulusco is back with this barnstormer of a semi-noir that finds poor Cornell Wilde acting between the two powerhouses of Ida Lupino and Richard Widmark; it's a wonder he didn't get crushed! Lupino is superb as the blousy lounge singer constantly putting out cigarettes on the piano while Widmark wheels out his patented psycho act from KISS OF DEATH. A tremendous treat!
THE ROARING TWENTIES (1939) - One of the greatest of Warner Bros. gangster films. Directed by the great Raoul Walsh (who knows a thing or two about Warner Bros. gangster films) and starring tough guy James Cagney and a still up-and-coming Humphrey Bogart.
THE SHIPPING NEWS (2001) - Just the kind of movie I like: everybody in it is miserable!!! Lasse Hallstrom (CHOCOLAT, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES) directs a superb cast headed by Kevin Spacey, Judi Densch, Julianne Moore and Cate Blanchett. More plusses as far as I'm concerned: the movie is set near the sea, it's in the winter in Newfoundland and . . . well, everybody's miserable. I'm a sucker for it all!
THE STEEL HELMET (1951) - The first movie EVER about the Korean War; Samuel Fuller made it while the war was STILL GOING ON!!! As with every Fuller movie, it's hard hitting and pulls no punches. Excellent lead performance by Gene Evans as Sgt. Zack. You can tell this film was made by a guy with actual combat experience. Simply one of the best war films ever made.
SUMMER WITH MONIKA (1953) - Early Ingmar Bergman film gives us this full Bergman treatment. The story of a pair of young lovers who fall in love, run away together and discover that life ain't all beer and skittles.
UNCLE SILAS (1947) - Film adaptation of the classic J. Sheridan LeFanu gothic novel by extremely mysterious director Charles Frank. This delirious fever dream is everything a gothic melodrama should be. Just beginning screen actress Jean Simmons is the menaced ingenue, Katina Paxinou is deliciously evil as her French governness and Derrick De Marney is slimy as all hell!
WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY (2007) - Razor-sharp skewering of all those musical biopics (RAY and WALK THE LINE are particular targets), Jake Kasdan's comedy does something pretty rare these days; it's a comedy that's actually funny. John C. Reilly has the role of his career and the soundtrack is bitingly funny and musically damn good.
WATCHMEN (2009) - Zack Snyder took the movie that couldn't be made and made a pretty respectable film out of it. The revered Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons graphic novel is still better than the film but the sheer chutzpah that made a coherent film of it has got to be respected. Who watches the Watchmen? Well, I certainly did and I enjoyed it.
As promised, I thought I'd mention those movies which I thoroughly enjoyed seeing for the first time this year but just missed being on the list: Ingmar Bergman's THE DEVIL'S EYE, FLASHBACKS OF A FOOL (more miserable people!), Douglas Sirk's monumental tearjerker MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION, the hypnotic PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, Kurosawa's RASHOMON, classic 70's chase film VANISHING POINT, Luchino Visconti's early neo-realist classic LA TERRA TREMA and OTOSHIANA aka PITFALL.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
- Pat Hingle, actor "Batman", "Batman Returns"
- John Scott Martin, actor "Doctor Who"
- Kathleen Byron, actress "Black Narcissus"
- Ray Dennis Steckler, director "Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies", "Rat Pfink a Boo Boo"
- Bob Wilkins, TV horror host "Creature Features"
- Harry Endo, actor "Hawaii Five-O"
- Kim Manners, director "Supernatural"
- Dave Dee, musician "Beaky, Dave Dee, Dozy, Mick & Tich"
- Patrick McGoohan, actor "The Prisoner", "Braveheart"
- Ricardo Montalban, actor "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan", "Fantasy Island"
- Angela Morley (nee Wally Stott), composer "The Goon Show", "Watership Down"
- John Mortimer, writer "Rumpole of the Bailey"
- Andrew Wyeth, artist
- Jake, best friend
- Susanna Foster, actress "Phantom of the Opera", "The Climax"
- Bob May, actor "Lost in Space"
- Charles H. Schneer, producer "Jason & the Argonauts", "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad", "Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers"
- Arthur A. Jacobs, producer "Giant From the Unknown", "She Demons"
- John Updike, author "The Witches of Eastwick"
- John Martyn, singer "Solid Air"
- Billy Powell, musician "Lynyrd Skynyrd"
- Lux Interior, singer "The Cramps"
- Philip Carey, actor "Mr. Roberts", "One Life To Live"
- James Whitmore, actor "Them!"
- Blossom Dearie, singer "Manhattan"
- Robert Quarry, actor "Count Yorga, Vampire", "Madhouse", "Sugar Hill"
- Howard Zieff, director "My Girl"
- Laurence Payne, actor "The Crawling Eye", "Vampire Circus"
- Edward Judd, actor "The Day the Earth Caught Fire"
- Philip Jose Farmer, author "The Riverworld novels"
- Wendy Richard, actress "Are You Being Served?", "EastEnders"
- Paul Harvey, radio announcer
- Theresa Joan Burkett, beloved partner
- Horton Foote, screenwriter "To Kill A Mockingbird"
- Jimmy Boyd, singer "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"
- Millard Kaufman, screenwriter "Bad Day at Black Rock"
- Sydney Chaplin, actor "Limelight"
- Ron Silver, actor "Ali", "Reversal of Fortune"
- Natasha Richardson, actress "Gothic"
- John Cater, actor "The Duchess of Duke Street", "Doctor Who"
- England Dan, singer "England Dan & John Ford Coley"
- Maurice Jarre, composer "Dr. Zhivago", "Ghost", "Fatal Attraction"
- Frank Springer, comic book artist "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D."
