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The Nightingale (2018)
This Nightingale is Still Searching
Viewing The Nightingale I can see much of what I think the director was going for and sometimes she comes within range but other times completely misses. The story itself is compelling but the lead character's actions are so inconsistent that it can be challenging at times to root for her regardless of how badly we might want to. The villains are drawn a bit broadly and there little nuance regarding character development. The supporting characters and performances are mostly solid but they too are often times inconsistently drawn. There is also a lot of violence and it can at times be hard to watch. I think it could have benefited from some prudent editing down from 136 minutes as well. There is some good stuff here for sure but many may find it a challenge to see it through to the end.
Grace of Monaco (2014)
All That Looks Good Does Not Provide Pleasure
The cast, costumes, location, and lighting all glow in this story of a specific and brief time in Princess Grace's and Monaco's existence. Unfortunately, the story is very uneven, and at times simply inept to the point of frustrating and befuddling. It's a shame to waste such a strong cast, Parker Posey who is usually excellent is wasted here and her talents have no opportunity to shine. Frank Langella's character and does fare better but still, Grace of Monaco isn't nearly what it could have been considering the talent involved. I hate to say it but this is a real snoozefest.
Crimes of the Heart (1986)
Meandering Hearts Aflight
This solid cast of Keaton, Spacek, Lang, and Shepherd kind of sets the film up to certain expectation. Some of them are certainly met, while others certainly are not. I actually think the entire cast is good and that the three lead actresses played off of one another quite well. They all really seemed to be having fun with this project and each other. The down side is the story, it just seems to be missing. It's very meandering and doesn't seem to be going anywhere, like totally lost. The final result is very disappointing.
The Danish Girl (2015)
With Looks to Spare
I was curious about The Danish Girl, especially since I think Redmayne is such a strong actor and the basic story sounds interesting. The story is interesting but the script doesn't really do it any favors and is weak. Redmayne does give another solid performance but think he perhaps relied a bit to heavily on a just two or three mannerisms for the Lili Elba character and I don't think brought enough nuance to the performance. This films looks great, has beautiful scenery, costumes, and lighting but did really engage me emotionally the way I think all of the elements could have.
It hard to find something to say about Casablanca that hasn't already been said but in brief: The casting is great, with my personal call out to Claude Raines, who with many wonderful performances under his belt, this is my favorite. The B&W cinematography is rich and saturated just right. The story is solid. This film didn't really hit me much the first time I saw it and it took a second viewing to really appreciate. Check it out.
The Power of Music
37 years after its original release I decided it was time I gave in and checked out Footloose. I'm glad I did because I actually kind of enjoyed it. Sure, the story is full of cliche's and progresses mostly as one would expect. I do think all of the performances are solid though and offer some likable characters. It was fun to see a very young Kevin Bacon and Sarah Jessica Parker. Pondering what really made this viewing work was in large part thanks to the music. The music, which due to the passage of so much time, has brought with it a ton of memories and nostalgia for the 1980's in general. So despite many shortcomings I have to say that I did enjoy Footloose and for anyone else who still hasn't seen it I suggest you check it out too.
Beautiful and Backbreaking
Melancholia offers lots of uniquely beautiful images, a lovely score, some solid and at times interesting characters. However, when those same characters aren't being interesting they're either completely confounding, annoying, or maddening. It's kind of interesting that this new planet Melancholia relates to the main characters sense of melancholia, like the moon impacts the tides, but there are just too many disparate and random elements throughout that prevent the viewer from being able to fully engage with this project. As I was watching this film and not really being able to get into it, I just new with certainty that there would be viewers that will simply worship and adore this kind of thing. Good for them (I guess?) but definitely not for me.
Beguiling and Befogging
From the very beginning of Nomadland I was captivated by the sights, sounds, and characters. Frances McDormand does a wonderful job with the material she's given. The bulk of non-professional actors assembled are genuinely interesting and drew me in as well. Director Zhao once again does an admirable job of capturing the beauty and majesty of the surrounding landscape. The score was powerful and complimentary to her vision. I really do appreciate the care taken to avoid exposition and the subtle, nuancing of the story itself resulting in a film that could have easily gone political and preachy, I really do. However, I also think she may have taken this approach a bit too far, leaving us with too many questions regarding Fern (McDormand's character). Some of the nomads seem to be there by choice and others due to circumstances. It's not so clear with Fern though and we're given conflicting and muddled messages. It is these mixed signals that prevent the viewer from fully submitting to her character and Nomadland as a whole, even though I very much wanted to. Nomaland is still an interesting and enjoyable film worth checking out.
