Thursday, 30 April 2015

Scarlett Johansson

Cate Blanchett

(ph: Willy Vanderperre)

Le jour se lève (1939)

After committing a murder, a man locks himself in his apartment and recollects the events the led him to the killing.

A classic of French cinema, a masterpiece of flashback storytelling, poetic b/w cinematography and a melodrama with existentialist overtones.

Halliwell***: "A model of French poetic realism, and a much-praised film which was almost destroyed when it was bought for an American remake (The Long Night)."

Maltin***1/2: "A staple of French cinema...Generally holds up, while going a long way toward defining Gabin's screen persona."

Sophie Marceau

Les aventures extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010)

An adventure set in the early part of the 20th century and focused on a popular novelist and her dealings with would-be suitors, the cops, monsters, and other distractions.

Deliberately silly, but not so funny fantasy; it does have the usual Luc Besson excellence in production details.

The Colony (2013)

Forced underground by the next ice age, a struggling outpost of survivors must fight to preserve humanity against a threat even more savage than nature.
OK doomsday drama with some nice ice-age settings, but otherwise this is quite routine fare.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Joan Delaney

Jeremiah Johnson (1972)

A mountain man who wishes to live the life of a hermit becomes the unwilling object of a long vendetta by Indians, and proves to be a match for their warriors in one-on-one combat on the early frontier.

Classic revisionist western about a legendary, almost mythic man of the wild, masterfully depicting the harsh life in the wilderness with amazing realism.

Halliwell**: "Splendidly made if rather desultory plotted adventure story with the feel of raw reality."

Maltin***: "Atospheric chronicle...Unfortunately, film doesn't know where to quit rambling on to inconclusive ending. Geer is delightful as feisty mountain hermit."

New acquisition: Robot & Frank (2012)

Bella Heathcote

Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding (2011)

An uptight NYC lawyer takes her two teenagers to her hippie mother's farmhouse upstate for a family vacation.

Despite some good performances this lowbrow and only slightly humorous dramedy never misses a cliche; with hippies and squares like these, no wonder punk was a necessity.

Maltin**!/2: "Amiable fluff...Superficial and predictable, to be sure, but pleasant enough to watch given the cast and the lovely setting."


Ann Blyth

The Bone Collector (1999)

A quadriplegic ex-homicide detective and his female partner try to track down a serial killer who is terrorizing New York City.

Routine variation of a serial killer thriller; professional direction and cast plus a higher budget are the factors that make this movie slightly better than the usual crime TV episode.

Halliwell (no star): "A wearying, downbeat thriller of a familiar kind, dragged down by a script that makes little narrative sense and leaves too many questions unanswered."

Maltin***: "First-rate suspense thriller/whodunit...Not for the squeamish."

Andrei Tarkovsky

Andrei Tarkovsky with his father, poet Arseni Tarkovsky. 1979

The Bat (1959)

A crazed killer known as "The Bat" is on the loose in a mansion full of people.

Dana Delany

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

On the set: Alfred Hitchcock

Monday, 27 April 2015

Made in Dagenham (2010)

A dramatization of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant, where female workers walked out in protest against sexual discrimination.

Likeable and lightweight period piece with a spirited cast depicting an important episode of British history, the political stance, however, quite toned down.

Maltin**: "Routine dramatization of a meaty, true-life story...The film gives its audience no credit for understanding anything that isn't spelled out and underlined. Good performances, especially Hawkins as the unlikely labor leader, make it watchable."

To Have and Have Not (1944)

During WWII an American expatriate helps transport a Free French Resistance leader and his beautiful wife to Martinique while romancing a sexy lounge singer.

A pulp adaptation of an Ernest Hemingway novel (script co-written by William Faulkner!) has achieved iconic status by superb direction, ironic narration, atmospheric cinematography, and the first-time-on.screen chemistry between Bacall and Bogart.

Halliwell**: "Fairly routinely made studio adventure notable for first pairing of Bogart and Bacall, as an imitation of Casablanca, and for its consistent though not outstanding entertainment value."

Maltin***1/2: "Hemingway's "worst novel" forms the basis for Hawk's version of CASABLANCA...Their [Bacall and Bogart's] legendary love scenes make the movie, but there are also solid performances, and a couple of songs."

The Guns of Navarone (1961)

A British team is sent to cross occupied Greek territory and destroy the massive German gun emplacement that commands a key sea channel.

John Hurt

New acquisition: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

Sunday, 26 April 2015

The Big Knife (1955)

A big-time movie star refuses to sign a binding contract with a Louis B. Mayer-like mogul, but is blackmailed to do so.

Sharp and acrid satire on Hollywood, but also stagebound and talkative; and despite Jack Palance giving all his effort, it's awkward to see him as an oversensitive and tormented artist.

Halliwell*: "Overheated argument between Art and Mammon, with rather disagreeable people shouting at each other, for too long a time. Limited interest is provided by the acring."

Maltin***: "...involving (albeit overheated) drama...Fine performances almost overcome stereotypes; Steiger chews the scenery as a despotic studio head."

