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Perry Mason (2020)
Robert Downey Jr's idea of tradition
Robert Downey Jr is an executive producer of this. When I saw an explosion in a preview of his Sherlock Holmes, his idea of tradition became clear. Basically he does what he wants to do & uses Sherlock Holmes & Perry Mason to do it. His Iron Man series is self-indulgent. It all reminds me of 'Pulp Fiction' by Quentin Tarantino.
This anti-hero contempt for normal people has become tiresome. 'Such or such is my super-power.' 'I've got this.' Many people served in the military during WWII as humble heroes. Not as drunken, sex fiends that complain all the time. If Robert Downey Jr wants to be an ugly American why do many people subscribe? This Perry Mason is unwatchable.
Pit of Darkness (1961)
Rewrite problems may be missed by audience
William Franklyn had a new TV series coming out & this film was probably meant to make the actor more visible. The problem is that the film was apparently rewritten while it was being made. The director could not decide which robbery would occur first, the jewels or the "Ethiope's ear". When talking about the first robbery with the secretary the characters talked of the diamond robbery @ Sir Herbert's. But near the end they are robbing the diamonds again. In Franklyn's flashback he is removing the "Ethiope's ear". They also may have eliminated a complication, because Nigel Green is aware of the "Ethiope's ear" before he should have known about it. I think this film has the 'ear marks' of a hastily produced star turn for Franklyn. The movie also has Ronnie Hall & the Dave Clark five.
A Discourse of only one Aspect of the Film
My contribution to the many reviews is a discourse of only one aspect of the film. The presentation of ideas depends on the viewer understanding. Hamlet the play does much with misunderstandings. Auteur plays take risks that the viewer will not understand, much like abstract art. There are times when watching the film that all I see is a lot of flouncing movement. The cleverness eludes me. Much like a math class, sometimes the teacher heads in a direction & presses on regardless. It seems to me that the film can be more expository; take care that the viewer follows the points being made. Don't three act plays have a beginning (present an idea), middle (show the idea) & end (make a conclusion, if one is to be made)?
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are pawns that will die. The story is about these individuals and what it means to be such. If I remember Hamlet correctly, the two characters were opportunists that were seeking to advance in the royal court. Shakespeare may have intended to show that such opportunists deserve an evil fate. I am not sure the play or film presents this situation intelligently. Was it fate that they should die or did they bring about their own destruction? The flouncing was just an ongoing distraction.
Crown v. Stevens (1936)
City life, city problems
I find this film is an interesting character piece. It reminded me of Hitchcock's 'Blackmail' (1929). It is not easy making a film where the main character is flawed. Other reviewers talked of moral ambiguity in a negative way, but clean, clear country values often don't exist in the city. In Spanish language the word for city is the same as the word for caution or warning.
To me this is an extended view of the difficult moral choices that people living in a city make. Dating, marriage & ethics in an economic environment. 'The Naked City' (1948) also covers this territory. I would classify this movie as a universal type story. Film noir films is said to have been made between 1940 & 1958; but I agree with another reviewer that this is an early example.
Star Trek: Discovery (2017)
There are disappointing structures in many modern science fiction projects. A grievous one in this series has two women running a large star ship like they were raising kittens. The have a male figure that they insult on a regular basis. When they confront a problem the four hundred or more people on the ship are irrelevant. The captain & first officer make decisions by playing rock-paper-scissors. The series is hanging on this structure. In the first episode the Klingons are stupid as fence posts. The main characters are different shades of white people and the Klingons are clearly black people. The plot points are arbitrary & do not make sense in a general way. To me this is not evolved thinking, but is a vehicle for graphics and puerile excitement.
Well written story for Star Trek universe explores people
David Weddle & Bradley Thompson have written a multi-arc story that give Colm Meaney & Nicole de Boer a chance to express their characters. I think the other reviewers underestimate how family dynamics can be destructive. My feelings are that Science Fiction is only interesting when it involves personal stories.
Nicole de Boer did a Outer Limits episode, 'Quality of Mercy', with Robert Patrick that is a tour de force of wrenching personal story at the level of William Shatner's airplane monster episode. An actor takes a risk when being involved in an uncomfortable episode because it may seem 'ugly'. I think it is episodes like this that make the Star Trek universe interesting.
Dead Again (1991)
Terrible story/script dooms film despite acting talent
Florida born Scott Frank seemed to borrow from other stories like Vertigo to create a hodge-podge story of cliches. Many people like Quentin Tarantino, but for me both these people lack a feeling for people. Instead they write about situations while characters act without responsibility for their actions. They claim to be clever, but I get a sense they think movie goers are simpletons looking for some kind of action. I am not sure why people find this work artistic. I will probably never buy a picture of dogs playing poker. For a while there was an on-going joke: 'It's not plagiarism, it is a homage'. I see he is a writer for the TV series 'Godless'. It does not surprise me.
Bad horror show writing
The horror show trend of the show (Peckinpah influence?) becomes repetitive in a way. A cliche of this sort of writing occurs when the characters derive a meaning of life from fake monsters & crisis situations. Quinn & Maggie have a 'meaning of life' conversation while faced with another monster episode situation. Lazy work for a writer. The writer's ego creates a fake situation with crazy monsters & bridges the gap with his or her own conclusion about life in general. The writer also throws in a stolen concept from a superhero movie. I think people that do a lot of this type of show or movie actually loves the monsters & foist them on the public pretending that they are the bad guy. It is at it's heart dishonest.
