The Apartment-1960

The Apartment-1960

Director Billy Wilder

Starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine

Scott’s Review #7

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Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: A-

The Apartment (1960) is another gem by Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard, The Lost Weekend), this one is set in 1959 New York City, a setting and period I just adore.

The black and white are highly effective as they portray the loneliness and bleakness of the characters who are all friendless, sad, and starved for love.

It questions social morality and getting ahead in the corporate world, but goes from drama to romantic comedy, but with no sappiness. Quite the contrary, as the film has dark moments of despair and angst.

The film had a direct influence on the television series “Mad Men”. As with most Billy Wilder films, there is a darkness of humanity, which is fascinating to watch.

Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine are terrific but knocked down a notch as I didn’t exactly see the chemistry between them, but is an excellent film.

The Apartment (1960) won the Best Picture Oscar.

Oscar Nominations: 5 wins-Best Motion Picture (won), Best Director-Billy Wilder (won), Best Actor-Jack Lemmon, Best Actress-Shirley MacLaine, Best Supporting Actor-Jack Kruschen, Best Story and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (won), Best Sound, Best Art Direction, Black-and-White (won), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Film Editing (won)

Peyton Place-1957

Peyton Place-1957

Director Mark Robson

Starring Lana Turner, Lee Phillips

Scott’s Review #6

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Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: B+

Peyton Place (1957) is a scandalous soap opera but made well.

The sleepy, seemingly wholesome, quiet New England town is captured well, but secrets lie within its white picket fences (don’t they always).

Topics such as adultery, rape, murder, and suicide are tackled.

I’m not sure I quite agree with the slew of Oscar nominations it received that year (1957), but acting-wise, Hope Lange was the standout for me.

It reminded me of the syrupy prime-time soaps of the 1980s, but better written and acted than they were.

This is not intended to demean the film as it is interesting, engaging, and dramatic, with good characterization, but when analyzed, it is fluff, just good fluff.

Oscar Nominations: Best Motion Picture, Best Director-Mark Robson, Best Actress-Lana Turner, Best Supporting Actor-Arthur Kennedy, Russ Tamblyn, Best Supporting Actress-Hope Lange, Diane Varsi, Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Best Cinematography

Stalag 17-1953

Stalag 17-1953

Director Billy Wilder

Starring William Holden, Don Taylor

Scott’s Review #5

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Reviewed June 16, 2014

Grade: B

Stalag 17 (1953), a film by famed director Billy Wilder, tackles the theme of POWs during World War II.

This film reminds me of the acclaimed television show M*A*S*H (1972-1983) in that the comedy elements are similar (men in drag, a light subplot of one soldier’s obsession with Betty Grable).

However, this film is heavy on the drama side and a deep cynicism that network television shows cannot match.

A group of American soldiers is held in a POW camp by Germans. Somehow any escape plan is realized by the Germans. A whodunit ensues to find out who the mole is and his motivations. Liberties are taken- I doubt the real German soldiers would be as nice as they are depicted in the film.

William Holden stars as the cynic of the camp and the likely suspect, but is he the culprit?

This film is a hybrid of other Wilder films- the cross-dressing theme in Some Like it Hot (1959) is depicted and shades of the darkness of Sunset Boulevard (1950) (also starring Holden) appear.

The black and white are effective in eliciting the confinement of the camp.

A quality film though a predictable “seen this all before” element nagged throughout.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Director-Billy Wilder, Best Actor-William Holden (won), Best Supporting Actor-Robert Strauss

All is Lost-2013

All is Lost-2013

Director J.C. Chandor

Starring Robert Redford

Scott’s Review #4

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Reviewed June 16, 2014

Grade: D

The accolades heaped on All is Lost from 2013 escape me.

Some felt that this was Robert Redford’s late-in-life masterpiece. I’ve never found him to be a great talent as an actor, and while not horrible in this film, it is not the Oscar-worthy performance being bandied about.

Many actors would play this role better- Tom Hanks and Sean Penn come to mind.

Beyond the performance, facets of the film remain unexplained. How did he become shipwrecked? Why did ships pass by not noticing him? Who is he?

Much of the movie drags and a feeling of having seen this film many times before kept gnawing at me. I do give the film credit for containing only one cast member.

But castaway and shipwreck movies have been around since the beginning. They all have the standard plot developments- broken equipment, sharks, and storms, which makes it quite contrived.

Fail.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Feature, Best Director-J.C. Chandor, Best Male Lead-Robert Redford, Best Cinematography

Noah-2014

Noah-2014

Director Darren Aronofsky

Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly

Scott’s Review #3

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Reviewed June 16, 2014

Grade: B+

Learning that Darren Aronofsky, a very dark director (Black Swan-2011, Requiem for a Dream-2000, and The Wrestler-2008), would be tackling a religious film piqued my curiosity.

Those expecting an uplifting, happy film about “god” will be disappointed.

This film is generating controversy from the religious folks, which I find interesting, but nobody wants me to go off on a tangent.

The film tells the tale of the biblical figure, Noah, and his quest to do God’s will through the signs he is given.

It takes incredible talent to make a film like this not seem silly and Aronofsky, Russell Crowe, and Jennifer Connelly succeed.

The film is quite dark and at times Noah comes off as more of a madman than a savior.

The visual effects and the musical score are wonderfully effective.

Noah (2014) has a few plot holes but is a nice fantasy/apocalypse-type film.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2-2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2-2014

Director Marc Webb

Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone

Scott’s Review #2

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Reviewed June 16, 2014

Grade: B+

Superhero movies are not my top genre (although admittedly, I see many of them).

They are fun, popcorn-type films not to be over-analyzed or taken too seriously.

One thing that confuses me is the seemingly constant reboots of the Spider-Man franchises and forgetting the previous installments.

Wasn’t this series just made with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst not too long ago?

That being said, the strongest part of this film is the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, which is undeniable and great to watch. Sally Field adds life to anything she appears in.

The more “human” parts of the film are the best.

The special effects/CGI are admirable. I enjoyed how one “villain” is a close friend of Peter Parker’s, wonderfully played by Dane DeHaan. His character has many nuances.

The other villain, Electro, played by Jamie Foxx, is silly and his story almost seems botched. His motivations are weak. He hates Spider-Man and wants to destroy the city because of a contrived misunderstanding.

I do not want to over-analyze The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), as this is a fun, enjoyable summer film.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire-2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire-2013

Director Francis Lawrence

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson

Scott’s Review #1

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Reviewed June 16, 2014

Grade: B-

I confess to not having read any of the Hunger Games books, so I am critiquing the film on its film merits only with no knowledge of the books.

Interestingly, I graded the first Hunger Games (2012) film a B- and that is what I am giving this one, almost for the same reason.

The first hour sets up the second hour, but it is unnecessarily drawn out. At times it’s slightly dull.

The meat of the film then takes off and the film is quite good though the film still does not completely hold my attention throughout.

First and foremost, Jennifer Lawrence is the best part. She has the charisma and likability to carry it off.

The chemistry between the two leads (Lawrence and Hutcherson) is there so there is rooting value for the couple.

The third part of the triangle is weak (Liam Hemsworth has far too little screen time to make him a viable rooting factor).

Donald Sutherland is wonderful as the evil President, but Philip Seymour Hoffman seems to phone in his performance and the character is not all that intriguing.

The mood of the film and visuals (fog, train sequences) are great because there is modern darkness, and the premise and wondering who will die next during the games are interesting.

The somewhat twist at the end was effective.

To summarize nice characters/acting, great looking film, mediocre story, and slow pacing in the first act.

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