The Boy Friend-1971

The Boy Friend-1971

Director Ken Russell

Starring Twiggy, Christopher Gable

Scott’s Review #1,407

Reviewed October 27, 2023

Grade: B+

With each Ken Russell film, I see the expectation is for something wacky and I sit back for a schizophrenic roller coaster ride.

His finest efforts like Women in Love (1970), The Devils (1971), and Tommy (1975) offer bombast and weirdness in their way.

The British director decided to take on The Boy Friend (1971), a reworking of a 1953 traditional musical of the same name by Sandy Wilson, and turn it upside down on its ass. Those expecting a conventional affair with cheery sing-along numbers in perfect symmetry will be disappointed.

The messy project has its ups and downs and meanders off course on more than one occasion. With jagged storytelling and dragging sequences, it makes up ground with the sizzling visuals and costumes and offers the audience a glimpse of theatre drama and shenanigans both onstage and offstage.

On its own merits and considering the director is Russell it gets a marginal thumbs up but is nowhere near as fantastic as his other works.

Causing a bit of confusion, the plot is divided into three levels. Level one tells the main story, where, in the south of England in the 1920s, a struggling theatrical troupe is performing a musical about romantic intrigues at a finishing school for young women in the south of France.

The cast awkwardly strives to impress a visiting famous movie director with hopes of fame and fortune. They giggle, improvise, and scheme to get noticed at the risk of upstaging the other cast members.

Next, there is the musical itself. Four of the girls at the school are very forward and acquire boyfriends, but Polly, played by 1960s supermodel Twiggy, is shy and has nobody to take her to the carnival masked ball that night. Tony (Christopher Gable), a messenger boy from a dress shop, brings her a costume, and they fall in love.

Finally, there are extensive fantasy sequences in the film, during which the characters’ dreams and hopes are enacted in music and dance sans dialogue.

Glenda Jackson, who won an Oscar for Russell’s Women in Love returns in an uncredited appearance as the theatre star who Polly must fill in for when she breaks her leg.

The crux of the film is the romance between Polly and Tony. While there is some chemistry between the duo they never completely take off as the centerpiece either.

The cleverness is in the reveal of the twist within the stage production cementing the pair’s connection, as characters in the play.

Nonetheless, there are too many other things going on to care about the lovebirds for very long.

The musical numbers got my attention, especially towards the end of the film. My personal favorite ‘It’s Nicer in Nice’ kickstarts the action with high-caliber energy and shout-outs to other geographical cities in comparison to Nice, France. It’s a fun regional experience with great culture and an upbeat rhythm.

The chirpy ‘It’s Never Too Late to Fall in Love’ follows soon after offering a gleeful ending.

The fantasy sequences waste story potential and offer no plot direction but are fun to watch anyway. Dripping with colors and razzle-dazzle the chaotic events are dreamlike and foot-stomping.

Twiggy, with little to no prior film experience, is quite impressive in the lead role. Her voice is strong and her acting skills are more than adequate. What might have been a disaster is not thanks to her talents.

Even though other Ken Russell films are tighter and linear The Boy Friend (1971) is worth the watch, especially for his diehard fans.

Oscar Nominations: Best Music, Adaptation, and Original Song Score

Killers of the Flower Moon-2023

Killers of the Flower Moon-2023

Director Martin Scorsese

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone

Scott’s Review #1,406

Reviewed October 22, 2023

Grade: A

One great thing about legendary director Martin Scorsese, and there are plenty I could mention, is that he continues to challenge his audience with his films well into his eighties.

Any aspiring filmmaker, or any cinephile, should study his films.

Before I knew too much about his new picture, Killers of the Flower Moon (2023) I knew I wanted to see it because I trust Scorsese as a director.

His most recent films, The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) and The Irishman (2019) are not easy watches but the payoff is tremendous.

Scorsese is not the kind of filmmaker to create feel-good fluff but leaves the audience pondering what they’ve seen long after leaving the theater.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, two frequent Scorsese collaborators and great actors appear in Killers of the Flower Moon assuring something of quality.

Be forewarned that at an enormous running time of three hours and twenty-six minutes, the film is long! Like a fine wine, it took me about an hour or so to immerse myself in the texture and storytelling but this only defends the richness of the experience.

Based on David Grann’s broadly lauded best-selling book, “Killers of the Flower Moon” is set in 1920s Oklahoma and depicts the serial murder of members of the oil-wealthy Osage Nation, a string of brutal crimes that came to be known as the Reign of Terror.

In 1918, Ernest Burkhart (DiCaprio) returns from World War I to his uncle, rancher William “King” Hale (De Niro), who lives with Ernest’s brother Byron (Scott Sheperd) on the reservation. Hale pretends to be a friendly supporter of the Osage people, but he secretly schemes to murder them and steal their wealth.

Lily Gladstone who has starred mainly in independent films makes her breakthrough performance as Mollie Burkhart, a wealthy Native American woman who is the love interest of Ernest.

The cast is unwieldy and features stalwarts like Brendan Fraser and John Lithgow in small roles but the notable mentions are DiCaprio, De Niro, and Gladstone.

Each scene between the three crackles with phenomenal acting and attention to their craft. Gladstone quietly yet expressively emotes her character’s feelings and emotions. Mollie is a proud woman but not gullible as she presents a strong feminist quality.

Her scenes with DiCaprio resonate the most. His character of Ernest is complicated and possesses good and bad qualities. As Mollie professes early on he is handsome but not too smart.

Her statement comes further into play at the end of the film.

Amid the schemes and murders Killers of the Flower Moon embraces a sweet romantic story between Ernest and Mollie. They love each other and he adores her and their children but is it ultimately enough?

Any aspiring actors should hone in on scenes between DiCaprio and De Niro for inspiration. Each scene and line within the scene is delivered with naturalness. Carefully yet authentically executed their conversations are mesmerizing.

De Niro reportedly and unsurprisingly modeled his character after the callous and dastardly reality star turned-politician Donald Trump.  Pretending to be well-intentioned but instead bullying and scheming his way to fortune by bamboozling the weak, De Niro channels his inner asshole with precision.

I immediately recognized what the actor was going for concerning the hateful politician.

In what only enhances the film, Scorsese appears at the beginning and end with impassioned moments about the importance of telling this story.

Filmed in Oklahoma, many sequences of open land, fields, streams, and other natural elements appear. Scorsese often uses the same film crews which enhances the authenticity.

The cinematography is filled with early 1900s facets and real Native American people are featured. The colors and tribal outfits offer culture and a glimpse into their way of life.

Killers of the Flower Moon (2023) is an important film because it teaches and reminds the audience that oppression and tragedy have existed in the United States and still do today.

The telling of one group of people is sound and a stark reminder of how many more stories exist each needing the help of a great filmmaker to bring exposure.

Scorsese does it again.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director-Martin Scorsese, Best Actress-Lily Gladstone, Best Supporting Actor-Robert De Niro, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Original Score, Best Original Song-“Wahzhazhe (A Song For My People)

The Satanic Rites of Dracula-1973

The Satanic Rites of Dracula-1973

Director Alan Gibson

Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Joanna Lumley

Scott’s Review #1,405

Reviewed October 16, 2023

Grade: B+

The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973) is the eighth film in the Hammer Horror Dracula series, and the seventh and final one to feature Christopher Lee in the starring role. It also unites legendary horror actor Peter Cushing with Lee for the third time.

So, the territory and storyline are hardly unchartered and a film like this is for a targeted audience.

For those unclear, Hammer Horror films are a series of low-budget British films produced by the London-based company featuring gothic and fantasy-type films.

Their heyday was from the mid-1950s until the 1970s.

The Satanic Rites of Dracula comes at the end of the horror genre reign of terror but is enjoyable nonetheless. It’s redundant in a way because I’ve seen so many of them by now that there’s little intrigue anymore.

It’s not a surprise anymore what’s going to transpire in the film.

I love these films mostly because of the low budget and the creative and sophisticated sets and art design. But the main selling point is the Lee/Cushing pairing.

After a Secret Service agent barely escapes an English country estate where satanic rituals are being held and later dies Van Helsing (Cushing) is asked to investigate.

He seeks the seven hundred-year-old count (Lee), who is dead and living in London with his vampire bride and a breed of other undead women dressed in red robes.

Van Helsing’s granddaughter Jessica played by Joanna Lumley is introduced as well as another Secret Service agent, Murray (Michael Coles).

The team naturally winds up at the English estate where they discover shenanigans led by a female Chinese vampire (Barbara Yu Ling). They grapple with fire and brimstone as they determinedly attempt to take down Dracula once and for all (yeah right!).

The film is silly but in the best of ways. I enjoyed the very beginning and ending most of all. When the Secret Service agent runs down the vast estate driveway amid darkness the mysterious pursuing motorcycle men provide intrigue, and the plot is hatched.

As fans know well the finale will result in a fiery showdown between good and evil and the benevolent Van Helsing destroys the villainous Dracula with a strong stake to the heart.

This technique is used a few times during The Satanic Rites of Dracula and in comic fashion, a stake and hammer always seem to be at the ready.

But the fun is good besting evil after all and delightful is seeing a vampire’s fangs come into view as the unsuspecting victim gasps in shock or shrieks in terror.

By 1973 Cushing and Lee could probably deliver their dialogue in their sleep and the motivation doesn’t seem to be there. Lee barely appears until the final act.

The introduction of Lumley, well-known to Absolutely Fabulous fans is wise and breathes new life into the familiar characters. She brings a Nancy Drew-type appeal especially as she sneaks into the estate basement to investigate peculiar noises.

A hoot for Hammer Horror fans or fans of British horror but it’s not one of the best in the series. Enjoyable mostly for additional tidbits like howling wind, creepy noises, and lavish drapes, furniture, and various set pieces.

The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973) is a nice watch in October around Halloween.

Mahler-1974

Mahler-1974

Director Ken Russell

Starring Robert Powell, Georgina Hale

Scott’s Review #1,404

Reviewed October 15, 2023

Grade: A

Anyone brave and open-minded enough to expose themselves to a Ken Russell film is in for an experience in great cinema. The British director frequently fuses music, odd visual sequences, and vivid colors into his art.

There is a specific mood one must be in to flourish in the moment and the dream-like perplexities of a film of this ilk but the result will be an appreciation for creativity in filmmaking.

My personal favorite Russell film, and I’m still getting my feet wet in all things Russell, is Women in Love (1970) followed by The Devils (1971), a journey into madness.

