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The Ring (1927)
silent Alfred Hitchcock
The Girl is a ticket taker at a carnival boxing attraction. "One Round" Jack Sander is the boxer willing to take all comers. He's in love with The Girl and gets jealous when he spots her chatting with a fair-goer. He challenges the man who turns out to be boxing champ Bob Corby. It's the fight of his life and he loses the match. Bob is impressed and offers him a job as his sparring partner. Despite getting married, Bob continues to flirt with Jack's girl. Eventually, the two men would face off in the ring for the love of The Girl.
This is a silent film written and directed by legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. Story-wise, I don't like The Girl. Her gold-digging way is not appealing nor is it romantic. Her character is saved when she does choose Jack before he wins the match. I get the attempt to make her like the spinach for Popeye but her whole journey does not put her in a good light. The marriage is probably the biggest mistake of the movie. As for the camera styles, Hitchcock is showing some imagination. His boxing visuals do need to be more thrilling. He's using some tricks to spice up his boxing action but it's not that thrilling. All in all, Hitchcock's directing skills show his potential but I do question his romance writing and his ability to make a boxing movie.
A Father's Choice (2000)
murder mystery hole
Sisters Kelly (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Chris McClain (Yvonne Zima) have a comfortable well-off living in L. A. A mystery man kills their mom and lets Chris live. The girls go live with their cowboy father Charlie 'Mac' McClain (Peter Strauss) on a ranch for their safety. Their aunt Gayle Miller (Susan Hogan) wants to take them to Chicago. She never liked Mac. Susan Shaw (Mary McDonnell) is from Family Services.
This is "Inspired by a True Story". Inspired usually means close to fictional. It's a fine family film but it leaves the murder mystery unresolved. It seems like a giant hole in the middle of the movie. I kept waiting for the aunt to be the killer or the father to be accused. The aunt accusing the father would seem to be a good courtroom tatic to get custody. If the story could leave out the murder mystery, this would be a fine low intensity family film.
Stakeout on Dope Street (1958)
Roger Corman production
Two cops arrest a criminal with a suitcase full of drugs. Bullets start flying. The criminal throws out the suitcase and is killed. The criminals can't find the bag in the dark and run away. Later, three teens happen upon the bag but it all looks like ladies makeup to them. They throw out the drugs thinking it is worthless pimple powder. After pawning the bag, they read about the shootout in the newspaper. They go retrieve the powder from the garbage dump.
This starts with an interesting premise but this Roger Corman production has its limitations. The acting is limited. The production is limited. It's a B-crime movie. I do start losing interest after the kids find the drugs. The drugs are better off as a MacGuffin because the search for it would be a more compelling story. Cops and criminal searching the pawn shops could find the bag and go down the road of looking for the boys. Actually finding the drugs is the movie's downfall. The teens look silly trying to be thugs selling drugs. It's unreal and uncompelling. This is director Irvin Kershner's first theatrical release and his work is functional.
The Skin Game (1931)
Hitchcock camera work
Two neighboring families with large estates become rivals. The Hillcrists are an old family with a long history on their estate. The Hornblowers are new arrivals buying up local farms to build a factory.
This British talkie film is most notable for its director Alfred Hitchcock. He's obviously trying different ideas. Some work more than others. I couldn't really care less about the characters or the plot. It's Hitchcock's camera work that is the most interesting. First, he's doing long single takes with the dialogue and this does not make it any better. He's operating the camera almost as one of the characters on stage. He's panning the camera back and forth. It's fascinating but it's also not working. There are other filming choices. There are some beautiful visual compositions. There is one crazy single shot scene at the auction. I've seen anything like it and it's better than most modern work. It does go on for too long but that's part of the experimentation. I can't say that I love this movie but I do love Hitchcock trying some interesting ideas.
Abusement Park (1947)
Popeye takes Olive Oly to an amusement park. Bluto starts competing for her attention. This is a colored Popeye cartoon in Cinecolor. It looks pretty good. An amusement park is a rich environment for a cartoon but one thing that becomes noticeable. There is no people in the amusement park. It would have been funny to have clowns. Otherwise, this is fine work and it looks good.
Rumble on the Docks (1956)
Jimmy Smigelski (James Darren) is the leader of the Diggers, a teen gang running around the New York docks area in Brooklyn. Their big rival are the Stompers. Jimmy's father is a honorable business owner who is rallying the locals against the mobsters. Jimmy is befriended by racketeer Joe Brindo who starts pulling him into the criminal world.
James Darren is a good charismatic actor. He's no James Dean but he's plenty James enough. Otherwise, it's all a bit old style 50's teen gangs. It reminds me more of West Side Story than anything else. It does try to be serious but it doesn't have the sharpest edges. Like Jimmy, this movie is a little out of its league.