- Jody McCrea, actor "The Monster That Challenged the World", "Beach Blanket Bingo"
- Marilyn Chambers, actress "Behind the Green Door"
- Harry Kalas, sports announcer "Philadelphia Phillies", "NFL Films"
- Jack Cardiff, cinematographer "A Matter of Life and Death", "The African Queen"
- Beatrice Arthur, actress "Maude", "The Golden Girls"
- Peter Rogers, producer "Carry On series"
- Hans Holzer, ghost hunter
- Jack Kemp, US Congressman
- Ric Estrada, comic book artist "Power Girl", "Karate Kid"
- Dom DeLuise, actor "Fatso", "Hot Stuff"
- Richard Bojarksi, author "The Films of Boris Karloff", "The Films of Bela Lugosi"
- Jane Randolph, actress "Cat People", "Curse of the Cat People", "T-Men", "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein"
- Danny LaRue, comedian/female impersonator
- Terence Alexander, actor "The League of Gentlemen"
- Carole Cole, actress "The Silencers", "Sanford and Son"
- David Carradine, actor "Kill Bill", "Kung Fu"
- Dave Simons, comic book artist "Ghost Rider"
- Huey Long, singer "The Ink Spots"
- KoKo Taylor, blues singer
- Ken Roberts, radio announcer
- Gary Papa, TV Sportscaster
- Colin Bean, actor "Dad's Army"
- Ed McMahon, TV announcer "The Tonight Show"
- Sky Saxon, musician "The Seeds"
- Farrah Fawcett, actress "Charlie's Angels", "The Burning Bed"
- Michael Jackson, singer "Thriller"
- Billy Mays, TV pitchman "Oxy Clean"
- Gale Storm, actress "My Little Margie"
- Fred Travalena, comedian
- Jan Rubes, actor "Dead of Winter"
- Karl Malden, actor "A Streetcar Named Desire", "On the Waterfront"
- Mollie Sugden, actress "Are You Being Served?"
- Allen Klein, manager "The Beatles", "The Rolling Stones"
- Robert McNamara, politician
- Walter Cronkite, TV anchorman
- Frank McCort, author "Angela's Ashes"
- Gordon Waller, singer "Peter and Gordon"
- Peg Loiacono, beloved friend
- Harry Alan Towers, producer "Face of Fu Manchu", "Count Dracula"
- Corazon Aquino, Philipino president
- Budd Schulberg, screenwriter "On the Waterfront"
- John Hughes, director "The Breakfast Club", "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"
- Les Paul, musician
- Don Hewitt, producer "60 Minutes"
- Sammy Petrillo, actor "Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla"
- Dominick Dunne, author
- Edward Kennedy, US Senator
- Ellie Greenwich, songwriter "Be My Baby", "Out In the Streets", "Leader of the Pack"
- Erich Kunzel, conductor
- Army Archerd, columnist
- Larry Gelbart, writer/producer "M*A*S*H*"
- Zakes Mokae, actor "The Serpent and the Rainbow"
- Patrick Swayze, actor "Ghost", "Dirty Dancing"
- Keith Floyd, TV chef
- Henry Gibson, comedian "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In"
- Mary Travers, singer "Peter, Paul & Mary"
- Art Ferrante, musician "Ferrante & Teicher"
- Paul Burke, actor "The Thomas Crown Affair", "Shaft", "Thriller - An Echo of Theresa"
- Susan Atkins, murderer/member of Manson family
- Alicia de Larrochia, pianist
- Dick Durock, actor "Swamp Thing"
- William Safire, author
- Barry Letts, producer/director "Doctor Who"
- Al Martino, singer
- Daniel Melnick, producer "That's Entertainment", "Roxanne"
- Captain Lou Albano, wrestler
- George Tuska, comic book artist "Iron Man"
- Elizabeth Clare Prophet, new age cult leader
- Howard Unruh, murderer
- Vic Mizzy, composer "The Addams Family", "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken"
- Joseph Wiseman, actor "Dr. No"
- Ludovic Kennedy, author
- Steve Friedman, radio host "Mr. Movie"
- Soupy Sales, comedian
- Collin Wilcox, actress "To Kill A Mockingbird"
- Clinton Ford, singer
- Robert Kirby, arranger "Five Leaves Left", "Bryter Later"
- Claude Levi-Strauss, anthropologist
- David Lloyd, writer "Mary Tyler Moore", "The Bob Newhart Show"
- Paul Wendkos, director "The Legend of Lizzie Borden"
- Ken Ober, comedian/TV host "Remote Control"
- Edward Woodward, actor "The Wicker Man", "Breaker Morant", "Callan"
- Paul Naschy, actor "Assignment: Terror", "Werewolf Vs. the Vampire Woman", "Count Dracula's Great Love"
- Al Alberts, singer "The Four Aces", "Al Alberts' Showcase"
- Eric Woolfson, musician "The Alan Parsons Project"
- Richard Todd, actor "The Dam Busters", "Asylum"
- Thomas Hoving, art correspondent "20/20"
- Gene Barry, actor "War of the Worlds"
- Oral Roberts, televangelist
- Roy Disney, executive "The Walt Disney Company"
- Robin Wood, film critic
- Jennifer Jones, actress "Portrait of Jennie", "Duel in the Sun"
- Dan O'Bannon, writer/director "Alien", "The Resurrected", "Return of the Living Dead", "Dark Star"
- Brittany Murphy, actress "Sin City", "Freeway"
- Vic Chesnutt, singer