Hardly straight-laced, Mahler (1974) conceptualizes the music of the famous Austro-Bohemian composer and delves into the life and times of the man.

Gustav Mahler (Robert Powell) is returning to his home in Vienna, Austria following a stint conducting at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Traveling via train with his wife, Alma (Georgina Hale) he reflects on pivotal moments in his life.

Mahler dwells on memories of his overbearing father, of his once powerful but now failing relationship with Alma, and of the anti-Semitism that forced him to convert to Catholicism.

A garish sequence also reveals the death of his child.

A side story on the train features Alma’s lover, Max (Richard Morant), also on the train, urging her to leave Mahler and get off with him a couple of stops before Vienna.

Russell shifts time quite often so that at first it’s tough to figure out what is happening and more specifically if events are in the past or the future.

But once acclimated it’s easy to reflect on the stages of life and the various players. Better still is to ruminate about the happenings after the credits have rolled.

The best films require some ponderance after they end rather than simply forgetting them fifteen minutes later and Mahler is one of those films.

Knowing Russell, (has anyone seen The Devils?), he sometimes incorporates religion into his work. Mahler, a Jew, is forced to relegate his religion to get his work showcased. So, there is religious conflict and debate.

Mahler’s conversion to Catholicism is expressed by a wacky fantasy sequence in which he undergoes a baptism of fire and blood on a mountaintop, presided over by Cosima Wagner (second wife of the composer, Wagner).

The character wears horrid black lipstick and other odd attire like a Prussian helmet and a bathing suit with a cross on the front and a swastika on the rear.

The sequence is one of the best and technically brilliant with fire, rocks, and mountains on display. It’s also choreographed amazingly well and features unique musical compositions.

The style of Mahler (the film) is visual and artistic but also a chance for classical music fans to appreciate the compositions. Also, for novice fans eager to be introduced to quality music the film is equally as important.

I love my rock n roll like any other red-blooded American but the chance to soak in classical pieces from Mahler and Wagner is a pure treat in cultural goodness.

British actor Robert Powell is cast exceptionally well bearing a stark resemblance to the real Mahler. Oftentimes morose and sullen he is a tortured artist. But the expressions in his work like the song cycle Songs on the Death of Children reveal his complexities.

Powell is successful at exposing the audience to the emotional nuances that often pair with great artists.

Georgina Hale as Alma is just as good. Staunchly supporting her husband but yearning for her slice of the happiness pie she is also conflicted.

Mahler (1974) is a film about filmmaking and art appreciation. Thanks to Russell’s vision he challenges the conventional viewer with a unique journey through the weird and wild but more importantly, the chance to revel in something of brilliance.

The Devils-1971

The Devils-1971

Director Ken Russell

Starring Oliver Reed, Vanessa Redgrave

Scott’s Review #1,403

Reviewed October 4, 2023

Grade: A

Ken Russell, most famous for directing the outstanding Women in Love (1970) and The Who’s Tommy (1975) creates a disturbing opus about perversion and scandal amid the Roman Catholic church during medieval times.

The film’s graphic portrayal of violence, sexuality, and religious blasphemy ignited shocked reactions from censors, and it originally received an X rating in both the United Kingdom and the United States. It was banned in several countries, and heavily edited for exhibition in others.

This alone will pique open-minded and curious viewer’s interests. It sure did mine.

The film is ironically entitled The Devils (1971) and stars Russell stalwart Oliver Reed who also appeared in the aforementioned films.  Reed leads the charge as a sexy, rugged man who beds many women and is the center of a convent full of nuns’ nasty and naughty thoughts.

Vanessa Redgrave also appears as a lustful and evil nun with a hunchback.

During the period of seventeenth-century France, Father Grandier (Reed) was a priest whose unorthodox views on sex and religion influenced a passionate following of nuns, including the sexually obsessed Sister Jeanne (Redgrave).

When the power-hungry Cardinal Richelieu (Christopher Logue) realizes he must eliminate Grandier to gain control of France, Richelieu vows to destroy the man. He portrays Grandier as a Satanist and spearheads a public outcry to destroy the once-loved priest’s reputation.

The Devils is outrageous and bizarre in only the best of possible ways. Who doesn’t love a healthy dose of nun orgies and simulating fellatio on a large candlestick? One nun violently masturbates as another looks on giggling sadistically.

The camera simply loves Reed and Redgrave who it’s interesting to note are not a couple in the film. These British actors were in their heyday in 1971 and both portray roles that must have challenged them tremendously.

Despite being British the film takes place in France getting off to a naughty start with a nearly nude dance performed by skinny Louis XIII (played with wacky delight by Graham Armitage). Rumored to be gay the king traipses around in colorful costumes and later shoots protestants dressed as gorillas for sport.

There are themes of exorcising and burning at the stake and mentions of the warring Catholics and Protestants so there is a seriousness amid the antics and shenanigans.

It took me a little while to become fully immersed in the chaotic land of Loudon, a town in western France where the film is set. In truth, a second viewing really helped me settle in and have a sense of what was going on.

The best films really are like fine wines.

Attempts by Russell to irritate and incite the overly religious are quite satisfying in a wicked way. As much as he mocks religion by making the traditionally sexually conservative filled with lust and animalistic sexual prowess there is much more going on.

Beneath the surface, he challenges the ridiculousness of religion which cinema lovers will embrace and delight in. There are history lessons to be had though and the film provides exceptional details of the political upheavals and tyranny that occurred.

The thunderous musical score by Peter Maxwell Davies is fabulous especially during The Devils final act when a major character endures a broiling on a wooden stake.

Those possessing the wonderful Blu-Ray version of the film can be treated to various outtakes, cast interviews, and behind-the-scenes information.

An added delight for knowledgeable film fans is the inclusion of character actor Murray Melvin, famous for playing Reverand Runt in the classic Barry Lyndon (1975). He plays Father Pierre Barre.

The Devils (1971) is a perverse and operatic extravaganza of lunacy. It’s caked with sex and nudity and blasphemy that I loved every bit of. The dangerous tone can be studied and thought about long after the film ends.

Torch Song-1953

Torch Song-1953

Director Charles Walters

Starring Joan Crawford, Michael Wilding, Gig Young

Scott’s Review #1,402

Reviewed September 25, 2023

Grade: B

Since I’m a huge fan of legendary Hollywood Actress Joan Crawford I’ll willingly watch any film of hers, both quality films and mediocre offerings.

Her style, confidence, clothes, makeup, and yes, those eyebrows capture me every time I see her. She’s also a damned good actor.

Torch Song (1953) is a film made when her career was waning despite just scoring an Oscar nomination the year before for Sudden Fear (1952).

She would find success in the 1960s with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1963).

The film is fun to watch because it reportedly best captures her true personality in a role that is realistic to who she was. Faye Dunaway even studied the role closely before she portrayed the star in 1981’s cult classic Mommie Dearest.

The story is about a talented and demanding Broadway star named Jenny Stewart played by Crawford. She is used to snapping her fingers and having her every whim catered to without question. She rewrites scenes and fires talent for shows she stars in if she deems them beneath her.

One day she meets her blind rehearsal pianist Tye Graham (Michael Wilding) and finds herself attracted to him. At first, clashing over his refusal to put up with her bullshit she comes to realize she admires him.

The feeling is mutual and the lovebirds tenderly nurture their budding relationship.

I’m not sure if non-Crawford fans would appreciate or enjoy Torch Song as much as we die-hards would. The story is basic with few twists and turns and it’s not hard to imagine that Jenny and Tye will wind up together.

Torch Song was famously spoofed by comedienne Carol Burnett in the 1970s on her television show when she replicates a dress rehearsal scene from the film in a hilarious fashion.

But Crawford is devilish and fierce in the film. She prances confidently in each scene wearing getups as outlandish as a haughty yellow nightgown with high-heeled slippers and a garish scene from the production wearing  ‘black face’!

When she yanks off her wig revealing her messy red hair, black face, and wide emotion-infused eyes as she desperately watches Tye exit the auditorium it rivals any scary scene from a horror film.

Jenny is the star as much as Crawford is and one wonders if she had the same ferocious clout as the fictitious character. We’ll have to ask the cast if any are still alive.

Crawford’s singing voice was dubbed by India Adams and she lip-syncs to the recording Adams originally made for Cyd Charisse in a number discarded from the 1953 film, The Band Wagon.

When she belts emotional numbers like ‘Two-Faced Woman the comic relief is unintentional. Adams sounds nothing like Crawford which makes the dubbing glaring and nearly pitiful. Crawford had a decent voice and sang the songs only available on the home video release.

Oddly, actress Marjorie Rambeau who played Crawford’s mother received an Oscar nomination for the role. Her performance is adequate but not Academy Award-worthy.

This must have irritated Ms. Crawford who wasn’t known for being a gracious co-star. She must have felt usurped.

Crawford seamlessly carries the film from beginning to end credits like the seasoned professional she always was. She pokes her co-stars and chews up the scenery like nobody’s business.

Deserving of mention is actor Michael Wilding since he equals Crawford in performance. He never appears outshined or swallowed whole during a scene instead relaying good chemistry with her.

A mediocre Torch Song (1953) is made better by the mix of the competitive Broadway lifestyle and the star playing a ferocious and seasoned veteran.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actress-Marjorie Rambeau

The Return of the Musketeers-1989

The Return of the Musketeers-1989

Director George Lester

Starring Michael York, Oliver Reed, Kim Cattrall

Scott’s Review #1,401

Reviewed September 24, 2023

Grade: B

The Return of the Musketeers (1989) is the third Musketeers film directed by Richard Lester, following 1973’s The Three Musketeers and 1974’s The Four Musketeers.

George MacDonald Fraser wrote each screenplay.

This is key to mention because a strong continuity flow helps the film be fun and charming. The results of the same person directing and writing resonate on screen in several ways. The characters feel truthful and their motivations are clear.

A rich sense of the history of the characters is apparent making the film a pleasing adventure for fans of the franchise.

After ambitious Oliver Cromwell (Alan Howard) overthrows the king, Cardinal Mazarin (Philippe Noiret) enlists a down-and-out D’Artagnan (Michael York) to rally the Musketeers against him.

Porthos (Frank Finlay) accepts the mission at once, but Athos (Oliver Reed) and Aramis (Richard Chamberlain) hesitate at first. Eventually, the three reunite, but they are soon torn apart by infighting and a situation from their past.

They get a chance at redemption when they are sent to England to save the life of King Charles I (Bill Paterson).