The Aviator (1985)
In 1918, pilot Edgar Anscombe (Christopher Reeve) nearly dies in a training accident which kills his student. It's 1928. Edgar is a bitter mail plane pilot. Rebellious Tillie Hansen (Rosanna Arquette) is being sent to live with her aunt by her controlling father. She's not happy. Edgar's not happy either to have a passenger.
This was widely panned. I wanted to see what's the issue here. Early on, Rosanna Arquette is pushing too hard. She is so bratty to the point of being annoying. Then I noticed that non of the women are written well. Evelyn is super annoying and Rose is a problem in the romantic structure. Quite frankly, these men need to be alone. They are more compelling as loners. The movie needs to write out the two ladies back home. This is much better as a survival movie. While it wants to ship Edgar and Tillie in its bones, it can't and won't. It does not help that he keeps calling her Kid. Either make Tillie an actual kid or make this an actual romance. It achieves nothing by not being either. The melodrama gets to be too much. The survival against the wolf pack is plenty enough. My final take is that this is not horrible but terribly flawed.
Traveltalks goes to the state of Washington. After some wilderness and Mount Rainier, the show quickly arrives in Seattle. It's the quiet of a pre-war America. They go to a lumber camp where a tree is taken down by a giant chainsaw. The massive lumber port is impressive from the air. We visit Washington State and their university rowing team. I definitely like the lumber camp the most. It would have been great to see more of the men working. This is a fine slice of time.
13 West Street (1962)
Fear the teens
Rocket engineer Walt Sherill (Alan Ladd) has a car breakdown on a deserted street where he gets attacked by a group of teenagers. They get his address from his wallet, 13 West Street. Detective Sergeant Pete Koleski (Rod Steiger) investigates. Facing police heat, the kids retaliate against Walt and his wife.
The 'kids' are very 50's. I don't know any of them. If only there is a future star amongst them, this would be a must-see. It's an interesting little crime drama. It's a horror movie with teenagers as the boogeyman. Fear the teenagers. That's the message and it's a good one for its time. The kids are going wild and overturning the accepted structure. This is a reactionary movie for its time.
Frankenstein 1970 (1958)
Baron Victor von Frankenstein (Boris Karloff) is the last of the line. He needs money for an atomic reactor and reluctantly rents his castle to a film crew. During the war, he refused to work for the Nazis and was punished for it. With his new equipment, he creates his monster but he needs more body parts.
There are a couple of good misdirects with the film crew but the start is rather slow. Despite the kills, there is limited tension. The story moves too slowly for it to be thrilling. It's a lot of Frankenstein doing his operations. The monster is good camp but that takes an hour before he rises. It's good but I want more. This is just too slow. It feels long even with its short running time.
The Bletchley Circle (2012)
interesting characters and fine crime mysteries
During WWII, many women were vital to break the German codes at Bletchley Park. It's seven years after the war. Susan finds herself as a simple housewife and mother of two. Her days of life-and-death work is over. She starts noticing suspicious patterns with murders in the newspapers. Her husband humors her by going to the police but it's hard to be taken seriously. She recruits her fellow Bletchley workers. Millie is the outgoing one. Lucy is the youngest one with an abusive husband. Jean was their supervisor and now works as a librarian.
This is a fine British crime TV mysteries. The superior aspect is the cast and the characters. Bletchley Park is a great backstory. Susan a great character and her issues are compelling. The show could have overdosed with sexism but it is able to find a certain balance. Most of the men are dismissive but they aren't actually hostile. Timothy is a good example. He really loves Susan but he doesn't really know her history or the true extend of her skills. It's a great touch that he is constantly searching for hard puzzles for her. It's both loving but infantilizing. My constant issue is that the ladies are sometimes a little too cavalier with potential dangers. Susan's fears in the second season are well founded. I'm not sure why she gets written out for the last two episodes. All in all, I love the characters and the mysteries are fine.
hints of originality fades into forgettable action
"Infinites" are people who have achieved a form of immortality through reincarnation. They have split into two groups in a battle of good versus evil. Evan McCauley (Mark Wahlberg) has always have knowledge beyond his experience. He forges a sword for a drug dealer in exchange for illegal meds to keep his sanity. He gets arrested and attacked by Bathurst (Chiwetel Ejiofor). He is saved by Nora Brightman who brings him into the world of the Infinites.
This seems to have an intriguing elevator pitch. It's the story of reincarnation as a superhero movie. So the start seems fine. The drug dealer, the police station, and the epic escape are all fine. Once the movie starts doing expositions, it completely stalls. Wahlberg starts reverting back to his Wahlberg mannerisms. It's the blandest of action thrillers and the most bombastic. It takes any hint of original concept and turns it into forgettable non-descript action.
