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WNM Movie Night Liner Notes

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Search Feature

Search Title: Search Director: Year Seen:  

2005

Title: Director [Year]
"Romancing the Stone" Robert Zemeckis [1984]
"The Rocky Horror Picture Show" Jim Sharman [1975]
"Stalingrad" Joseph Vilsmaier [1993]
"Cold Comfort Farm" John Schlesinger [1995]
"Dead Like Me" several [2003]
"Fever Pitch" Peter and Bobby Farrelly [2005]
"Caddyshack" Harold Ramis [1980]
"Cellular" David R. Ellis [2004]
"Gates of Heaven" Errol Morris [1978]
"Spanglish" James L. Brooks [2004]
"Collateral" Michael Mann [2004]
"Crash" Paul Haggis [2004]
"A Very Long Engagement" DIRECTOR [2004]
"Straw Dogs" Sam Packinpaw [1971]
"Major Dundee" Sam Packinpaw [1965]
"Night and the City" Jules Dassin [1950]
"The Girl in the Cafe" David Yates [2005]
"Untergang, Der(Downfall)" Oliver [2004]

* Indicates that our staff is still researching the information for the review, Stay Tuned!™

Liner Notes.

© 2005 WNM and the respective authors. "All Rights Reserved."


"Romancing the Stone" [Robert Zemeckis] 1984

"Romancing the Stone [1984] was a very popular comedy that was directed by Robert Zemeckis and starred Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito.

"This is a movie about a NYCity author of romance novels who gets caught up in the perilous hunt for a huge lost jewel. Unlike her heroines, in real life Turner‘s character, has a boring and unromantic life. This changes when she receives a letter telling her that if she does not go down to a town in South America with a treasure map, her sister will be killed.

"The writer is hopeless by herself, in so far over her head she does not know it. Fortunately, a savvy fellow, played by Douglas meets her and they form a partnership of necessity. They must evade the criminal munchkin played by DeVito and crooked cops, all of whom want the jewel.

"This writing and acting make this film a good piece of entertainment. There is nothing very special here, it is after all escapist fluff, but what it does, it does well."

--ggf

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"The Rocky Horror Picture Show" [Jim Sharman] 1975

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show [1975] was directed by Jim Sharman. If featured a little known cast (at the time) including Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter and an fresh, vibrant, sexy role by Susan Sarandon (Janet Weiss) . Ms. Sarandon and others sang their own songs. With a guest appearance by Meatloaf as Rocky.

"This film is a story of a newly-wed couple that has car trouble while Richard M. Nixon is talking on the radio - can we blame this on him too? They wander into a castle, where the Master is having one of his special affairs. Riff-raff, Magenta and Columbia are his domestic help. Rocky his creation. In a few days the visitors deiced it‘s time to return to their planet and it‘s bye bye to the castle and it‘s occupants. Not surprisingly, there is no sequel in the works. It‘s a must see - particularly before your kids do!

"Don‘t be shocked -- "It‘s really not all that bad, now is it [Janet/Brad]?"

"This is a timeless cult film still shown every Friday night at midnight at the Nuart in West Los Angeles and many other showing are still going on -- 30 years later!

"It has become a staple at the WNM River trip for the Friday night movie. We will probably haver to move it to the second film, as things like Cars and Wall-E are more popular at 8:00 PM.

"The songs are also a staple for Weddings and bar/bah mitzvahs -- especially the ‘Time Warp‘. Play it any time and you are sure to fill a dance floor.

"Ms. Sarandon went on to have a long, successful career in movies and Mr. Curry has been recently seen on Brodway in Spamalot! Sarandon is still so popular that she even made a guest appearance on the Graham Norton Show."

--ggf

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"Stalingrad" [Joseph Vilsmaier] 1993

"Stalingrad [1993] is a German film and was directed by Joseph Vilsmaier. This had a huge budget for a German movie and it looks like it.

"Stalingrad was a disaster of epic proportions. Some 700,000 Russian and 300,000 Germans died there in WWII and many historians consider this the key disaster that cost the Nazis the war.

"This film concentrates its horror at the small unit level as it follows the fortunes of several individuals. This is clearly an anti-war film, but it is told from the German point of view, which could irritate some viewers.

"The film sometimes seems almost matter-of-fact in its shooting style. The horrors here are brutally depicted. One sees von Paulus‘ 6th Army disintegrate as it is surrounded and its stocks of food vanish while the Russian winter freezes to death huge numbers on both sides.

"Although unpleasant to watch, this is almost unique in its realistic depiction of a massive military disaster and can be recommended for that reason alone."

--ggf

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"Cold Comfort Farm" [John Schlesinger] 1995

"Cold Comfort Farm [1995] is one of many good TV movie productions made in Britain. It is based upon the very successful satirical novel by Stella Gibbons abouut life in rural England in the 1930s. A well-known Hollywood director was chosen to helm this project, John Schlesinger. The adaptation by Malcolm Bradbury does provide Schlesinger and the actors the material needed to make a good film.

"The story revolves around a young woman, Flora Poste, played by Kate Beckinsale, who was living in a family of considerable means. However, her parents are killed and young Flora must now live on only 100 pounds a year, which is impossible. She writes to her few eccentric relatives for help and decides to go live with the rural Starkadder family on their farm. The Starkadders turn out to be a complete set of eccentric rural stereotypes that Flora tries hopelessly to reform.