There is some slapstick play to endure making The Return of the Musketeers feel juvenile at times when characters are bopped over the head or otherwise trip and fall in silly form.

For this type of adventure film, the plot is too complicated and veers in different directions a shade too often. I wondered more than once if I was in France or England.

This makes the minor characters difficult to keep track of and Christopher Lee’s character of Comte de Rochefort once again has little to do.

The costumes and the French setting are a major victory and the history lessons provided especially the British and French kings and queens are more than fulfilling. We delved into our history books to determine which King Louis reigned when and who was aligned with the film (it’s Louis the XIV during the 1600s).

The point of the film made fifteen years after the second film is to please fans and the result is a swimming success. I’m a sort of fan with my hubby being a big fan and we both enjoyed the resurfacing of familiar characters.

It feels like old-home week. The reunion of the musketeers feels like witnessing a family reunion. As D’Artagnan, Porthos, Athos, and Aramis embraced each other we felt the warmth along with them.

Since the characters played by Raquel Welch and Faye Dunaway (Milady) were dead a creative idea was to introduce her daughter to the story, Justine played by Kim Cattrall. Athos also has a son named Raoul, played by C. Thomas Howell.

This provides a further nod to history and introduces compelling lead characters who have a connection to familiar characters.

It is also an example of good writing and storytelling. Despite the characters being new to the audience we already care about them based on their tie to other beloved characters.

Making the film more sentimental, a sad occurrence happened while filming. Actor Roy Kinnear who plays lovable Planchet died following an on-camera accident in which he fell off a horse.

His role was completed by using a stand-in, filmed from the rear, and dubbed-in lines from a voice artist.

The film is dedicated to him.

Reuniting most of the original cast years later makes The Return of the Musketeers (1989) a warm experience. Beautiful costumes locales and history raise the film above expectations considering it’s a third installment.

Short Cuts-1993

Short Cuts-1993

Director Robert Altman

Starring Tim Robbins, Julianne Moore, Lily Tomlin

Scott’s Review #1,400

Reviewed September 20, 2023

Grade: A

I am such a fan of acclaimed director Robert Altman because he typically features an enormous cast with richly composed characters all serving a story purpose. Frequently, with much character development and investment.

Short Cuts (1993) is a latter-day Altman offering set in Los Angeles, California, the City of Angels that is nearly as good as my all-time favorite of his, Nashville made in 1975.

Similarities burst to the screen with twenty-two principal characters to Nashville’s twenty-four. Their lives frequently intersect and the fun is peeling back the layers of their lives and discovering who is connected to whom.

Comparisons to 1992’s The Player (also Altman) and 1999’s Magnolia, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson can also be made for obvious Los Angeles setting reasons.

But, Magnolia is much weirder than Short Cuts.

The irony is that most characters are anything but angels as they suffer from insecurities, deaths, infidelity, and various shenanigans as they attempt to get through California life amid an earthquake and a fleet of helicopters spraying for medflies.

Altman based the film on the nine short stories and a poem by Raymond Carver.

Some of the tales include a waitress Doreen (Lily) who is married to an alcoholic limo driver (Tom Waits) who accidentally runs into a boy with her car. Soon after walking away, the child lapses into a coma. While at the hospital, the boy’s grandfather (Jack Lemmon) tells his son, Howard (Bruce Davison), about his past affairs.

Meanwhile, a baker (Lyle Lovett) starts harassing the family when they fail to pick up the boy’s birthday cake.

Dr. Ralph Wyman (Matthew Modine) and his wife, Marian (Moore), meet Stuart Kane (Fred Ward), an unemployed salesman, and Claire Kane (Anne Archer), a party clown, at a cello concert.

They impulsively decide to have a Sunday dinner date. seemingly having nothing in common.

Meanwhile, Marian’s sister, Sherri (Madeleine Stowe), is married to a cheating cop named Gene (Tim Robbins), who is having an affair with Betty Weathers (Frances McDormand), while Betty is divorcing one of the helicopter pilots, Stormy (Peter Gallagher).

There are other stories and connections to round out the fabulous cast.

The juicy and dramatic storylines play out like a terrific story arc on Days of Our Lives or As the World Turns with some needed comedic elements to balance things out.

Anyone who knows Altman will salivate with the name recognition among the cast most notably Tomlin and Robbins. Actors frequently chomped at the bit to appear knowing that he was an actor’s director.

This means he allowed his cast open range to create dialogue appropriate for their characters.

There’s no better example than when Jack Lemmon tells a story in the film. His improv and free dialogue are a dream to watch and a lesson in good and natural acting.

Despite the enormous cast everyone has something of quality to do. Nobody is languishing on the back burner with throwaway scenes or unimportant activities. All characters connect to others in some way.

Fans who fancy Los Angeles both in film and in real life with its bursting sunshine and cheery perception will revel in the down and dirty sub texture of Short Cuts.

The fun is getting there.

Some characters are wealthy but most struggle with day-to-day routine so the film contains a harsh realism. They try to find some shreds of happiness wherever they can get them.

Like real life which is part of the mastery of Short Cuts. The audience can relate to the characters because we all know people like them which makes the film a beautiful and treasured experience.

Or some may even be like us. The writing is brilliant and the characters are true to form.

One day I’ll create a list of my Top Ten Robert Altman films and I bet Short Cuts (1993) lands in the Top Five.

Oscar Nominations: Best Director-Robert Altman

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 3 wins-Best Feature (won), Best Director-Robert Altman (won), Best Screenplay (won), Best Supporting Actress-Julianne Moore

Spoiler Alert-2022

Spoiler Alert-2022

Director Michael Showalter

Starring Jim Parsons, Ben Aldridge, Sally Field

Scott’s Review #1,399

Reviewed September 15, 2023

Grade: A-

Spoiler Alert (2022) comes dangerously close to being classified as a Hallmark Television Movie of the Week tearjerker with standard cliches and a predictable storyline. While the ending is no surprise the film works incredibly well and fires on all cylinders.

I laughed, cried, and felt an enormous connection to the central characters in what could become a seasonal holiday watch.

I recently reviewed another film that on the surface sounded saccharin and contrived but pulled me in nonetheless. The lesson learned is not to make assumptions about the quality of films.

The direction is conventional but the story and characters absorbing and heartwarming with spectacular acting, especially among the two lead actors, Jim Parsons and Ben Aldridge. An added gift is the appearance of Sally Field in a supporting role as an overbearing but lovable mom.

In 2001, Michael Ausiello (Parsons), a writer for TV Guide, begrudgingly goes to a gay nightclub with his best friend in Manhattan. There, he meets photographer Kit Cowan (Ben Aldridge), and the two instantly connect.

As they begin dating, Michael struggles with insecurities about not being attractive enough for Kit, since he was an overweight child. Kit is athletic and good-looking, oozing confidence. Michael was a ridiculed kid watching soap operas with his mother and creating a pretend sitcom family.

He also overindulges in the Smurfs collection.

They both admit their fears of being in a long-term relationship since neither of them has been in one before, but they decide to continue dating.

Hurdles then plague the couple as Kit must come out to his parents, Bob (Bill Irwin), and Marilyn (Field), to explain who Michael is, and ultimately they all must face Kit’s stage IV cancer diagnosis.

I recognize how Spoiler Alert doesn’t possess the most original screenplay, written by David Marshall Grant and LGBTQ+ advocate Dan Savage and based on a story written by real-life Michael Ausiello.

The tried and true story point of a gay male character struggling to come out to his parents has been done for decades in LGBTQ+ films.

The insecure partner feels inferior to the more confident partner and it affects their relationship story point has also been before. Michael is convinced that Kit will dump him for someone else.

Hell, we’ve seen both of these cliches as recently as 2022 in Bros. a fantastic LGBTQ+ mainstream film that used both.

In Spoiler Alert they work because of Parsons and Aldridge and the chemistry they have together and the nuanced delivery of the characters separately.

While they each want love and a relationship neither is desperate. As they banter back and forth Michael awkwardly removes his clothes during their first intimacy the actors playfully frolic immediately at ease with one another.

Many cute scenes follow.

Events then grow serious as we move beyond Kit’s uneven coming out to his parents (of course they embrace Kit and Michael instantly!) and dive headfirst into Kit’s cancer battle.

The film makes no secret that Kit will die of cancer. It’s practically shown in the opening scene as he and Michael lie in a hospital bed together and Michael narrates the story.

It’s called Spoiler Alert for a reason. But instead of ruining the film it only enhances the love story to come. We know that Kit and Michael become soul mates and the pleasure is watching them grow and flourish together.

Since Michael’s mother, and presumed best friend, died of cancer only strengthens the investment in the character.

As Kit becomes weaker, my fondness for the two men becomes stronger. The maturity and love for one another are apparent especially when Michael selflessly invites a man whom Kit had an affair with to say goodbye to Kit.

It’s a touching scene but not as touching as the scene where Michael and Kit’s parents sob over Kit’s hospital bed.

Yes, Spoiler Alert (2022) may have manipulated me with a conventional film but Parsons and Aldridge have better chemistry than most opposite-sex couples.

I thoroughly enjoyed my way through the film without dry eyes.

A Man Called Otto-2022

A Man Called Otto-2022

Director Marc Forster

Starring Tom Hanks, Mariana Trevino, Truman Hanks

Scott’s Review #1,398

Reviewed September 13, 2023

Grade: A-

I hedged slightly with seeing the film A Man Called Otto (2022) because it looked like an overly sentimental, predictable melodrama. It also missed out completely during the 2022-2023 awards season which means that the film had its share of critical detractors.

But I do love and admire Tom Hanks, both professionally and personally, even though he can be accused of choosing marginally safe material.

Though the film explores a tried and true formulaic setup my heartstrings were immediately and severely pulled by the events in the movie. I may have been manipulated into teariness but in the best of ways and I didn’t mind a bit.

I enjoyed A Man Called Otto much more than I ever thought I would.

It is an American remake of the 2015 Swedish film A Man Called Ove, based on the 2012 novel by Fredrik Backman.

Otto Anderson (Tom Hanks), is a grumpy widower whose only satisfaction comes from abiding by and enforcing his neighborhood rules and regulations and criticizing and judging his exasperated neighbors.

When a young Hispanic family moves in next door, he connects with the no-nonsense and very pregnant Marisol (Mariana Trevino), leading to an unexpected friendship that softens and unnerves the crotchety man.

As the pair bond, the audience learns more about Otto and his deceased wife Sonya (Rachel Keller) through flashbacks. The once youthful and determined couple faces terrible obstacles as we realize why Otto has become so depressed and irritable.