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Solid War Film
I too have seen the real story of the Bridge on the River Kwai on the History channel and still think this is a solidly entertaining film. It's not meant to be a documentary folks, but a stylized film using the real story as inspiration for this collaborative project of actors, costume designers, writers, musicians, and David Lean. The cast is strong throughout, the soundtrack memorable, and the story compelling. Check it out and decide for yourself.
Complex & Interesting
I have not read the novel and had no expectations coming into this film. There are lots of very good things about this film to recommend giving it a viewing: the performances are solid, the costumes good, cinematography is often times quite beautiful, and the story itself is also quite interesting. The problem is that in trying to condense the novel into the limited time frame of the film much of the story is too condensed or omitted altogether, or so it seems. Yes, Per is a complicated, complex man with many inner struggles, which can be very difficult and in a way impossible to fully set to film. I do appreciate the attempt though, and think August is a great director, and despite some shortcomings I did enjoy Lykke-Per and can recommend giving it a go and see what you think.
The Dig (2021)
This should be viewed as 6.5/6+. The Dig looks great and has a wonderful pacing about it. The entire cast is all quite good in crafting uniquely distinct characters too. The story itself starts off well, with an interesting dynamic developing between the two leads, but about mid-way through it becomes less about them and the dig as a variety of additional characters and side stories appear. I think this weakens and dilutes the beginning storyline and energy but without really adding anything more or equally interesting. Still, it's a very pleasant film and worth checking out if your curious.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Take It For What It Is Already
Glancing at the other reviews there are those that hate this film because it got some (or mabye a lot) of the facts wrong - to those I say it's not a documentary but a fictionalized, theatrical representation of B&C, so get over it. The other group loves it because of it's artistic contributions on the overall timeline of Hollywood film development, which I do recognize and appreciate, but will not be taking that into account here.
I'm seeing this for the first time here in 2021 and I think it's my first Dunaway film, and I gotta say I like her here and think she did a fine job. Beatty crafts a very likable Clyde. Together their relationship is interesting and touching for the obviously very deep feelings they developed for one another, even though there was no traditional physical connection. They're not smooth criminals here but two kids trying to figure things out as they go. The Gene Hackman and Estelle Parsons characters are needed for the story but it seemed like Hackman didn't bring the depth of character he would do so admirably in many of his subsequent films. While Parsons won the Oscar for her performance, I too found her character a bit grating, but I guess that was the intent. Overall, I found B&C entertaining and worth a viewing.
The Tall Stranger (1957)
Is a Serviceable Western
The Tall Stranger is based on a solid story with solid performances by an interesting cast of actors. Unfortunately, the romantic connection alluded to at the end of the film, while providing a nice storybook ending, never really created any onscreen sparks between the two leads. The result is a serviceable film for fans of the genre to check out.
Bullwhip Lacks Authenticity
I was intrigued by the idea of Bullwhip but the resulting story/plot is full of holes, awkward direction at times, and two leads with little romantic chemistry between them left me feeling very disappointed. The depiction of the Indians is overly simplistic and while I generally like Rhonda Fleming, I found it unbelievable that she was part Indian. This was my introduction to Guy Madison and I think he does a fine job, but the rest of the cast/performances were unremarkable. If you're a fan of the Western genre then check it out but for everyone else, I would giddy-up on by.
The Hangman (1959)
Unique Western with Humor
I had low expectations coming into my viewing of The Hangman and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It's unique for a western in that it doesn't have a lot of 'action': shootouts, lynchings, etc. or even a clearly identified villain that the audience can root against. Just because it doesn't have those usual tropes commonly used in the genre doesn't devalue the results. The story contained is solid, the performances are uniformly good, and the regular injections of humor are fun and welcomed. Overall, The Hangman is worth checking out.
A Man Alone (1955)
Unique Wild West
Ray Milland's directorial debut saw him go for something a bit different here. Some of his choices work well enough and are appreciated, but there are other scenes where his inexperience shows, to the detriment of the project. The cast is solid and does a great job with the material, but a thin story and the clumsy way the love story unfolds are working against the film. If you enjoy westerns then you should check it out, for anyone else perhaps not.
Marriage Story (2019)
I liked the pacing and what I will describe as the understated quality of the storytelling taking place here. The performances were also quite good, Johansson and Driver are solid. It does touch on and handle the struggles of divorce well, so in that regard I enjoyed this film. On the other hand those moments didn't engage me emotionally. I was aware that they were present and happening but I was merely observing them from a distance.
Schindler's List (1993)
Life Is Not in Black & White
Schindler's List does indeed have many positive things going for it: great acting, beautiful cinematography, solid pacing, and a wonderfully emotive score by John Williams. The story is good and one that needed telling, and one that often times moved me. My only reservation is the somewhat one-dimensional characterizations. Everyone is the clearly drawn as either very good or very bad, black and white, this doesn't leave the viewer with much room to think and consider when everything is fed to us. Despite this shortcoming Schindler's List is one to see.
