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All reviews - Movies (106) - TV Shows (4) - Music (13)

Straight to the Moon!

Posted : 2 years, 3 months ago on 5 March 2015 10:13 (A review of The Moon's Our Home)

The Moons Our Home is one of my favourite super obscure films with only 139 users ratings on IMDB as of writing this review and a proclamation from Bill Murray as one of his favourite films (look up his appearance on the Siskel and Ebert Holiday Gift Guide 1988 In which he mentions he would like a cassette of the film for Christmas). The Moons Our Home has only recently seen its due on DVD on the Universal Vault Series although when I watched the film I had to access it though a torrent. Not the greatest image quality but as a big fan Margaret Sullavan and a Henry Fonda enthusiast I was overjoyed to get a hold of the film and was not let down in the slightest.

What surprised me about Margaret Sullavan’s performance is how much she reminded me of Jean Harlow, always changing mood within a split second while screaming and throwing tantrums from the very beginning of the movie (and looking so cute in her turtle neck and trousers). Sullavan and Harlow are two actresses I didn’t think I would ever compare so it’s fascinating to see this aspect of her screen persona I didn’t even know existed. 

Sullavan and Fonda had previously been married, making their pairing feel more tender and genuine with moments like their histrionics in the snow being as adorable as they are funny. The Moon’s Our Home also features innovative use of split screen in which Sullavan and Fonda are given half of the screen to represent different rooms in which they move in parallel and symmetrical tandem. The filmed is also carried by a fine cast of supporting players including Beulah Bondi, Margaret Hamilton and my favourite Walter Brennan as the hard of hearing justice of the peace; a brief but hysterically funny role.

It’s already a joy to discover a film I love, even more so when it’s a film that almost no one else will watch in a million years. It gives me the sense that it’s my movie. I guess this is what hipsters must feel like listening to bands no one else has heard off. 


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So Close, Yet So Far

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 22 February 2015 07:40 (A review of The Lady Eve)

The Lady Eve is a conflicting film. The first hour is some of the most perfect romantic comedy I’ve ever seen, however it falls apart around the one hour mark. However what is it that makes the first hour so perfect? Firstly it didn’t take too long for me to realise that Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck are one of the most flawless screen pairings ever, the perfect combination of sexy meets innocent. Watching these two I get the impression they must have been head over heels for each other. I’ve read that apparently Henry Fonda would later tell his wife he was still in love with Barbara Stanwyck, dam! But then again, after having your hair caressed by Stanwyck for 3 minutes and 51 seconds, who wouldn’t be?!

 

The Lady Eve is a prime example of a “How did they get away with that?!” movie. I’m not aware of what Stanwyck’s ideological or moral beliefs where but a number of her films are some of most sexually suggestive old Hollywood films I’ve seen. There’s her pre-code work such as Baby Face but in the post code era we have Ball of Fire, Double Indemnity and of course, The Lady Eve. Call me old-fashioned but movies were sexier when the actors kept their clothes on. Vilma Banky did more with one raised eyebrow than an entire (Warning! Problem in Sector 7G)[Link removed - login to see].

 

So where does it all go wrong, well about 50 minutes into The Lady Eve, the movie pulls my least favourite movie cliché of all time, “the liar revealed”. You know, when a character is exposed as a fraud causing a relationship to end, even though you know they’re going to get back together again by the end of the movie. Having this cliché is bad enough, however I thought it was only a contrived modern invention but here it is in 1941. At least they don’t drag it out like any rubbish modern day romantic comedy would.

 

I’ve found Preston Sturges’ films to be indiscipline, his films all have their moments of greatness but at times they delve into over the top absurdity, even by screwball comedy standards. During the later part of The Lady Eve it’s hard to buy into Stanwyck disguising herself as another woman who doesn’t look massively different from her previous self in order to win back Henry Fonda. Oh and he buys into the charade, the dope! Part of me wished the entire movie could have just been the two of them on the boat and it would have been a perfect film, however the final third still has some hilarious moments, such as Eugene Pallette frantically banging the table demanding his breakfast, or Fonda getting his suit destroyed three times at a party, a perfectly timed slapstick gag if I’ve ever seen one.

 

On a second viewing of The Lady Eve I still have the same reaction to the first hour but I did find myself more forgiving of the last third. With my love of screwball comedies and the pairing of Stanwyck and Fonda, perhaps with additional future viewings I may become completely forgiving of the last half hour. The first hour is just that perfect.