A Man Called Otto is very conventional, polished, and sentimental and could arguably be accused of being a tad dramatic. It’s not a dangerous film nor does it present material viewers have never seen before.

Nonetheless, it works!

The reasons it works so well start with Tom Hanks. A two-time Oscar winner who has played many types of characters before he portrays his character with flourishing comedy and dramatic gusto.

We like Otto even though he could be classified as an asshole.

Despite Hanks’s acting ability, he is only part of the enjoyment of the film.

Worth mentioning is that the very liberal Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson co-produced the film and I’m glad they did.

A heavy dose of diversity and inclusivity are plopped into the film. Otto’s neighbors are a black couple revealed to be Otto and Sonya’s best friends for decades.

Otto confronts a teenager named Malcolm for delivering advertising circulars, and the boy recognizes Otto as his former teacher’s husband, recounting that Sonya supported him as a transgender student when nobody else did.

Sonya courageously led an effort to convince the other teachers to respectfully call Malcolm by his desired name.

Another win is the frequent flashbacks to when Otto and Sonya first met. A nervous but smitten Otto intentionally gets on the wrong train to bring Sonya a book that she has accidentally dropped on the platform. They eventually dine in a nice restaurant where he encourages Sonya to have a lovely entre while he dines on a meager bowl of soup because of financial issues.

Truman Hanks (Tom’s son), Rachel Keller, and Mariana Trevino deliver outstanding performances in supporting roles.

Finally, a feral cat that reminds me of my darling cat Zeus stole my heart. He also steals Otto’s.

It’s these trimmings that make the film a crowd-pleaser and a charming sentiment. The story feels fresh even though other films have had the same type of message. A case could be made that Otto is Ebenezer Scrooge in a non-Christmas film.

I may not necessarily need to see A Man Called Otto (2022) again since it’s a one-shot deal type of movie but I’m glad I did. The film reaffirms that there are good people in the world who selflessly look out for each other without needing personal gain.

Une Chambre en Ville-1982

Une Chambre en Ville-1982

Director Jacques Demy 

Starring Dominique Sanda, Michel Piccoli

Scott’s Review #1,397

Reviewed September 10, 2023

Grade: A

Une Chambre en Ville (also known as A Room in Town) is a 1982 French musical drama film written and directed by Jacques Demy, with music by Michel Colombier, and starring Dominique Sanda, Danielle Darrieux, and Michel Piccoli.

Those familiar with Demy’s other works like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967) will be aware that his preferred genre is the musical drama and in Une Chambre en Ville, the dialogue is entirely sung.

And those unfamiliar with his work are recommended to give his films a chance. They are flavorful and offer exceptional production design to say nothing of other ingredients.

I liken the film to be most similar to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg because the story involves two people destined to be together but who are thwarted by many obstacles threatening to ruin their happiness.

Demy creates a distinct Shakespearean Romeo and Juliet final ending in the best of possible ways.

The story is set during a workers’ strike in Nantes, France in 1955. A steelworker named Francois (Richard Berry) has a fling with the married daughter Edith (Dominique Sanda) of his widowed landlady, Margo (Danielle Darrieux).

His girlfriend Violette (Fabienne Guyon), who works in a shop and lives with her mother, wants to get married but he is unwilling, partly because they have no money and nowhere to live.

Oh, and he also has met Edith.

On the street, François is accosted by Edith who is a beautiful woman who wears only a fur coat and has decided to take up part-time prostitution to pay bills. Her husband owns a struggling television shop.

The two have a blissful night together in a cheap hotel and fall madly in love.

Une Chambre en Ville is at first jarring because the dialogue is in the form of a song. But after merely a few minutes I became invested and enamored with the characters. This occurs when Francois and Margo ‘discuss’ the strike and even though she is upper-class she supports the workers.

They quickly bond.

Before this though, the tone is set with black-and-white cinematography of the workers’ strike that quickly turns to color. My hunch is that Demy wanted to promote the seriousness of the situation and alert the audience that they were not watching a rosy musical with tap-along tunes.

There’s a message of pain, struggle, and depression which doesn’t make the film a downer either.

As with Demy’s other films, the art direction and set designs are gorgeous. The director has a talent for introducing the most fragrant colors like red, yellow, blue, and green, that are powerful and enshroud the characters in pizazz and vibrancy.

The set highlights are Margo’s apartment drizzling with red color and contemporary patterns and furniture and Edith’s husband’s television shop. The greenish hue reveals a tacky yet sophisticated French style. These and other sets are superior efforts.

The main attraction is Francois and Edith and I was smitten with them almost immediately. Some may think this is odd because basically, Francois dumps his nice girlfriend for a sexy prostitute who flashes her naked body to him and then beds him.

Nonetheless, I became enraptured. They make ‘love at first sight’ seem believable and possible. The thing to remember is they are both wounded by their circumstances and are reaching for their desires out of desperation.

The finale of Une Chambre en Ville is dazzling but painful to watch. I alluded to a Romeo and Juliet catastrophe and this is no joke as the star-crossed lovers meet a dire ending.

I won’t spoil the fun by revealing what happens.

Jacques Demy creates a film made in 1982 that feels nothing like a 1982 film as we are believably transported to 1955.

Une Chambre en Ville holds up as well as Demy’s films made two decades earlier and he proves none of his creativity and romantic dramatics have waned.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off-1986

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off-1986

Director John Hughes

Starring Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck

Scott’s Review #1,396

Reviewed September 7, 2023

Grade: B

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) is one of the best-known of the John Hughes collection featuring 1980s teen, coming-of-age comedies. On par with The Breakfast Club (1985) and Pretty in Pink (1986) in name recognition memory banks especially for teenagers growing up in this decade.

Iconic moments like Ben Stein’s teacher’s monotone attendance roll call the name ‘Bueller’ repeatedly, and the term ‘Save Ferris’, which became the name of an alternative rock band, are legendary.

The film has its moments of creativity and Matthew Broderick’s portrayal of the title character was charming and star-making. Watching the film, though, decades later the slapstick feels overwhelming to the drama and there isn’t much angst like other Hughes films.

There isn’t much deeper meaning besides one day to skip school and have an adventure.

This makes Ferris Bueller’s Day Off fun and lighthearted but silly in comparison to more mature Hughes efforts. The film is about being young, free, and having fun but not much more, and the hijinks between the students and the authority figures sometimes feel tired.

Ferris Bueller (Broderick) is brilliant at skipping school and getting away with it despite being an intelligent student. He causes the high school principal Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) much irritation and the ultimate pursuit to catch Ferris in the act.

The young man plans one final outing before graduation with best pal Cameron (Alan Ruck) and his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara).  They ‘borrow’ Cam’s father’s expensive Ferrari and journey through the streets of Chicago.

Ferris’s sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey) seethes with rage at her brother’s antics while their successful but dimwitted parents Katie (Cindy Pickett) and Tom (Lyman Ward) remain clueless.

The superior aspects of the film are the frequent sites of Chicago and Broderick himself which raise the film above mediocrity decades after its initial release.

Broderick followed his contemporaries like Michael J. Fox and Emilio Estevez as the cool and likable all-American boy next door. His performance makes the film better than it might have been and the fun is watching him outwit rivals like the principal and other villains he encounters.

Hughes creates a nice ‘day in the life’ style that follows the characters from early morning until evening which keeps the events contained well.

A high point of the film and where it picks up steam is when the gang gets to Chicago. We suspect the teenagers, while they skip school via fibs, merely have a case of ‘senioritis’ and otherwise are superior students. This is confirmed by the sophisticated and intellectually stimulating places they visit.

They indulge in lunch at a swanky French restaurant and visit the worldly Art Institute of Chicago for good old-fashioned culture. Not to appear too snobby they hobnob with blue-collar folks at an afternoon Cubs baseball game.

Where Ferris Bueller’s Day Off feels dated is with the ditziness of Ferris’s parents. The teen easily bamboozles his parents with his feigned illness and when his father notices Ferris in a nearby taxi cab he shrugs it off as his imagination.

The most laughable instance of the parent’s cluelessness is when mom Katie, in the passenger seat, appears not to notice her son running in front of their car when sister Jeanie slams on the brakes. She instead scolds Jeanie for driving recklessly.

These and other setups involving the over-the-top principal feel more like cliches than genuine laugh-out-loud moments. But this was common in 1980s comedies.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) feels fresh in some parts but dated in others making the experience humorous but hardly legendary. Whereas The Breakfast Club holds up very well this film doesn’t as much.

The Stepford Wives-1975

The Stepford Wives-1975

Director Bryan Forbes

Starring Katharine Ross, Paula Prentiss

Scott’s Review #1,395

Reviewed September 4, 2023

Grade: A

The Stepford Wives (1975) is a film that has deservedly achieved cult status over the years and its title became iconic in meaning.

Everyone knows what a ‘Stepford wife’ is and what it depicts. Usually, a tall, leggy, brainless rich white woman from Connecticut is a sufficient enough image.

The film is a personal treasure to me since I am a resident of said state. The fact that ‘Stepford’ sounds like ‘Stamford’ where I live is uncanny and ironic. The film was shot in various areas of Connecticut so it’s fun to see the towns, grocery stores, and houses in the mid-1970s.

It also resonates quite well with my husband who lived in Manhattan for many years and then transplanted to nearby Connecticut just like the main characters do.

Besides my fondness, it’s a damned good thriller. It paces nicely and takes its time getting to the stunning conclusion.

The film was written by William Goldman (All the Presidents Men-1976), who based his screenplay on Ira Levin’s 1972 novel of the same name. Levin also wrote Rosemary’s Baby which was turned into a 1968 film.

The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby would make an outstanding double feature.

Joanna Eberhart (Katharine Ross) moves to the quiet town of Stepford, Connecticut, with her husband Walter (Peter Masterson) and children. The town seems idyllic and maybe just a little too perfect for her tastes.

Along with best friend and fellow Stepford resident Bobby (Paula Prentiss), the women notice that the other housewives are not quite ‘normal’. They obsess over housework and are willingly subservient to their husbands.

Joanna and Bobby are determined to solve the mystery especially when they realize there used to be a large women’s liberation group in Stepford.

In a lesser film, the final product could dive headfirst into campy horror. A tepid remake made in 2004 and starring Nicole Kidman did. But the original version stays the course and provides thrills and psychological facets.