Wild Patagonia (2015)
It's a 3 part BBC nature show about South America's Patagonia region. It has a sparse human population and encompasses a wild range of rugged landscapes. It's the tail of South America sandwiched by two rough oceans and dominated by the spine of the Andes mountains. It's furthest south than all landmasses other than Antarctica. It is often otherworldly. It is unique. It is BBC nature. They certainly know how to do these shows and this is a fine one. It gets a sense of this isolated place.
Judy & Punch (2019)
can be infuriating
Judy (Mia Wasikowska) and Punch (Damon Herriman) are a married couple with a rambunctious puppet show in the small medieval town of Seaside which is nowhere near the sea. Judy is worried that Punch is making the show more and more violent. She dislikes the brutality of the town which includes stoning for superstitions. Punch is a drunk and causes the death of their baby. When she confronts him, he brutally beats her and leaves her for dead. He reports them missing to the new naive constable Derrick and riles up the town to hang the two innocent servants.
Watching a serious movie about dumb people can be infuriating. That's the feeling of this movie for the most part. I do like the style and the theme. While Punch is frustrating, Judy's journey is compelling. I don't really like the ending where the town learns a lesson. It seems more appropriate to burn the whole place down. The story is screaming for something more explosive. I certainly understand the idea of the goodness of the puppet show and its redemptive qualities. It's not as satisfying as I want.
Rome Adventure (1962)
21 year old librarian Prudence Bell (Suzanne Pleshette) is called on the carpet for loaning a personal romance novel to a student. She quits in protest and sets off for romantic Italy. Her mother wants her to be accompanied by proper boy Albert Stillwell but she mistakenly picks up slick older gentleman Roberto Orlandi. They follow her into Rome where she encounters American architect Don Porter (Troy Donahue) who is struggling with his ex-lover Lyda Kent (Angie Dickinson).
This is a beautiful travelogue but it's not much else. The romance is overshadowed by the scenery. This would be a wonderful half hour of Italy but I don't see much to do for the rest of the two hours.
An Hour Behind (2017)
great chemistry but not much else
Romantically-challenged Trish Harper (Emily Rose) runs a cupcake store. She's working on a competition for the money to start a second store. Her sister sets her up on a blind date with Adam. She accidentally breaks her phone and she shows up late to the date due to Daylight Savings. She sits down with Parker (Barry Watson) assuming that he's her blind date.
Rose and Watson have a great combative chemistry together. The movie needs an upgrade with Adam. It needs a better story to create real tension. A better Adam would make it a higher hurdle for this romance. As it stands, this has an appealing couple but not much else.
Mannequin: On the Move (1991)
In an old-timey kingdom, the Queen (Cynthia Harris) disapproves of Prince William (William Ragsdale) having a romance with peasant girl Jessie (Kristy Swanson). The Queen's Sorcerer (Terry Kiser) turns her into a wooden statue for a 1000 years. It's almost 1000 years later. The story has become legend and her statue has become a tourist attraction. It's a part of a traveling attraction going to a Philadelphia store.
There is nothing here. It's sequel to the original which had some unexpected success. This one has a different curse. The actors have nothing. The characters are either completely bland or stupidly broad. The meet-cute is not cute. I'm also not sure if it could be classified as the first meet. There is potential for fish-out-of-water comedy but non of this works. I'm just not sure if I hate it enough to care. I don't think I care about anything here.
In Italy, Mickey King (Michael Caine) is a prolific pulp writer working under various pen names. He gets recruited to ghostwrite for a mystery man. He boards a tour bus and told to wait for his contact. He encounters a mysterious murder and other strange occurrences. Finally, he meets his subject, Preston Gilbert (Mickey Rooney).
I like the general surreal tone of this journey. It meanders a bit but I actually would like the injection of more strangeness. It needs to get weirder. It's holding back. Michael Caine is a little too cool for school. He needs to get in touch with his inner Kafka. In the end, it falls a bit short. It could have been a cult classic but it's only half-forgotten pulp.
The Holcroft Covenant (1985)
premise starts great but deteriorates
Noel Holcroft (Michael Caine) is a successful American architect in NYC. He reluctantly meets Ernst Manfredi in Europe who tells him that his late father had left him in charge of a $4.5 billion fund. It's not appealing news. He and his mother escaped Germany soon after WWII. His father was a high level Nazi in charge of finance who with two other Nazi officials planned to use the money as redemption for their sins.
The starting premise is intriguing. It has lots of potential but it becomes less coherent with every revelation. Each twist and turn make me question Noel's competence. I can buy that he doesn't know what to do but I wouldn't trust anybody in this movie. My first move would be to hire my own lawyers and security to check on this chunk of money. I would find out everything about this mysterious account before signing a single thing. Quite frankly, we don't even know the composition of this fund. It's left rather murky. As far as the list of names, that idea doesn't make sense either. Has the list been kept secret for 40 years? How would that be relevant after all that time? Who keeps it updated? Couldn't the list be retrieved from him? The story keeps drifting further and further away until it collapses into nothingness. In addition, Michael Caine's British accent doesn't make sense. He's an American with German parents.