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Meddling Adults

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 22 February 2015 07:03 (A review of The Thin Man)

William Powell and Myrna Loy, will I ever get bored of watching these two? I wish I could possess the wit and charm of William Powell, someone who can still remain classy and have a way with words even when inebriated (which is often). I wish I could be married to a woman like Myrna Loy. For Nick and Nora Charles being married is just one crazy murder mystery solving adventure after another! With so many movies in which marriage is a hindrance, here are two people who reveal in being married without the worry of children (for now anyway).  I find myself jealous at these two for their existence of seemingly never-ending fun. It’s no wonder audiences of the 1930’s where attracted to these escapist fantasies in their droves.  Sometimes a man and a woman with impeccable chemistry is all you need for cinematic greatness.

 

The Thin Man gave birth to Myrna Loy receiving the label “the perfect wife”. Loy disliked this label but it’s not hard to see why see got such a reputation. She seems too perfect to exist like she was conjured out of the mindsets of what heavenly actress should be. It’s not all just Nick and Nora though, there is an entertaining supporting cast including the Wynet family, the classic screwball comedy troupe of the odd ball family. It’s not My Man Godfrey levels but they are a bunch of nuts, with my favourite being the wannabe criminologist who is the polar opposite of the suave Nick Charles.

 

The Thin Man is a fairly inexpensive feature but shows how you can do so much with so little. The sequels had larger budgets and never captured the feeling or the intimacy of the first film.[Link removed - login to see] The scene in which Nick and his dog Asta go sleuthing by themselves in an inventor’s laboratory is almost entirely silent, features gorgeous noir cinematography and has me breathless watching the whole thing; setting the stage for the shady noir world of the 1940’s. I’ve seen The Thin Man several times and I still don’t understand the plot yet that doesn’t make the movie any less engaging. Rather is makes me want to watch the film again in hopes that I eventually will understand the plot.



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A Tale of Two Eddies

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 19 February 2015 11:33 (A review of The Whole Town's Talking)

It’s already unexpected that John Ford directed a screwball comedy, even more so that it’s one of the inventive, inspired and quirky screwball comedies ever from a director who has no other association with the genre. The Whole Town’s Talking is a delight to watch as it unveils each increasingly surreal situation.

 

Edward G Robinson appeared in a number very quirky comedies such as The Amazing Dr Clittlerhouse, Brother Orchid and Larceny Inc which have made me prefer him in comedy over drama. Here you get two Robinsons for the price of one playing the dual role of the lovable, naive Jonsey and the notorious gangster Mannion. I believe this may be Robinson’s best performance. Not only does he play two characters who look the same but are worlds apart in terms in personality, he also has to play Mannion pretending to be Jonsey! Even though he is held in high regard as an actor, I feel Edward G. Robinson has never been truly celebrated for just how versatile he is; going far beyond the gangster roles he is most famous for.

 

Jean Arthur’s Miss Clark is one of the coolest, craziest and more carefree characters ever. When she finds out she has been sacked after arriving to work late she doesn’t care in the slightest. Or how about when she discovers that Jones keeps a picture of her by his bedside which he stole from her at the office. She isn’t disturbed, she finds it cute! Everything she does is so laid back and[Link removed - login to see] without a care in the world; I love this character!

 

The only minor complaint I have with The Whole Town’s Talking is the possible plot hole at the beginning of the film in which Jones rushed out of his apartment after the realisation he is late for work he leaves the bath running. This had me thinking that when he returned home his house would become flooded but the running bathtub is never addressed. Regardless, the film’s screwiness is in no short supply. This movie not getting the recognition it deserves? Mannion!  



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There Will Be Blood

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 17 February 2015 01:29 (A review of Captain Blood)

Captain Blood, the one that started it all. The beginning of both the Flynn-de Havilland partnership and the Flynn-Curtiz partnership, establishing Erich Wolfgang Korngold as a movie composer and ushering in a new era of swashbucklers. Talk about a great start for two careers; two unknown actors being cast in a major production at one of Hollywood’s biggest studios. Should Hollywood have taken more risks like this more often or was this just a freakishly lucky gamble?

 

Warner Bros where the best studio of the 1930’s when it came to making thrillers and action pictures in this their answer of MGM’s Mutiny on the Bounty. The combination of Michael Curtiz’s direction, Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s pumping music scores, Errol Fylnn’s embodiment of a swashbuckling action hero and the dynamic he shared with Olivia de Havilland represents all the elements coming together at the right place and time to create something truly special. It’s no surprise that these elements would reunite many times over the next few years.