The audience knows pretty soon that the men have a secret club that women are not permitted to attend. Named the Men’s Association, a major clue surfaces when Walter invites the men over to his house and they secretly look Joanna up and down.

What we don’t know is the how. Joanna, Bobby, and another neighbor Charmaine Wimperis (brilliantly played by Tina Louise) are the only ‘normal’ wives. Realizing which one of them is the next intended victim is part of the fun.

The women’s portraits are drawn by one of the men and we learn that the previous women have ‘turned’ after going away on a romantic weekend with their husbands.

What’s inside the creepy mansion that holds the Men’s Association meetings? Will Joanna sneak inside? What will happen next?

Delicious sequences occur that reveal that housewives are robots. After a minor fender bender in the local shopping center parking lot, Carol (Nanette Newman) begins acting strangely at an outdoor cocktail party. She repeatedly frets and repeats the same line over and over again.

Her husband blames her odd behavior on alcohol but the audience knows better.

Unforgettable is the stellar grocery store finale when the women are dressed to the nines and robotically shuffle through the aisles. They absent-mindedly take items off the shelves and place them into their carts while acknowledging each other with a pleasant ‘Hello, Charmaine”, or “Hello, Carol”.

My favorite scene is close to the finale between Bobby and Joanna. Horrified at Bobby’s transition to an uptight, well-dressed housewife obsessed with a clean kitchen, Joanna impulsively plunges a butcher knife into Bobby’s midsection.

With no bloodshed proving Bobby is a robot, Bobby calmly scolds Joanna by saying over and over again, “Now why would you do a thing like that?”

The scene is creepy, startling, and powerful given the close relationship between the women.

These scenes and others make The Stepford Wives (1975) part of pop culture and a reason I can watch the film several times over.

Featuring a cast of good actors led by Ross who successfully provides Joanna with both likability and sensibility the film is never over the top or ridiculous.

Tomorrow Never Dies-1997

Tomorrow Never Dies-1997

Director Roger Spottiswoode

Starring Pierce Brosnan, Michelle Yeoh, Jonathan Pryce

Scott’s Review #1,394

Reviewed August 28, 2023

Grade: B

Pierce Brosnan made four appearances as the legendary film character, James Bond. While he gets a marginal thumbs up as a whole and is not my favorite Bond he has the ‘look’ and suave charisma.

This works in his favor and makes him purely believable with every ridiculous one-liner or flat dialogue.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) is the second chapter in the Brosnan book and is only marginally superior to GoldenEye made two years earlier in 1995. All bets are that the two subsequent Bond films starring Brosnan nosedive quickly.

All good Bond films must contain specific qualities like a good villain, a sexy yet strong ‘Bond girl’, dazzling stunts and chase scenes, a memorable theme song, and more than one exotic locale.

It’s just what the blueprint is and must never be broken.

Therefore, Tomorrow Never Dies feels more like the producers, and director, Roger Spottiswoode, and writer, Bruce Feirstein sought a check box checking off exercise rather than creating anything brilliant or memorable.

I deem this film rather ordinary. Not bad but not superior either falling middle of the road when compared to other Bond franchise films.

Media mogul Elliot Carver, played completely over the top by actor Jonathan Pryce wants his news empire to reach every country on the globe, but the Chinese government will not allow him to broadcast there.

Carver then decides to use his media empire to wreak war between the Western world and China. Thankfully, James Bond (Brosnan) is on the job and travels to China to stop him with the help of Chinese secret agent Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh).

Anyone who knows a Bond film knows that the plot is secondary to the aforementioned necessary characteristics. The story either got too complicated as the film progressed or I lost interest because at some point all I recollect was a news media tycoon wanting to start World War III over television ratings.

Yeoh is an exceptional ‘Bond girl’ though the dose of progressivism, diversity, and female empowerment she brings to the table makes the term beneath her. Her charisma, and martial arts chops, make her a kick-ass rival though she naturally ends up head over heels for Bond.

Still, the lengthy scenes between Yeoh and Brosnan do contain strong chemistry as they decimate the bad guys and save the world together.

I expected a bit more from Teri Hatcher’s character of Paris Carver, a former girlfriend of Bond who is now Carver’s trophy wife. The setup was superior and the love triangle could have gone further than killing off her character after just a couple of scenes.

As great as an actor as Pryce is it’s tough to believe he’s the same actor who made films like Two Popes (2019) and The Wife (2017) so good. He turns Elliot into a caricature dead set on controlling the world proving that an actor can’t always bring a mediocre script to life.

Tomorrow Never Dies brings the viewers to lavish locations like Bangkok, China, Hamburg, Germany, and in and around London. The tone has a definitively Asian feel which works like You Only Live Twice did in 1967.

Finally, the title theme song and opening performed by Sheryl Crow is abysmal but oddly sounds much better in the version that plays over the ending credits.

I marginally recommend Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) mostly for those in the Brosnan camp which I am aware there are many.  Its best quality lies in the level of equality between Bond and the main female character Wai Lin which is another proof of how relevant the franchise remains.

Dark Passage-1947

Dark Passage-1947

Director Delmer Daves

Starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall

Scott’s Review #1,393

Reviewed August 25, 2023

Grade: B

In 1947, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were big Hollywood stars. Dark Passage is the third of four films the real-life couple made together in the 1940s and must have catapulted audiences to theaters to see the power couple perform.

To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), and Key Largo (1948) were the others.

Dark Passage is based on the 1946 novel of the same title by David Goodis.

Vincent Parry (Bogart) has just escaped from San Quentin prison near San Francisco, California after being locked up for murdering his wife, a crime he did not commit.

He finds a plastic surgeon to give him new features. After getting a ride out of town from a stranger, Vincent crosses paths with a young woman Irene Jansen, (Bacall) who lets him stay in her apartment while he heals and continues to try and clear his name.

The duo falls madly in love and attempts to figure out the puzzle and find the real killer.

Delmer Daves, a director with whom I’m not familiar, also writes the screenplay. The first portion of the film uses superior camera angles and the use of the point of view (POV) filming from Vincent’s perspective.

The audience sees what Vincent sees. This was used to justify Vincent’s plastic surgery and the knowledge that viewers wouldn’t buy a different actor from Bogart. It makes sense and brings a creative technological perspective to the film quality.

Something about black-and-white filmmaking always conjures up 1940s cinema for me. That Dark Passage is a thriller with film noir elements making it all the more effective.

A personal treat for me was to see the exterior sequences of San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge and Union Square are easy to spot and having spent time in both locales I was fascinated by what both looked and felt like in the 1940s.

Notwithstanding the ‘look,’ the main draw is Bogart and Bacall. Having not seen their other films the chemistry is apparent in Vincent and Irene.

The tenderness between the pair considering the characters have only just met is strong, especially during a quiet scene when they sip after-dinner coffee next to a window with driving California rain.

They are getting to know each other and so is the audience.

Bacall who is terrific and smolders with sensuality and confidence easily outshines Bogart who doesn’t deliver his best work. This could be partly because he doesn’t speak until the midway point of the film but there is an aura that Bacall has that Bogart doesn’t.

My favorite film of his is Casablanca (1942).

The story starts tremendously with mystery and intrigue. Who killed Vincent’s wife quickly becomes who killed Vincent’s friend after he is also found murdered.

A tremendous scene between Vincent and a man he hitches a ride from and a taxi cab driver who helps Vincent increases the thrill ride with quick and engaging dialogue meant to hold suspense.

The climax fizzles with an overly complicated and overwrought build-up to the final reveal that drags. When the villains are unmasked their motivations are a bit suspect and underwhelming.

One character plummeting from a high-rise window to their death is pretty cool, especially for 1947. The shrieking neighbor and the dead body displayed along the sidewalk is a highlight.

Also, a sliver of the film takes place in beautiful Peru and is a comparison to the nightclub featured in Casablanca.

Dark Passage (1947) is a pretty good film but will be appreciated mostly by fans of Bogart and Bacall. The plot is up and down but the behemoth Hollywood stars are the main attraction.

Interiors-1978

Interiors-1978

Director Woody Allen

Starring Diane Keaton, Geraldine Page, Mary Beth Hurt

Scott’s Review #1,392

Reviewed August 24, 2023

Grade: A

Woody Allen films are not everyone’s cup of tea.

Typically, offbeat or even downright wacky comedies with quick-witted dialogue and irritating characters are not everyone’s preferred taste in film.

I’ve always adored the director’s works.

Allen hits a home run with Interiors (1978), his first dramatic film and my favorite. It even rivals classics like Annie Hall (1977) and Manhattan (1979) which most people frequently consider his best.

The famous director turns down the volume and slows the pace with a dark story about mental illness and the ravaging effect it has on a family, the struggling individual, and the other extended members.

Missing from this Woody Allen film are the prevalent one-liners and gimmicks mostly associated with his comedies. The only standard is the inclusion of frequent collaborator Diane Keaton who plays a successful poet, Renata.

The story centers on a middle-aged and upper-class couple’s disintegrating marriage. It forces their three grown daughters (Keaton, Mary Beth Hurt, and Kristin Griffith) to reveal their feelings about themselves and each other. They also have their share of difficulties.

Renata is successful but her husband is a struggling writer with marginal talent. He lusts after Renata’s sister, Flyn (Kristin Griffith), an actress only known for her good looks. Joey (Hurt) is a restless soul unable to decide on a career and jealous of Renata.

Mental illness is only one of their trials and tribulations.

The family resides in Manhattan, Connecticut, and Long Island, most likely the Hamptons so they are wealthy and assumed to be happy, healthy, and thriving.

They are anything but.

None of the daughters are successful at providing ample support to their devastated mother (played by Geraldine Page) who suffers from mental illness and is extremely fragile.

The cast is tiny, with only eight principals, each with a perspective. There are no villains. Only complicated characters with rich texture and substance.

I love the brilliant characterization and development and the many layers most of the characters possess. Each character, especially the father, mother, two of the daughters, and the new wife, Pearl, exceptionally played by Maureen Stapleton, can be heartily examined.

One might assume that the father Arthur played stoically by E.G. Marshall might be unlikable. After all, he requests a ‘separation’ from Eve which the audience knows is a soft-touch way of ultimately asking for a divorce. He then meets a new woman, a different type from his wife, and plans to marry her!

This does not go over well for anyone.

But Arthur is sympathetic and so is Pearl (the new wife). I rooted for the pair even though I felt bad for Eve.

The film culminates in a stunning sequence at the family’s Hampton residence amid Arthur and Pearl’s wedding. The family begrudgingly attends the simple dinner party-style wedding and pretends to be happy.

