The Age of Innocence (1993)Good escapist piece with Daniel Day-Lewis, Michele Pfeiffer, and Winona Ryder. I had no idea the extent to which moral pettiness prevailed during the Victorian era in New York City. We see people deeply in love who feel that they cannot follow their heart’s desire because of having their lives interwoven with those whose only occupation is the malicious minding of other peoples business. As I watched, I felt that to suddenly be back there with these 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 to change it all with novels showcasing the superior workability of free-thought lifestyles, and because of the people one might attract in doing this.
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 for his motivation is the basic imperialist assumption, that one's own civilization is superior to 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 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 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 and their numbers 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 and makes 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 really loves Virgil and remains married to him. Duddy finds a 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, 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. Little 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 as slaves of corrupt government.
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 soon 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 parisis 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 very marriageable girl.
The Bad Seed (1956)
The ability to conceptualize morally is a type of intelligence. In some individuals this ability is, by some means, 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 (Christian Bale) became the Caped Crusader. Disclosing these causal events helps give story legitimacy to all the other Batman movies. The tale starts when Bruce Wayne 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. It’s good content and I enjoyed it very much. The acting and special effects are superb all around.
Before and After (1996)
A very good movie. Engrossing story, well acted, wonderful overcast New England atmosphere. Lots of winter eye candy. The family house and 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 anyway simply for not trusting the legal system. After all, why would any right thinking person not trust the legal system? When he gets out of prison, the family relocates to what looks like the Loxahachee River.
It's good to see old European tales like this one done as a movie. 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 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 shutter speed) 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 about many of the events, and in some cases, to wonder whether they were actual or 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 in 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 on the teacher and challenges him to come take the test paper from him is one of the classic moments in American motion picture history. Where else would such a thing happen except America, 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 into 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, on the set of Billioaire Mafia, I talked with a production supervisor who 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 Pete, who introduced us, never used last names.
It was August 6, 1971. The Who were playing the Music Hall that night, but Pete and I 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 learn 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 sooner when it first started to go wrong..." but people who do things really well never want to retire.
The Blue Max (1966)
This is one of my favorites. Everything about it. When I first saw it, I identified with Bruno's obsession that unconfirmed kills must be confirmed, that getting credit for your 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 to soon? 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 at 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.
In this very strange movie we see insane drug besotted criminals enjoying early 1960s music. This touched buried areas of my emotional understanding, because I was at a vulnerable age when this music was popular. It showed me, 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 in real life, and in this movie, is a very dangerous shootist. He has mastery of most 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 masterpieces. I saw this wonderful story 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" always 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, the Barbary Coast, Grass Valley, and Silver City all rolled into one. The quintessential distillation of the Old Wild West. Nothing has been lost! (Based on earlier 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 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 so often 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 somewhat 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 in October 2008, a vile necrotic society infected with by 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.
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 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 those two other 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, but a friend of mine was in the scene where Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro) nearly gets incinerated in his car. 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 in Las Vegas are nostalgic about the mob days. 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 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 requirement of 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 period. 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, besides all this, 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 TV miniseries 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. P.S. Finally read the novel. Totally excellent as well. The movie people conveyed it to the screen superbly.
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?
Jack Nicholson plays J..J..Gittes, a likable detective on a complex adultery/murder case in the 1930s, which also involves him in all the complexities surrounding the diverting of water to the California Valley from lakes up 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 only de-fangs 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 them all, because it deals with the Freudian sexual connotations found in werewolf legends. It centers more around the loss of adolescent innocence than 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 - namely immature and crazy.
Con Air (1997)
Very good story with convicts crash-landing a big plane on the Las Vegas Strip. Local residents will notice that the sequence of different places hit by the plane is geographically impossible, but the total effect is very exciting for everybody else.
One thing I liked here 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 screaming fire engines and general chaos.
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 a very 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, because of 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 only be sad memories of a pathetic and limp-wristed 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 hear the song used to open this movie. My Aunt Priscilla once 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 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 anyone connected with the film being at all pleased with 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 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 premise 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. Remember the old saying, "Get a taste of Pagan spirituality. Lick a Witch!"
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. It is the splendor of youth dissipated by cruel excess. The first film made me feel that I may have missed out a bit 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 lack of 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 athletic win-or-die stories in general.
The Departed (2006)This movie is aptly titled, because a great many people die. I wasn't aware of the full cast and started watching it because I always enjoy 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 here." 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.
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 outside. 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 bichromatic 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 paranoid and misinformed character express discontent about the ongoing destructive interaction between politicians and international finance does not, of course, render this real life 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. The story 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.