 

The scenes between Flynn and de Havilland are pure movie magic, when they’re together and alone it’s like they’re suddenly in a whole world of their own, it’s truly phenomenal. With his long hair and muscular physique I don’t think Flynn has ever been more attractive that he was in Captain Blood; he certainly never appeared this beat up than he did in any of his subsequent movies.[Link removed - login to see] During production scenes had to be reshot as Fylnn’s acting had improved so dramatically over time; the man is a far better actor than he’s given credit for. The character of Peter Blood reflects Flynn’s real life personality, a free spirit who has had enough adventure for 6 years to last him 6 lifetimes. De Havilland on the other hand was only 19 during the filming of Captain Blood, and it never ceases to amaze me I watch her in a film and knowing that she is still alive. As of writing this review there are only two years left until see reaches 100. I am counting down the days.

 

The plot of Captain Blood is a surprisingly empowering tale of defiance against corrupt authority and the ultimate meaninglessness or war (“I fought for the French against the Spanish and the Spanish against the French”) giving the film that added intelligent edge but this doesn’t take away from the film’s aurora of just pure unmitigated fun. 



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Complete and Utter Bonkers

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 13 February 2015 10:04 (A review of The Barbarian)

*** This review contains spoilers ***

The Barbarian has to be seen to be believed. That’s if you’re able to believe this unbelievably ridiculous plot.

 

Ramon Navarro’s Jamil is the textbook definition of a creep and why the characters in the movie take as long as they do to realise this is beyond me. Throughout the entire, yes, the entire film he treats the Myrna Loy’s Diana like crap. He kidnaps her, drags her into the desert, has her whipped by another man so he can pretend to save her and on top of that, or at least what’s implied, he rapes her. Throughout The Barbarian I was thinking there’s no way these two are getting together at the end of the film but with only five minutes run time left to go, Diana ditches her nice loving fiancé for the man who earlier in the film kidnapped her and made her life a living hell. Why?! Stockholm syndrome, abused wife syndrome, girls just love a bad boy syndrome?

 

The final scene of the movie shows the two in a loving embrace on barge under the moonlight, implying that his ending is supposed to be happy. Uh no, this is dark and disturbing. This women is with a man who is the most morally dubious character being presented as the hero of the story I've ever seen. Is it supposed to be ironic, or just horribly misguided? The Barbarian however is a rare instance of a movie which I feel kind of bad for having enjoyed, like I have to have the TV facing the wall in the corner of a room with the volume lowered, not letting anyone knowing I’m watching such a thing; or at least that was the case until I decided to post a review on the internet.

 

So what makes this movie enjoyable? For starters, there is the unmitigated joy that comes from watching politically incorrect pre-code movies. I've seen some crazy pre-code films but this just takes the cake.  It’s like a train wreck, it’s so shocking but you can’t look away. Moments of The Barbarian are shocking, other times it’s unintentionally hilarious, yet despite this bizarre mish-mash, the film works. It’s engaging, there’s tension throughout, the sets and locations are superb and there’s Myrna Loy’s bathtub scene, a moment of astounding risqué beauty and one of the sexiest scenes in all of cinema. This is also the only movie I've seen to date which shows that the Pyramids of Giza are right beside the city of Cairo and not in the middle of nowhere -Who knew! Watch and observe The Barbarian in all its unbelievable pre-code glory.



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Hell's Angels

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 3 February 2015 11:59 (A review of War Nurse)

I watch a lot of obscure movies, films which 99.9% of people will never watch. It’s like discovering a world that only I know about. Occasionally I will come across a hidden gem which I absolutely love usually because it meets my personal preferences. But then there are movies like War Nurse in which I’m in disbelief that a movie of such quality on many levels could fall tough the cracks of obscurity.

 

War Nurse follows a group of women who volunteer for nursing duties in France at the outbreak of the First World War. The film is a perfect companion piece to All Quiet on the Western Front, released the same year. Similar to how the young army recruits in All Quiet... have a distorted, glamorised view of what war will be like, so do the nurses at the beginning of War Nurse  (some of them are barely into adulthood) expecting to be “holding hands all night with good looking sick officers” and to spend “Moonlight nights up on no man’s land, with a general in each arm”. Little do they expect the extremely strenuous work, horrendous conditions, the lack of supplies and the near insanity caused by the constant firing of shells.