From a visual perspective, the art direction is flawless. Muted color tones of grey and brown perfectly complement the drab and depressing subject matter.

People have compared Interiors to an Ingmar Bergman film and I completely understand that. The film is dark, cold, and bleak but contains a sophistication and thought provocation mirroring Bergman films like Wild Strawberries (1957) and others.

Woody Allen crafts an astonishingly good screenplay with confidence and precision that only he can do. Interiors (1978) could have easily turned into a soap opera melodrama but remains enthralling and devastating throughout.

Oscar Nominations: Best Director-Woody Allen, Best Actress-Geraldine Page, Best Supporting Actress-Maureen Stapleton, Best Screenplay-Written Directly for the Screen, Best Art Direction

The Boys from Brazil-1978

The Boys from Brazil-1978

Director Franklin J. Schaffner

Starring Laurence Olivier, Gregory Peck, James Mason

Scott’s Review #1,391

Reviewed August 20, 2023

Grade: B+

The Boys from Brazil (1978) is a taut political thriller with a neo-Nazi focus and a weird cloning subject matter. It’s a bit of a tough follow but quite compelling all the way though and doesn’t lag at all.

Sometimes political thrillers get overly complicated or drag but this one doesn’t. The story is slightly hokey and impractical even bordering on ludicrous but since it’s so intriguing and action-packed these adjectives can be overlooked.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t blown away by either the performance of Laurence Olivier or Gregory Peck despite being a fan of both quality actors. Both actors overact and create stereotypes but especially Peck’s character is a bit too cartoonish.

It took me half the film to even recognize either man since both are heavily made up making them hard to recognize. It also took until the dramatic conclusion for either character to truly grow on me.

A brilliant one-scene cameo performance by Uta Hagen, a German American actress, as a former Nazi guard now imprisoned nearly steals the show and should have deserved an Oscar nomination.

The story surrounds Doctor Josef Mengele played by Peck who clones Adolf Hitler ninety-five times and raises the boys in Brazil, giving them childhoods identical to Hitler’s in various parts of the world.

His goal is to create a band of Nazi leaders that can continue where Hitler left off, forming the Fourth Reich. Their fathers will be murdered and the boys will be mothered as Hitler was.

Ezra Lieberman (Laurence Olivier), a Nazi hunter, learns of the plan from a young journalist (Steve Guttenberg) and is determined to thwart it.

The plot is a tough pill to swallow and takes some time to absorb exactly what is going on but it’s fresh and unique. I’m not sure if in 1978 people had had enough of Nazi and World War II films but both subjects are always worth dissecting again.

I’m not sure why it was so tough to get used to Peck as the evil doctor but it was. It’s probably because Peck usually plays characters with a strong moral compass and he was playing way against type.

His character looks weird and Peck seems to be overacting sometimes almost like he was playing a James Bond villain. It’s not exactly a role that measures up to Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).

Olivier is better and the main protagonist of The Boys from Brazil but I’m not sure he entirely wins me over. It’s not easy immersing in the prim and proper British aristocratic actor playing a Jewish man who kvetches so often.

Still, by the finale when Mengele meets Lieberman in a deadly showdown involving vicious Dobermans, a gun, and a Hitler clone I was cheering for Olivier all the way.

Supporting characters played by Guttenberg, Anne Meara (Jerry Stiller’s wife) as Mrs. Curry, one of the Hitler clone’s mothers, and the aforementioned Hagen is excellent. I wish that each character was explored better and given more screen time.

The same can be said for Rosemary Harris in a one-scene performance. While quality, I wanted more from her character of Frau Doring, the wife of one of the murdered fathers of the Hitler clones.

Finally, James Mason has little to do as Colonel Seibert other than serve as second fiddle to Peck.

But, The Boys from Brazil is the Olivier and Peck show.

The locales are a big win since they add an international vibe and relevance. Geographies such as Germany, Paraguay, Austria, and rural Pennsylvania, United States are featured which lofts the film up tremendously.

The taught nature of the film provides suspense, an ode to history, and an eerie measure of Trumpism in comparison to Nazi-ism. The Boys from Brazil (1978) isn’t prime steak but it’s not a bad watch either.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actor-Laurence Olivier, Best Film Editing, Best Original Music Score

The Notorious Landlady-1962

The Notorious Landlady-1962

Director Richard Quine

Starring Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon, Fred Astaire

Scott’s Review #1,390

Reviewed August 16, 2023

Grade: B+

If viewers can look past the messy nature of The Notorious Landlady (1962) and the schizophrenic pacing that appears intermittently then the film is enjoyable.

It’s not platinum status but a decent enough flick, especially for fans of Kim Novak and Jack Lemmon who were big stars at the time. This is the third and final film that the duo starred in.

Like the film, their chemistry goes in and out but appealing is to see Novak in a comic role whereas the genre is familiar territory for the funny Lemmon.

After her husband mysteriously disappears, Carly Hardwicke (Novak) finds it impossible to rent a room in her lovely London apartment, because everyone assumes she’s responsible.

American diplomat William Gridley (Jack Lemmon), is new to the city and desires a residence with her. It doesn’t hurt matters that Carly is very easy on the eyes. William becomes smitten with her unaware of her troubles.

When his boss, Franklyn Ambruster (Fred Astaire), learns what Gridley has stumbled into, the two men try to clear her name. A series of lies and misunderstandings catapult events into a compelling mystery.

Even though neither William nor Carly are British the foggy locale works well providing foreign mystery. They reside in a courtyard type of home where neighbors can see in or they can see out to other apartments. This comes into greater play towards the end of the film.

This is just one example of an Alfred Hitchcock influence from 1955’s Rear Window which director Richard Quine heftily borrows from. He’s wise to do so since he secured Novak, fresh from her role in Vertigo (1958) two years earlier.

Shit, even the title ‘The Notorious Landlady’ borrows the title of the 1946 Hitchcock masterpiece, ‘Notorious’.

There’s also a secret locked door that Carly references and forbids anyone from entering adding suspense and foreboding.

Despite tepid chemistry between the stars I ultimately enjoy their romance. It’s a hard sell that the gorgeous Carly would fall head over heels for the everyman William but she does.

They win me over during a dramatic scene where an attempted romantic dinner of steaks goes awry and instead, a massive fire erupts. The burgeoning lovers cling together in a sweet embrace that cements their appeal.

The tension is supposed to be about whether Carly murdered her husband and has designs on William. Red herrings like kitchen poisons and the like make an appearance but I was more interested in the impending mystery of said husband than really believing she’d want to kill William.

The last act brings the reemergence of a threatening character, an unexpected villain, and a race to save another character who’s in dangerous peril.

A courtroom scene also adds to the tension.

The central storyline is satisfying, edge of your seat, and suspenseful, just what I assume Quine was going for…..ultimately.

Within the story, The Notorious Landlady shifts genres a whopping three times! The tone of the film is all over the place, first romantic comedy, then suspense and drama, and finally slapstick.

During the finale when Carly and William race to a retirement community and scramble to stop an out-of-control wheelchair, I half expected Laurel & Hardy or The Little Rascals to make a cameo.

Poor Fred Astaire has little to do and struggles to keep up any relevance as measured against Novak and Lemmon’s characters. At times I’d even forgotten he was still in the film.

The Notorious Landlady (1962) is an entertaining vehicle and a must-see for fans of Novak or Lemmon eager to see a largely forgotten film that has something fun to offer.

Sixteen Candles-1984

Sixteen Candles-1984

Director John Hughes

Starring Molly Ringwald, Michael Schoeffling, Anthony Michael Hall

Scott’s Review #1,389

Reviewed August 14, 2023

Grade: B

While recently re-watching a string of John Hughes-produced or directed films from the 1980s I set upon them with fresh eyes. Some scenes or themes that worked in the mid-1980s would be inappropriate in a more sensitive and post-Me Too! movement.

Hughes, of course, was the king of the teen angst, coming-of-age, romantic comedies that usually starred Molly Ringwald.

Sixteen Candles, Hughes’s first directorial effort was released in 1984 and launched him to superstardom and immense popularity. Films like The Breakfast Club (1985) and Pretty in Pink (1986) would follow to much acclaim.

What he did so well was provide maturity and a message to otherwise dumb and raunchy comedies that populated the decade and they had a fresh female perspective whereas others were typically male and hormone-driven.

Already angst-ridden Samantha (Molly Ringwald) wakes up on the morning of her sixteenth birthday to find her busy family has completely forgotten her special day.

Samantha already pines for the handsome senior Jake (Michael Schoeffling), but worries that her dorkiness and lack of sexual experience will be a turnoff for the popular boy.

Meanwhile, Samantha must constantly rebuff the affections of nerdy Ted (Anthony Michael Hall), the only boy in the school who seems to take an interest in her.

As enjoyable as Sixteen Candles is I’d list it as the weakest of the Hughes films. It serves as more of a blueprint for the genius he would become.

Ringwald carries the film with ease made more impressive since this was one of her first film roles. She infuses Samantha with a blend of confidence but also insecurity and worry so that most American teenage girls could see themselves in her.

Pretty but not a pinup blonde, Samantha is intelligent and the girl next door. She lives in a suburban neighborhood, is middle class, has loving but distracted parents, and siblings focused on their trials and tribulations.

Most can relate to that.

A wonderful and tender moment between Samantha and her father, Jim, played brilliantly by Paul Dooley nearly moved me to tears. His wisdom and kindness as Samantha emotionally reveals her love for Jake to her dad is warm and solid epitomizing what a dad should be to his daughter.

A tepid series of misunderstandings occur between Samantha and Jake, who ironically has noticed her and shares the attraction. She freezes when face to face with him, and flees, so he naturally assumes she is a bitch and has no interest in him.

It takes so long for the lovebirds to connect that more possibilities and scenes are left unexplored. The film ends as soon as they reveal their feelings so there isn’t enough for the audience to celebrate.

We also know almost nothing about Jake. He is a rich kid whose parents are vacationing in Europe but what makes him tick? He could have any girl in high school and dates the pretty blonde girl but what makes him so drawn to Samantha?

The casting of the four grandparents serves no purpose other than comic relief and an inaccurate message of how bumbling older people are. One refers to Samantha’s ‘boobies’ while another stinks up the bathroom.

Worse yet, the inclusion of a foreign exchange Asian student named Long Duk Dong is riddled with cliches and stereotypes only played for laughs.

These characters are caricatures.

