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 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 set in the 1950s. The acting is what I liked most about this one. An intense daughter 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 and radiation 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. Great acting all around.
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 an
inch. Far more 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 "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 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, as the 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 watch 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 does 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.
A true 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 a mass shark attack around a sinking ship is unforgettable. Shaw was actually drinking in this scene. It works perfectly 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's Run". Each time I skied it, I visualized the movie bear running close behind me. 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 don’t 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. Don’t 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 iron 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. Thinking about the other food items makes me 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 in Las Vegas. 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 strange way the baby looks and behaves.
I was in this scene twenty feel away from the baby, sitting with Amy, who looks like Drew Barrymore. As we talked and watched
the acrobats, I ate five quarts of popcorn. Then we had dinner.
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 members of their rave 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 afflict films based on European heritage, by pandering to pluralistic culture. By the third viewing I had trained myself to ignore the music.
Michelle Pfeiffer is superb as Isabeau d'Anjou and 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 a cathedral to settle accounts with the evil Bishop of Aquila. Clip-Clop, 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 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 pointed to the ax and told the customers it was "a gift from the Borden Family of Fall River Massachusetts". Eyebrows lifted.
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 the women. Like Heidi Fleiss said in a very different context "It's just sex."
The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
Samantha Caine, a housewife played by 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. He is still alive. With a quick twist she deftly breaks the his neck to end his misery, but wonders how and where she learned to do this. She 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 emissary known as the "Mouth of Sauron" at the Gate of Barad Dur. I'm looking forward to the two part production of "The Hobbit" coming soon.