The Trainer (2013)
I said, no pie...
Annie Hogan (Chelsea Hobbs) is struggling in her life and lacks confidence. She joins a gym where she's approached by Alex Sullivan (Sunny Mabrey). Annie signs a contract and Alex soon takes over her life.
The "no pie" line is hilarious. This movie doesn't have the foresight to be a comedy. It also doesn't have it to be anything else. It's not scary as a stalker horror. It has no good thrills or mystery. The reveal lacks punch. The movie shows its hand right from the start. It's a TV B-movie. I'm guessing that Lifetime wants it to be a scary movie for single gals of a certain age and a certain type. I simply kept waiting for this to do something interesting and nothing ever did.
David Attenborough and scientist Johan Rockström pleads for action in the fight against global warming. Climate change and biodiversity collapse is threatening the world. In every environmental measurement, the world is walking willingly into the danger zone and we are running out of time.
David Attenborough brings his environmental message to Netflix. While I approve of the message, I always judge these on two standards. They either convince disbelievers or rally supporters. I don't think that this does either. First, I would reconsider the idea of the danger zone and the graphics of non-descript human figures slowly walking. I would make some of the figures be animal species and have them fall off the edge. I would zero in on one recently extinct species and do a story on that species. The most powerful section of the whole hour is the five minutes or so with the lady researcher crying over the Australian wildfires. It's really the only compelling part of the film. The rest is a lot of talking heads complaining. While I support the complaints, it's preaching to the choir and quite frankly, it's more like preaching on Super Bowl Sunday. People are just itching to leave the church. Finally, there is the section on COVID 19. It's a little annoying with the narration saying that we are the cause of the pandemic and yet it shows only images of the western world. I thought the virus originated from China in a wet market. How is Times Square responsible when nobody is eating bats there? Somebody needs to be as careful with making this film as the scientist claims to be as careful with his research.
Ghost Chasers (1951)
The Boys and the Ghost
The Bowery Boys get involved with spiritualism. Uncle Louie is desperate to contact Jake on the other side. Slip smells a con with his mother is being tricked by a spiritualist. It turns out to be a vast network of con people headed by famous spiritualist Margo the Medium. Sach meets an actual ghost and only he can see it.
It's another Scooby-Doo adventure with The Bowery Boys. It would be more compelling if Slip's mom is being tricked directly by Margo the Medium. It would make their revenge more delicious. It's set to be a fine adventure and then it adds a fun little twist, Edgar. I like Edgar and the premise that only Sach can see him. It has lots of potential fun. It's a bit of a mess but it's The Bowery Boys.
The Italian Job (1969)
fun car chase
Unreformed criminal Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) is released from prison and set to do an Italian job. His friend was killed by the Italian mafia over the job. He takes over to steal some $4 million gold shipment.
This is a movie having fun with the genre. Caine is doing it with a wink and a smile. Most of it is stylish and fun but it all boils down to the fun car chase with the three Mini-Coopers. It is inventive. It's ridiculous. It's non-sensical at times but that doesn't matter. I don't care how many rooftops the cars climb onto because it looks like ridiculous fun.
Gildersleeve's Ghost (1944)
Two Gildersleeve ghosts discover experiments being conducted by mad scientist Dr. John Wells which include an invisible woman and an escaped gorilla. Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve is running for police commissioner against the incumbent Haley. His niece and nephew want to campaign for him in costumes, Leroy in a gorilla costume. This leads a mistaken identity and a hunt for a real gorilla although Haley believes that it's a PR stunt.
It's a minor comedy. The outlandish premise has some screwball potential. I don't know much about the comedic stylings of Harold Peary. It feels like that he's one half of a comedic duo and he struggling to fill both roles. With his tone, he should be a fraidy cat running from ghosts and other monsters. Chauncey dealing with the invisible woman is probably the funniest bits but one has to ignore the bad stereotype. He has a good amount of fraidy cat tone but he can go overboard. This would work better with more slapstick and physical humor. It's all a little less funny than the wacky premise should be able to deliver.
Greyhounds of the Sea (1968)
lots of old footage
This black and white documentary about the American destroyers is produced by the U. S. Naval Photographic Center for Chief of Information. It's narrated by Jack Webb with his Dragnet voice. It's a lot of real ship footage starting with the supposed first American destroyer USS Bainbridge. It goes through the general progression. The main section has the fight against the Japanese in the Pacific. It ends with a few modern ships in the Korean war. It is very old style. The old pre-WWII photos are interesting. The WWII footage is well worn. The Korean era ships may be interesting at its time although dated by the time of the Vietnam war. It's a 50's military propaganda film as a new conflict approaches.