Finally, the groping and taking advantage of drunk female characters now feels dated if not flat-out inappropriate. In 1984, the scenes are meant to be funny.

Still, Sixteen Candles (1984) accurately depicts the loneliness and problems that face nearly every teenager in the history of the world. With a warm message of belonging and a sweet subtext, the film is a recommended watch but watch out for those stereotypes.

Sudden Impact-1983

Sudden Impact-1983

Director Clint Eastwood

Starring Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke

Scott’s Review #1,388

Reviewed August 12, 2023

Grade: B+

The groundbreaking and highly influential Dirty Harry, released in 1971 spawned four sequels. Sudden Impact (1983) is the third. It is directed, produced by, and stars Clint Eastwood (making it the only Dirty Harry film to be directed by Eastwood himself) and co-starring Sondra Locke, the star’s longtime girlfriend.

On the surface, the film is standard fare and relatively conventional featuring slick cinematography, a predictable story, shoot ’em-ups, and cartoon villains.

It’s also quite bloody and violent with a theme of justice being served.

Exactly what you’d expect from any action/thriller to come out in the two decades following the original.

The cliches and story setups had by 1983 been seen in so many crime thriller genre films that they feel tired and stale and can be predicted at length.

The expected Dirty Harry catchphrase in Sudden Impact is, “Go ahead, make my day” which is probably what the film is best remembered for though some assume the famous line appears in Dirty Harry.

This isn’t a glowing testament for Sudden Impact.

United States President Ronald Reagan embarrassingly used the “make my day” line in a March 1985 speech threatening to veto legislation raising taxes.

The secret weapon of Sudden Impact though is the inclusion of Locke who is a tour de force in acting and raises the film quite a bit. Her romance with Eastwood (on and off the silver screen) simmers with chemistry making Sudden Impact feel like a much better film than it is.

Jennifer Spencer (Sondra Locke) is a thirty-something blonde bombshell who along with her much younger sister was gang raped, but the crime went unpunished. She now hunts down those responsible one by one and gruesomely shoots them in the testicles before killing them.

She’s not a gal to be messed with.

The murders attract the attention of Harry Callahan (Eastwood), who is on a forced vacation due to his violent approach to police work.

The case gets complicated when Harry develops a relationship with Jennifer, and it’s up to Harry to make the right decision when Jennifer’s life is threatened for a second time.

Locke and Eastwood always do well with marginal material- think Bronco Billy (1980) or Every Which Way But Loose (1978). Both of those films are more comical so it’s riveting to see them co-star in a violence-based thriller.

Not to dwell on Locke (okay, I must), but she’s the best part of Sudden Impact. The first scene involves one of her vigilante murders and her cold, calm, steadiness is magnificent. Through icy eyes, she is filled with rage though is wise and calculating.

When she is not blowing balls to bits, Jennifer leads a successful life as an author and escapes to a whimsical carnival town outside San Francisco to focus on her work. She also finds time to finish killing the remaining members of the gang of rapists.

Locke mesmerizes in every scene she appears in.

Eastwood is good too but his character is the same grizzled, sick of criminal, guy with a gun he’s been since the beginning. Harry’s arguments with the suits in the top office are tired and the actors cast are handily stock types.

The win is Eastwood’s scenes with Locke. As they share dinner there is a romantic tenderness that perfectly offsets the rest of the story. We ask, will he send her to prison or let her go when he inevitably finds out she’s the killer?

Is she justified?

The rapists are cartoon-like and poorly cast and there is no character development. The main villain, Mick (Paul Drake) shrieks and wails and delivers his dialogue in over-the-top fashion. He’s a poor man’s ‘Scorpio’ who he tries to emulate.

A female villain, an assumed lesbian named Ray Parkins, in a purely politically incorrect fashion, has every lesbian stereotype imaginable.

I liken Sudden Impact (1983) to a McDonald’s meal. A greasy Big Mac, fries, and a shake. It’s not fine dining but it’s satisfying and one knows exactly what to expect. Only in this case, Locke is the special sauce.

The Last House on the Left-1972

The Last House on the Left-1972

Director Wes Craven

Starring Sandra Cassel, Richard Towers, Eleanor Shaw

Scott’s Review #1,387

Reviewed August 6, 2023

Grade: A

Heavily influenced by Ingmar Bergman’s 1960 masterpiece The Virgin Spring, The Last House on the Left (1972) is essentially the same story.

The time is modern and the locale is switched from Sweden to New York and the religious exploration is not there. But, rest assured, both films are brutal and not for the faint of heart.

It’s not violence for violence’s sake though and a powerful revenge tale surfaces amid unique camera styles and settings.

Wes Craven, who put the horror genre back on the map decades later in 1996 with Scream writes and directs the independent and raw The Last House on the Left.

He was accused of going too far in the film and exploiting pain and suffering, mostly by victimizing female characters, but the truth is the situation can and has occurred in real-life.

The film brings powerful realism to the terrifying actions of horrible people and if that’s too much for some they shouldn’t watch this film.

But, lovers of experimental cinema should.

Craven’s genius is mixing sunny, cheery sequences, poppy music, and comic relief with uncomfortable scenes of rape and torture so well that the audience’s reaction is guttural and rage infused. The dark scenes occur on a sunny afternoon in the woods with upbeat music on what would otherwise be a pleasant day.

Many horror sequences add darkness, thunderstorms, or other special effects to set the proper mood but Craven goes way left of center.

Perky teenagers Mari (Sandra Cassel) and Phyllis (Lucy Grantham) head into New York City for a concert where they look for some marijuana. They stumble upon a foursome (three men and one woman) of escaped convicts who force them to endure a night of rape and torture.

The following day the gang kills the girls in the woods, not realizing they’re near Mari’s house. When they pose as salesmen and are taken in by Mari’s mother (Eleanor Shaw) and father (Richard Towers), the parents quickly figure out their identities and plot revenge.

A side story involves two incompetent police officers who unsuccessfully try to pursue the escaped convicts.

I immediately was made aware of the very low-budget filmmaking with muted, grainy visuals. The cinematography is what makes The Last House on the Left work so well. With high caliber, glossy texture it would seem too polished.

The acting isn’t brilliant and the overall look and feel is reminiscent of a John Waters film. Again, this only enhances the bare bones, late-night viewing experience.

There are warnings galore. The pain and suffering endured by Mari and Phyllis are hard to watch and I felt their degradation in my bones. I won’t go into gory details but it isn’t fun.

However, there is some satisfaction to be had. When Mari’s parents cleverly set traps inside their house for the murderers to fall into there are cheer out loud moments of celebration for the audience.

One murderer even gets his penis bitten off.

Suspension of disbelief must be given to justify how this chain of events could occur. What are the chances the convicts would happen to bring the girls to Mari’s house in the middle of nowhere?

Wouldn’t the parents be in shock or having a meltdown over the realization of Mari’s death? Somehow they find the wherewithal to construct a stagey revenge plot on the fly.

The dumb cops will do no favors for police officers looking for some respect.

Still, the utter depravity and brutality of The Last House on the Left (1972) make it one of the most genuine feeling horror films of all time. Add the fact that the situation could happen and the result is a frightening one.

Some Kind of Wonderful-1987

Some Kind of Wonderful-1987

Director Howard Deutch

Starring Eric Stolz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Lea Thompson

Scott’s Review #1,386

Review August 4, 2023

Grade: B+

Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) is one of many John Hughes-written teenage romantic dramas to emerge in the 1980s. It’s familiar territory as far as storytelling and quite similar to the 1986 hit Pretty in Pink.

I’ll call it what it is and define the film as essentially a remake of Pretty in Pink.

Hughes attempts to ‘right the wrong’ of the ending of Pretty in Pink which he was forced to rewrite because of pesky test audiences. Truth be told, I was happy with who wound up with whom in the film but I guess I’m in the minority.

A romantic quadrangle is front and center with differing social classes explored amidst the already tricky teenage years. Characters battle for status as they deal with powerful feelings and angst with their parents and friends.

A fun fact about Some Kind of Wonderful is that Hughes assumed his muse Molly Ringwald would star in the film. When she turned him down for more adult roles he never forgave her and it resulted in the dissolution of their film collaboration.

But, the show must go on.

Keith Nelson (Eric Stoltz), is an artistic high school outcast who bravely tries to land a date with the most popular girl in school, Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson).

His tomboy best friend, Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) is secretly in love with him while Amanda’s rich on-again-off-again boyfriend, Hardy Jenns (Craig Sheffer), vows revenge on Keith. Watts tries to convince Keith to stop pursuing Amanda while his father (John Ashton) is deadset on Keith attending business rather than art school.

Before you start to think this sounds like a corny story arc from the afternoon soap opera Days of Our Lives, it’s a pretty well-flowing story with many ups and downs and good, sincere acting.

Stolz is compelling as the boy next door/leading man. He is relatable and therefore easy to root for to get the girl.

The main attraction and best part of the film is the triangle between Keith, Watts, and Amanda. Hardy is merely along for the ride as both the foil and necessary eye candy. Every girl wants him so why would Amanda want Keith and not him?

When Hardy refers to Amanda as his ‘property’ it makes him unforgivable to audiences. It might have been interesting if Hughes made the character a viable option for romance with Amanda or Watts by softening him.

There are arguments for Keith winding up with either Amanda or Watts and a tantalizing mention is that Watts could be gay but this story goes nowhere. 1987 would have been too early for this quality to be featured much in mainstream film but at least the thought is there.

Despite being popular Amanda is not a bitch. Her best friend, Shayne (Molly Hagan) is though.

In a bit of irony, which character Keith winds up at the end of the film feels rushed, jagged, and like an added-on scene. The similarities to the reshoot they did with the ending of Pretty in Pink are uncanny.

Other characters are added purely for comic relief and to offset the romantic-heavy drama. Keith’s tough guy friend Duncan (Elias Koteas) and Keith’s younger sister Laura (Maddie Corman) provide the film with some cute moments.

Teenagers either in 1987 or the present day can relate to the well-meaning pressure Keith’s father puts on him so the message is universally appreciated.

Nothing will exceed my top ranking of The Breakfast Club (1985) as my favorite John Hughes film but Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) does a nice job of portraying a nice slice of teenage angst we can all relate to.

Children of the Corn-1984

Children of the Corn-1984

Director Fritz Kiersch

Starring Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton

Scott’s Review #1,385

Reviewed August 2, 2023

Grade: B

I liken the 1980s slasher film genre to the 1980s hard rock, ‘hair metal’ scene. Both contain standard and tried and true elements that are necessary to categorize them as such in said genre.