R.I.P. Richard Corliss

Mon Oncle (1958)

On the set: Jacques Tati

Benicio del Toro

La Notte (1961)

On the set: Jeanne Moreau, Michelangelo Antonioni & #Monica Vitti
(ph: AlfaCastaldi)

Europa Report (2013)

An international crew of astronauts undertakes a privately funded mission to search for life on Jupiter's fourth largest moon.
Amazingly good and intelligently made and suspenseful low-budget sci-fi story told in documentary style and scientifically quite coherent.

Maltin***: "Intelligent, even sober, and credible space voyage, with the focus on the dangers of space - and unexpected hazards on Europe. A fresh take on the found-footage genre; well directed and realistic."

Tirez sur le pianiste (1960)

A washed-up classical pianist bottoms out after his wife's suicide — stroking the keys in a Parisian bar and, when his brothers get in trouble with gangsters, he inadvertently gets dragged into the chaos and is forced to rejoin the family he once fled.

Wonderfully playful and at times surreal and absurdist take on Film Noir that enthuses by its esprit and sheer joy of taking a plot wherever it may go.

Halliwell*: "Fair copy of an American film noir, not especially interesting except for its sharp observation."

Maltin****: "Atmospheric early Truffaut gem...This film, more than any other, reflects the influence of Hollywood low-budget melodramas on Truffaut and his cinematic style."

Bronson (2008)

A young man who was sentenced to seven years in prison for robbing a post office ends up spending three decades in solitary confinement and, during this time, his own personality is supplanted by his alter-ego, Charles Bronson.

Professionally directed and well played satire on a most disagreeable brute; therefore not to everyone's taste.

Maltin***: "Impressionistic biopic...Stark, potent tale is nonetheless difficult to watch because "Bronson" is so unlikable and his violent nature is portayed in graphic detail."

Grip of the Strangler (1958)

A researcher investigating a notorious serial killer who was hanged 20 years earlier seemingly becomes possessed by the long dead strangler.
[The Haunted Strangler is the USA release title]

Tirez sur le pianiste (1960)

On the set: Charles Aznavour and Marie Dubois

Dolores del Río

Night and the City (1950)

Saturday, 25 April 2015

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

A young F.B.I. cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims.

A masterpiece of clever filmmaking and a formidable cast turning otherwise routine serial killer schlock into a fascinating of straightforward art; also a game changer that nearly instantly stopped the video nasties debate.

Halliwell***: "Tense, exciting and sometimes gruesome thriller, suspenseful enough to make you overlook its essential absurdities. Hopkins plays the role of the devious Lecter with lip-smacking relish."

Maltin***1/2: "Almost unbearably intense, brilliantly acted (by Foster and Hopkins), and cannily put together - though the subject is at times repellent."

Attack on a China Mission (1900)

A man tries to defend a woman and a large house against Chinese attackers.

A classic of film history that incorporated a sumptuous production (for that time) and a story told in four shots - in a way the grandmother of all action movies.

Flying Leathernecks (1951)

A Major leads The Wildcats squadron into the historic WWII battle of Guadalcanal.

Mediocre, violent and quite chauvinist flag waver which savours the air battle scenes.

Halliwell (no star): "Empty, violent war actioner full of phoney heroics."

Maltin***: "Solid, if not especially otiginal, WW2 actioner, with good aerial scenes and nice turnby Flippen as crafty sergeant."

Curse of the Faceless Man (1958)

Friday, 24 April 2015

Afterwards (2008)

A newly divorced lawyer is shaken up after he meets a doctor who claims that he can sense when select people are about to die.

Made with style and atmosphere, and the cast do their best, but the story is just too silly.

Arlette Marchal

New acquisition: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Dirty (2005)

Two gangbangers-turned-cops try and cover up a scandal within the LAPD.

A great cast and feverish atmosphere, but a slightly unclear plot make this an above-average thriller about corruption among cops.

Maltin*1/2: "Aggressively foulmouthed and foul-minded, this visually convulsive TRAING DAY wannabe has ambitions, but offers neither its characters nor its audience any salvation."

Sean Connery

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Drive (2011)

A mysterious Hollywood stuntman, mechanic and getaway driver lands himself in trouble when he helps out his neighbor.

What would have been another (violent) action flic is successfully given an artsy treatment and the feel of an existentialist drama with a tight-lipped, hard-boiled anti-hero.

Maltin**: "What some see as a prime example of postmodern cool strikes us as a pretentious hogwash from the word go. The bursts of gruesome violence are equally hard to swallow. By the way, Gosling seems fully articulate when he sets up his first gig, but spends the rest of the film nearly silent (and striking poses). Only bright spot is a juicy supporting role for Brooks as a savvy gangster."

Hadaka no shima (1960)

A family of four are the sole inhabitants of a small island, where they struggle each day to irrigate their crops.

Poetic masterpiece without any dialogue that depicts the bleak, but mutual relationship between landscape and human sustenance in rhythmic daily and seasonal rituals.

Halliwell*: "Slow, controlled, beautiful film in which not a single word of dialogue is spoken. The artificiality of this concept eventually diminishes its stature."

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

New acquisition: Le journal d'une femme de chambre

La fièvre monte à El Pao (1959)

Aroused citizens assassinate an unpopular Caribbean despot, then two men vie for his gorgeous widow Ines.

A minor commercial Bunuel picture that offers a very direct political message without any ambiguities - unusual for the director -, but is a bit too commingled within a romantic melodrama.