Money Means Nothing (1934)
Horn bit presages Spielberg's 'Close Encounters' music connection
Gloria Shea tries to communicate with Wallace Ford in a auto supply store and tries different car horns to attract his attention. She settles on one that sounds suspiciously like the notes used in 'Close Encounters'. If Steven Spielberg is a film historian, I wonder if this scene stuck in his mind.
This film reminds me of 'My Man Godfrey' in that a rich socialite is trying to attract a common man. This is the first film I can remember with Gloria Shea & she seem to be a formidable actress. She carries her first scene in the film quite well. You would have to ask Spielberg is he sees similarities between Shea & Capshaw. I don't know if this film qualifies as a 'Meet Cute', but I would think so.
The comedy reminds me of Laurel & Hardy.
Peter Gunn: Rough Buck (1958)
Spartan detective drama
This is character driven drama with the players doing an excellent job. Ken Lynch and Herschel Bernardi are excellent without over-acting. Antony Carbone plays a suffering friend well. The production design reminds me of an early, BW Avengers episode with minimal sets and the focus on the words & actions of the characters.
Blake Edwards himself directed (and co-wrote). He knows the context of his series well and confidently keeps the actors in the moment. A comedic bit is added about half way through that shows Edwards' comedic tendency without detracting from the overall flow. This is one of the best examples of episodic television.
Unique show made with a light touch
This was made after a number of serials had been produced and appears to me to be an intentional comedy. As in 'The Stolen Jools', non-sequiturs of established cinematic formulas are produced in great number. Also, Peter Sellers seems to have copied Jack Mulhall's face & characterization of Kennedy in his Pink Panther movies. Sellers may have derived the idea for his wayward hand in 'Dr Strangelove' from the 'clutching hand' premise.
There is a scene where Mulhall as Kennedy walks out of a building to see his car being stolen. That scene seems to be an great deal like a 'Pink Panther' joke and to me was very funny. It is hard for me to convey the spirit of the movie with my description, but the continual misdirections and cinematic 'mistakes' make each episode somewhat like reading a Doonesbury comic strip by Gary Trudeau.
For experienced directors the whole series might be a blooper reel set of examples of what you should not do when putting together a movie.
A Farewell to Arms (1932)
Film as a study of human behavior
This film has, at the beginning several instances of behavior that many films utilize that make me wonder if the behavior was intended by the author, director, or actor. A natural plot point was exhibited when the ambulances were going uphill & someone in back pleaded for the truck to stop because a wounded soldier was 'bleeding to death'. The ambulance could not stop because it was on a grade and stopping was impossible. This would show the cruelty of war. However, when the ambulance reaches the hospital the lieutenant in charge of the ambulance flirts with nurses before arranging for off-loading patients at the hospital. Gary Cooper, as Lieutenant Henry, does his cute-character bit while wounded soldiers are dying in the ambulances.
Did the author intend for the lieutenant to behave with such cruelty? The lieutenant will later desert out of love for his wife. Maybe his whole manner is of a self-involved dandy. But the author has characters mentioning the cruelty of war all the time. But if these people are cruel also, how can they complain.
The character doctor Rinaldi says something along the lines that Christians should not mind being killed, presumably because they go on to their 'reward' of heaven. Did the author write this? Did the author intend the flippant way that the doctor says it? The director shoots a shot of an uncaring lieutenant immediately after the ambulance attendant complains that a soldier is bleeding to death. Was this the intention of the author, the director (or editor) making a statement of their own. Maybe this was a decision by Gary Cooper.
The nurse and lieutenant may complain about the cruelty of war, but their whole affair was the result of them volunteering to be there. Then they proceed to abandon there posts repeatedly.
To me any case to be made for the importance of humanity is undermined by everybody in the 'play' lacking it. The doctor friend of Henry keeps calling Henry his baby & then proceeds to destroy his life by pushing him to alcoholism. Each character seems to say 'I'm human and it is important to be human' & then proceeds to do something cruel. Presumably, the war only ended because of exhaustion and not because of intelligent human thought.
I guess what confuses me is the way the characters (or actors) work very hard, which tends to make me sympathetic to them, but when their behavior is cruel a dissonance is created.
Is there a back-story to this movie?
I liked the movie because, while the back-story was minimalist, there was an underlying story line that still has interest. Any movie that depicts violence takes the chance that the action glorifies that activity. But if you can view the movie without assuming that the main protagonist is correct, then the back-story presents a couple points of view that have current interest. Other movies showing the future as a way of commenting on current society have kept the characters from verbally emoting all the time. Two movies that come to mind are '1984', directed by Michael Anderson, and 'THX1138', directed by George Lucas. James Caan plays his role with understated confidence. I imagine the director is trying to let viewer fill in the details. I may be guilty of over-interpreting, but the director, Norman Jewison, has been involved with movies that have depth ('Moonstruck', 'A Soldier's Story', and 'In the Heat of the Night'). I was surprised, when watching the DVD version that I recently bought, by the stark beauty of some of the settings. Sir Ralph Richardson makes an appearance in one of these locations that is memorable. If you do not agree with any idea that the movie presents, it at least presents some ideas, some action, and some beautiful, though stark settings.