They both tended to be derided by critics as superfluous and commercially accessible to mass consumption.

I could write an entire dissertation on the subject but my focus will remain on the slasher genre and Children of the Corn, a 1984 release billed as a straightforward slasher film but that has supernatural aspects which set it apart from some contemporaries.

The cover art (pictured above) and promotion conjure up ideas of a knife-wielding maniac wearing overalls, stalking small-town victims in corn fields in middle America USA.

The film is based on a 1977 short story by horror author and brilliant storyteller Stephen King.

Set in the fictitious rural town of Gatlin, Nebraska, the film tells the story of a malevolent entity referred to as “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” which entices the town’s children to ritually murder all the town’s adults. This is under the guise of ensuring a successful corn harvest.

A well-to-do city couple, Burt and Vicky, played by Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton drive cross-country to Seattle to begin a fantastic opportunity. Burt is a physician.

When they accidentally strike a child on a desolate stretch of highway they realize he was already dead and attempt to find help in Gatlin only to become the child resident’s next sacrifice.

Suffice it to say that the premise and the short story are way better than the finished film product though there is just enough to keep one entertained for an hour and a half.

Director, Fritz Kiersch, does a good job of providing a quality atmosphere. The loneliness of Gatlin and the foreboding corn fields where something deadly lurks amid the stalks made me feel uneasy from the get-go.

There is something about an uninhabited town in the middle of nowhere that is innately scary. Kiersch patterns the setting after the brutal Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) though with a much softer touch. The small farmhouses and the streets mirror that film.

I also enjoy the surprising chemistry between Horton and Hamilton. Scenes, where the pair are driving in the car chatting or listening to tunes, are pleasant and do not merely serve as filler to get to some killings.

The yellow early 1980s Buick or Oldsmobile is shown so frequently that it becomes a character itself. For fans of large American cars of yesteryear (me!), the inclusion of the car is a treat.

Finally, the blatant questioning and disparaging of the ridiculousness of organized religion is showcased when Burt (who believes in science) scolds the children for interpreting the Bible to suit their needs.

This may go over the audience’s heads but to me, it resonates and I cheered wildly when the dumb-faced kids realized the idiocy of their beliefs.

The film dissipates towards the end when the supernatural aspects take center stage. Tepid and very lowbrow they quickly take away any moments of peril and shift the momentum to comedy and cheapness. In 1984 this may not have been noticeable but in 2023 the special effects are at a low point.

The attempted sacrifice of Vicky doesn’t feel frightening, especially thinking of a superior film, The Wicker Man (1973) which used the same setup but more effectively.

Children of the Corn (1984) has its moments but by the time the film ends, I wished I had been treated to that knife-wielding, overall wearing maniac over a silly blood ritual in the name of the ‘holy bible’.

Oppenheimer-2023

Oppenheimer-2023

Director Christopher Nolan

Starring Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr., Emily Blunt

Scott’s Review #1,384

Reviewed August 1, 2023

Grade: A

Knowing the films of Christopher Nolan who directed works like The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012), Inception (2010), and Dunkirk (2017) I expected what I would be served with by his new film Oppenheimer (2023).

This would include a big booming soundtrack and an arguably more ‘guys’ genre film, but with intelligence, than other contemporary hits like Barbie (2023).

Dark and looming with complexities are usual for Nolan so I settled in for a three-hour epic journey centered on the atomic bomb and physics that has unexpectedly become a blockbuster.

Speaking of the pink phenomenon its simultaneous release with Oppenheimer led to the “Barbenheimer” phenomenon on social media, which encouraged audiences to see both films as a double feature.

This forever links the two vastly different films that were responsible for filling movie theaters once again.

I expected to enjoy Oppenheimer but was jarred (in a good way) by the sheer brilliance of its construction. Prepared for more mainstream fare that typically follows a biography or historical piece I was instead overly fascinated by the experimental elements enshrouding a more conventional film.

During World War II, Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Groves Jr. (Matt Damon) appoints physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) to work on the top-secret Manhattan Project.

Oppenheimer and a team of scientists spend years developing and designing the atomic bomb. Their work came to fruition on July 16, 1945, as they witnessed the world’s first nuclear explosion, forever changing the course of history.

The film is constructed marvelously in every way and is authentic to the eye. The first notice is that it feels like it’s the 1940s 1920s or 1960s or anywhere in between depending on where the film goes.

The art design, costumes, and makeup feel natural rather than stagey which helps its audience escape into the scientific world.

Speaking of, Nolan constructs the film in a series of pockets and goes back and forth between periods. We see Oppenheimer many times as an aspiring upstart with visions, a confident, established physicist, and in 1963 when President Lyndon B. Johnson presented him with the Enrico Fermi Award as a gesture of political rehabilitation.

His personal life is also explored.

Many, many scenes shift back and forth involving different characters at different ages. Most of the scenes in the 1940s take place in the desert at Los Alamos, New Mexico while the later years are set in a stuffy conference room where Oppenheimer is grilled for his left-leaning and suspected Communist politics.

The cinematography led by Hoyte van Hoytema provides some edgy moments especially when Oppenheimer descends into frightening and psychedelic hallucinations of those suffering the aftereffects of the atomic bomb. Images of peeling and melting faces are terrifying.

Cillian Murphy successfully makes Oppenheimer sympathetic especially after he creates the bomb and is left forgotten by his government.

Various moments in the film showcase Murphy at his best. After relinquishing his deadly bomb after a test the government callously tells Oppenheimer that ‘they’ll take it from here’. The look of dread, regret, and sadness in Murphy’s crystal blue eyes speaks volumes.

Another great scene occurs when President Harry S. Truman (Gary Oldman) a left-leaning democrat calls Oppenheimer ‘a crybaby’ when he expresses interest in returning land to the American Indians.

The supporting cast is a bevy of riches with several top-caliber actors appearing in cameos. My standouts in larger roles are Robert Downey Jr. shredding his Iron Man superhero persona as a slighted and venomous Lewis Strauss, intent on revoking Oppenheimer’s security clearance, and Emily Blunt as the boozy biologist and former communist wife of Oppenheimer.

My biggest takeaway from Oppenheimer (2023) though is a powerful one. The difference between the United States of America during and post World War II and in present times, 2023.

Then, a patriotic infrequently questioned nation brimming with pride and glory, where nationalism was rampant and expected and those with foreign respect were cast aside as traitorous.

Now, a divided country half of whom support an ideology based on hate, racism, and cultlike dedication to a corrupt ex-president, and the other focused on diversity inclusion, and equality for all.

This film resonated so powerfully well and in so many different ways.

Oscar Nominations: 7 wins-Best Picture (won), Best Director-Christopher Nolan (won), Best Actor-Cillian Murphy (won), Best Supporting Actor-Robert Downey Jr. (won), Best Supporting Actress-Emily Blunt, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing (won), Best Cinematography (won), Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Original Score (won), Best Sound, Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The Warriors-1979

The Warriors-1979

Director Walter Hill

Starring Michael Beck, Deborah Van Valkenburgh

Scott’s Review #1,383

Reviewed July 31, 2023

Grade: B+

The Warriors (1979) is an entertaining gang-themed action-thriller that is a perfect watch for a late Saturday night. Reportedly, it caused friction and outbreaks of fights in movie theaters when it was released but decades later doesn’t feel as dangerous as it might have upon release.

The film does terrific work with some art direction that melds live-action with colorful drawings of characters. This infuses an artistic experience and raises results way above dumb action flicks like Rambo (1982), Death Wish (1974), and countless others.

In perhaps a peculiar comparison, The Warriors reminds me a bit of Escape from New York by John Carpenter which came two years later. The isolated Manhattan streets and other areas with a post-apocalyptic feel merge the two films, in my mind anyway.

The film suffers a bit from a dated and obscure categorization and is not remembered as well as perhaps it should be. The acting isn’t terrific either but strangely this makes the experience a bit more raw and enjoyable.

After being wrongly accused of killing a charismatic gang leader named Cyrus, a Coney Island street gang known as the Warriors must hoof their way home which is miles from where the death occurred. They are pursued by both police and enemy gangs one of which framed them for Cyrus’s execution.

The ambiance and atmospheric qualities are the best aspects of the overall film. So many Big Apple treats can be found especially the infamous Central Park which takes center stage. The lavish and picturesque park wasn’t as safe and pristine in the late 1970s as in 2023 and the film uses this to its advantage.

Characters never know who or what might be lurking behind a bench or a tree. A particularly fun scene features a young Mercedes Ruehl being groped by a gang member only to be revealed to be a sexy policewoman who quickly puts the perp in handcuffs.

The other locales featured are plentiful and include Van Cortlandt Park, Union Square, 96th Street and Broadway, and Riverside Park. The beauty of this is that the action doesn’t include only Manhattan but other boroughs like the Bronx and Brooklyn showing the vastness of NYC.

The main romance is between Swan (Michael Beck) and Mercy played by Deborah Van Valkenburgh. The pair have a sliver of chemistry but I wasn’t watching the film for doey-eyed young people.

One scene was exceptionally done when the couple laid eyes on some well-dressed and upstanding teenagers on the subway who could easily be their doppelgangers.

Maybe them in another life? The forlorn look on the faces of Swan and Mercy reveals much as the couples all eye each other perhaps thinking the same thing.

Walter Hill directs the film and is well-versed in the action genre creating the popular film 48 Hours (1982). He paces and choreographs the action sequences so well that it’s as if the viewer is watching a dance routine occur.

The opening sequence gets the tone of the film out in the open as the storied Wonder Wheel on dusty Coney Island is on full display. Even the bright and windy shore feels gloomy and ominous as leather-clad gang members make it their turf.

The finale salutes the Warriors with a song, ‘In the City by Joe Walsh which I particularly enjoyed because it’s a great song.

Though unrealistic for the time, it’s nice to see gang members of different ethnicities team up together in diverse representation.

The film is a perfect watch for cinema fans thirsty for old New York City locales and greasy, dirty subway stations. Because the real Manhattan wasn’t too different from what The Warriors (1979) showcases.

Welcome to my blog! 1,425 + reviews posted so far! My name is Scott Segrell and I reside in Stamford, CT. My blog is a diverse site featuring tons of film reviews I have written since I launched my site in 2014. I hope you enjoy perusing the site for latest or greatest films or to search for your own favorites to see how we compare. Please take a look at my featured sections at the top of the page which change often! Utilize the tags and category links.