A Moment in the Life of Judy Garland
The film presents itself as a biopic of Judy Garland but really only covers a very brief period of her career and in that regard all of the drama that we're given seems kind of random and almost arbitrary. The timeline is so narrow and the story covered also very narrow that it's challenging for the viewer to become emotionally engaged. I am going to be the lone dissenting voice here when I say that while I do think Renee Zellweger does a fine job with her performance, I think it was just that, fine. I am familiar with the real Judy Garlands film and concert work and think this project is but a mere appetizer that makes me think there is a great, future Garland story and film that could still be to come.
The Furies (1950)
Doesn't Quite Live Up to the Title
I feel like "The Furies" is a rather auspicious name for a film, and unfortunately I was disappointed with the outcome. The Furies moves along briskly enough and kept me with it till the end, mostly out of curiosity to see if a real story would develop (it did not) and to marvel at the theatricality of some of the performances. I like Stanwyck but felt her performance here was a little stiff. Huston was a bit heavy-handed in his performance, and Corey was just plain miscast as the romantic lead. The oddly sensualized relationship between father and daughter was intriguing to see how far it would go, but it was the thinness of the story that just could support all of the aforementioned baggage. While I was ultimately disappointed by The Furies I'm still happy to have seen it. If you're a fan of westerns then I say you should definitely check it out, but for everyone else maybe not.
OHMSS - Your Majesty
After reading through the reviews I feel compelled to let it be known that I have not read any of Flemming's Bond books. I say this because there seems to be those that love vs those that loath OHMSS. All the lovers seem to have read Flemming and most of the loathers seem to have not. I fall somewhere in between because I kind of liked OHMSS. It's dramatically different from the rest of the series. That's not a discredit, just an acknowlegement. Viewed on it's own merits I found it interesting, maybe not quite as 'fun' as some of the others in the series, but still a good viewing. I think Rigg is great and elevates all of her scenes, and Lazenby is actually just fine, if not pretty good. The music, scenery, and title are all very good. For me the real weakness here is the plot, it just didn't seem that compelling or dire enough.
White Christmas (1954)
Tough Going Despite Fun Musical Numbers
So Thanksgiving Day 2020 I decided it was about time I gave WC a viewing. I'd overlooked it for so many years I was kind of looking forward to it. I really did enjoy the musical numbers, Vera Ellen is a great dancer. Rosemary Clooney is also good with her musical performances too and their costumes throughout were lovely. Danny Kaye certainly has his moments. As for Bing, he sings beautifully but I felt like the rest of his performance was on cruise control and was actually quite distracting and brought the film down. It was a battle to get this film off the ground anyway what with the plot line being as thin and vapid as can be. I'm guessing that if I had first seen this film during my youth, as I suspect many reviewers of this film have, then I too could still have great affections for it here in the 21st century. However, that is not the case for me and I have to admit to having a hard time finishing. Despite my not so favorable review I am still glad that I finally gave it a try and if you're someone like me that has always been curious about it, then I suggest you check it out and see what you think.
Solid Parts, Moderate Whole
I'd always been curious about HUD and finally decided to give it a go. I really liked many parts of this film: Patricia Neal creates a memorable and interesting character, the B&W photography is super nice, and the score is great, understated for Bernstein, but oh so effective. Newman gives a solid performance but at the same time I feel like I've seen him give other very similar performances. In the end I was expecting a bit more of a punch. Despite some shortcomings I do think it's definitely worth checking out.
True Grit (1969)
Takes Some Grit By the Viewer
I enjoy a good 'western' film when I see one, and True Grit has some enjoyable elements for sure, but also some parts that required some true grit to get through. The positives: the cinematography was beautiful, very majestic. The basic story was also solid. The script was a mixed bag full of both gems and clunkers, but as a whole fine. The difficult elements though are the performances, specifically the three leads - Wayne, Darby, and Campbell. Wayne has given solid performances in his day but this is just not one of those days. Darby tries hard and does her best but frankly just seems miscast here. As for Campbell, he tries too but repeatedly falls short of the mark. If you're a real fan of John Wayne and/or really love westerns, then you should definitely check out True Grit. For everyone else perhaps not.
Sling Blade (1996)
I intentionally avoided this film for many years due to a lack of interest in BBT but a friend recommended it so I decided to finally check it out and am happy I did. BBT does give a satisfying performance. I found is relationship to the young boy he befriends to be moving and thoughtful. I thought I had figured out early on where the story was going but was relieved to discover that I was mistaken. Sling Blade is definitely worth a viewing.