 

One scene in which the nurses retreat to bed for night only to be woken up shortly afterwards by the arrival of injured troops during the middle of the night, I can feel just how tired and physically exhausted these people must be. War Nurse is full of powerful moments both big and subtle such as when a soldier played Robert Montgomery asks a nurse played by Anita Page out on a date, literally seconds after she told him one of his close comrades just died; death is that common of an occurrence

 

The copy of War Nurse I watched was not of the greatest of quality so I couldn’t always distinguish the cast members apart. Yet I was still fully engaged and can say the production values are superb. I don’t have any information on the film making locations for War Nurse but the exteriors feature lush countryside backdrops to large scale recreations of baron no man’s land with shells constantly exploding.

 

Get this baby onto the Warner Achieve Collection!



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Ship Happens

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 31 January 2015 06:23 (A review of Mutiny on the Bounty)

*** This review contains spoilers ***


If was to sum up Mutiny on the Bounty it would be ‘immensely satisfying’. The actual build up to the mutiny itself is just so immense. Charles Laughton is an absolute beast as Captain William Bligh, a cruel sadist with no reverence for his crew, even more so due to his prejudice against convicts. I can’t stress just how much I love this performance. Shivers go down my back at any of his many outbursts (“Chriiiiiistian!”). For me this is the ultimate love to hate character that when he finally gets his comeuppance after subjecting his crew to overworking, lashings and other mistreatments, it’s one of the most satisfying movie moments ever. Just like the crew, you grow to hate this character with a passion. On a personal level I can see many of my old school teachers in Bligh. Ok they weren’t that sadist but his harsh nature gives me déjà vu of my school days. Bligh is shown however to have a human side though. He does have a friendship with the King of Thatti, the only person who can convince Bligh to be less harsh. Their interactions are the only time in the film Bligh is shown to have a softer side. There’s just something about angry ship captains which make for such memorable characters (Captain Ahab, Captain Queeg, James Cagney in Mister Roberts).

 

Of course there is also The King himself: Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian - A figure you would be glad to have as a captain, stern but fair and a man you would happily salute and shout “yes sir!” at. He’s the humanitarian saving grace for a crew ravaged at the hand of Captain Bligh. Like Laughton, the hairs on my back rise at any of his outbursts throughout the film (“I call ship’s company to bare witness, you killed him!”). Supposedly the two intensely disliked each other possibly due in part to Gable winning the Oscar for Best Actor the year before for It Happened One Night over Laughton’s performance in The Barretts of Wimpole Street. This makes the seething hatred between the two characters feels more real making Mutiny on the Bounty a movie of two powerhouse performances. This was Gable’s first role in a period film and he fits well into the historical period. Likewise I’ve never thought much or Franchot Tone as an actor but he’s very good as Rodger Byam, an idealist seaman who has to make difficult decisions between his loyalty to the navy and tyranny of Captain Bligh.

 

Then there are the scenes on the Island Tahati. These where filmed on location and are as romantic as it gets. Tahati seems like a world too good to be true; a tropical drug shop of feast, song and sleep. A seemingly care free society in which the inhabitants don’t even know about the concept of money. It’s such a release after the tyranny experienced on board The Bounty, well until we have to return to the ship that is - no wonder a mutiny takes place. Even with the production code in effect, the scenes on the island are still very exotic and it’s defiantly implied Christian and native girl played by Mamo Clark had sex. Shirtless Clark Gable, beautiful exotic women, tropical island paradise, what more do you want? Although I do have to ask; were there really natives who had relations this good with the British Empire?

 

The life size recreation of The Bounty pushes the boundaries of set design at the time. From a visual standpoint the movie excels in the realism department. Likewise the rousing musical score unleashes the imagination of your inner schoolboy. Oh and did I mention James Cagney is in this film; yep he’s in there for a brief second. Just when I thought this movie couldn’t get any better.

 

In defence of the film for being historical inaccurate; this is a movie, a work of fiction, not a documentary (although I highly recommend 1984’s The Bounty, which tells the story with Bligh being the hero and Christian as the villain). Besides how can we ever truly be sure what happened aboard that ship 200 years ago? Regardless of what really happened, I find the tale of The Bounty is a story of great fascination and one which really sparks the imagination. Mutiny on the Bounty is the seafaring movie all seafaring movies are measured against. 



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This Game Sucks...

Posted : 2 years, 5 months ago on 25 January 2015 11:15 (A review of The Angry Video Game Nerd)

The reviewing of poor media products on the internet has become a whole genre of comedy in itself. Movies, video games, anime, comic books, music, etc, all have dedicated reviewers who will pick them apart and criticize all in the good name of entertainment. One of the most famous perpetrators and originators of this genre within the cyberspace of the internet is none other than The Angry Video Game Nerd. The Nerd (James D. Rolfe), is a fouled mouthed, short tempered retro gamer, destined to review as he would call them, "sh***y f**king games".


The Nerd's trademark humor is comprised mostly of strong profanity and over the top comparisons to describe how awful a game is, i.e. "This game is so hard it would actually be easier to outside in a thunderstorm and dodge rain". It’s an acquired taste but trust me when I say there are few times in my life in which I laughed as hard when I first discovered this guy and watched his Ghostbusters review back in 2007.

 

This is partially due to many of the games he reviews being so horrific they almost review themselves but also because of James’ charisma as a performer. Let’s face it, almost everyone who goes on the internet and makes videos in which they try to entertain or inform (including top subscribed You Tubers, although I won’t name names) are ether dull or are trying to force a personality onto themselves. James on the other hand is just a complete natural. He’s always an absolute joy to listen to and makes the art of appearing on camera and reviewing media (whether comically or straight) seem easy. However James is first and foremost a film maker and thanks to this The Angry Video Game Nerd had considerably greater production values than most other internet content. Frankly the guy is one of my personal heroes.


I still continue to enjoy new episodes of The Angry Video Game Nerd. I’m glad James now only makes several episodes per year, whereas at the height of the series productivity we had two every month. Some of the more recent episodes are among some of the funniest he’s ever done, not bad for something which debuted on YouTube 9 years ago. I just hope he will keep the character in this state of semi retirement. With The Angry Video Game Nerd, James Rolfe managed to create something totally original. Countless imitators will come and go but the original will never be topped.



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Astaire at His Bes...Worst

Posted : 2 years, 5 months ago on 25 January 2015 11:14 (A review of Funny Face)

It disappoints me that for many people Funny Face will be their only encounter with Fred Astaire due to the fact that it is an Audrey Hepburn film. I first watched Funny Face for the Hepburn factor (unfamiliar at the time with Fred Astaire) and was left unimpressed with the film. Later on I became infatuated with Astaire thanks to his partnership with Ginger Rogers and other films such as The Bandwagon. Due to this I revisited Funny Face in the hope that I would appreciate it more; unfortunately the opposite happened. Boy is this movie a waste of talent:

First and foremost, dancing, or should I say the lack of it. When I watch a Fred Astaire musical I expect to be memorised by his dancing moves. Yet every time a musical number began in Funny Face, Astaire does nothing. There are times when I expect him to bust a move but nothing happens. Eventfully when he does start dancing, the choreography is about as basic as it gets. 

Secondly, comedy. I’ve always thought Fred Astaire is very undervalued as a comedic actor. In the films he did with Ginger Rogers his timing and ability to come up with a witty comeback to everything is right up there with the likes of Groucho Marx. Typically in these films he would be playing off high society snobs and in Funny Face these same snobs exist, but Astaire is now one of them! Whenever a character in this film is being superficial or snobbish, Astaire just stands there and does nothing! In the past he would have been all Groucho Marx on them.

Next, chemistry. Being a huge fan of both these stars, perhaps just seeing them together could help elevate the film above its flaws? Nope! Astaire and Hepburn have no chemistry at all. While Hepburn does fair better in this film than Astaire, having one musical number which I quite liked, The Basal Metabolism. But that’s enough lavishing praise on this movie.

Finally, the plot. Granted many musicals have silly plots, that’s part of their charm. But plot in Funny Face goes beyond silly, it’s flat out insulting. Well ignoring the fact that in the reality of the film, Audrey Hepburn is considered unattractive, they take an intellectual girl who works at a book store and turn her into a superficial model. Also why can’t Audrey not just call the police and tell them that the book store she works at was trespassed, used for unauthorised photography and vandalised, oh never mind, the plot just sucks. Also I’m so sick of Paris being used as a setting for romantic comedies. Choose a different city!

If this is the only Fred Astaire film you’ve seen, please I beg of you, watch the films he did with Ginger Rogers or The Bandwagon in order to see what he is really like. 


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