"There is an awful lot that can go wrong when filming a satire based upon a book. Often much of the humor depends on language and imagined places. Here however pretty much everything works well. The cast is loaded with talent that is well displayed. Unless you are in a foul mood and have never read traditional English novels, it is hard to see how one could not be entertained watching this. Just don‘t expect it to be Anna Karenina."

--ggf

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"Dead Like Me" [several] 2003

"Dead Like Me [2003] is a TV series made for Showtime. This is a collaborative effort with several writers and several directors. It was primarily written though by Bryan Fuller and Stephen Godchaux.

"The principals are Georgia Lass, a young woman played by Ellen Muth and Rube Sofer, played by Mandy Patinkin, who is her boss. Both of these do fine jobs, with Patinkin especially good as a weary, considerate, but no-nonsense boss.

"This is hands down one of the best written and inventive TV series every screened. The supporting characters are well drawn and rarely does an episode fail to be well above average for any TV series.

"The overall theme is that Georgia was killed in a freak accident when she was 18 and immediately awakes to find herself recruited as one of the local ‘grim reapers‘, who are responsible for starting the souls of others on their way after death.

"The unique twist on this is that reapers inhabit normal human bodies and must work like everyone else. They don‘t look like their former selves though so that they will not confuse anyone that they knew before they died.

"It is really surprising how well this series turned out. It only lasted for two seasons. Both were good."

--ggf

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"Fever Pitch" [Peter and Bobby Farrelly] 2005

"Fever Pitch [2005] is a comedy by the Farrelly brothers Peter and Bobby. While what they usually make are successful but sophomoric farces like There‘s Something About Mary [1998], here they have slightly more serious material to work with and they do a pretty good job with it.

"The movie is about a romance between a man and woman from two very different backgrounds. Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore play Lindsey and Ben, who are both 30‘ish. Ben is a high-school teacher who is an obsessed Red Sox fan. She is a high octane business executive and very well paid.

"The miscommunication, trials and tribulations between the two form the core of this film, which true to form, reaches a happy conclusion because love must conquer all. Although this sounds a bit silly and risks becoming merely broad comedy, it is a step above that and entertaining to watch."

--ggf

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"Caddyshack" [Harold Ramis] 1980

"Caddyshack [1980] is a comedy directed by Harold Ramis that stars Chevy Chase and Bill Murray. Both are ably served by comedic co-stars Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight.

"Since Ramis worked as a sketch comedian with Chase, Murray, John Belushi and Gilda Radner prior to Saturday Night Live, one expects the comedy here to be broad, but well executed. The movie does not disappoint as far as sketch comedy goes, but it does not have a strong story line.

"This film is a string of sketches weakly held together by a number of sub-plots that revolve around a country club and the characters in it. Perhaps the strongest performance is by Rodney Dangerfield, whose sketches are very funny and he almost steals the show in comparison to the others.

"Lack of organization is the film‘s big weakness. It is however very funny at times and entertaining."

--ggf

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"Cellular" [David R. Ellis] 2004

"Cellular [2004] was directed by David R. Ellis and stars Kim Basinger and Chris Evans.

"Home invaders have kidnapped a teacher, played by Basinger, and locked her in the attic of a house somewhere. There is something those men want from her husband, but she has no idea what it is. Furthermore, she knows what they look like, so she supposes they mean to kill her and her son, as they are looking for him as well.

"The hook here is that although the kidnappers have smashed the old phone in the attack she is in, she can piece it back together enough to be able to place calls at random. She finally contacts a young man on a cell phone, played by Evans, who feels she may not be a crank call. He tries to convince the authorities of her sincerity and let her talk to them. Additional suspense and frustration rises from a number of obstacles thrown in the way. The police, for example, initially believe she is a crank caller.

"The characters here are believable and their actions make sense given the situation. The basic idea is simple, but the writing and execution are such that the viewer is drawn in, making this a surprisingly effective suspense film."

--ggf

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"Gates of Heaven" [Errol Morris] 1978

"Gates of Heaven [1978] was directed by Errol Morris. This is a documentary that examines pet cemeteries and their owners in California. While this sounds like an invitation to lampoon a small and excessively odd sub-culture in California, this film honestly tries to acquaint the viewer with the trials and failures of the protagonists who honestly love pets and try to honor them and their owners by creating pet cemeteries. Unfortunately, they have little or no business sense and so are almost certainly doomed to fail. While watching it, the viewer slowly realizes it is a tragedy about what has been lost and the resulting loneliness. While not entertaining, it is certainly heartfelt.

"Morris is a well-respected documentary director who has several awards under his belt, including the Oscar for Best Documentary for Fog of War [2003]. His other well- known documentaries include: A Brief History of Time [1991], which is about the work of Stephen Hawking, Fast Cheap and Out of Control [1997] and the superb The Thin Blue Line [1988], about the corrupt justice system in Dallas, TX."

--ggf

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"Spanglish" [James L. Brooks] 2004

"Spanglish [2004] is basically a light comedy that was written and directed by James L. Brooks. It stars Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni and Paz Vega.

"This is an enjoyable film to watch. It has a mix of comedy and drama that is applied to a situation common in upper-class families in Los Angeles. Sandler and Leoni are too busy to properly run their household. Like many do, they hire a live-in maid who is young, from the barrio and who has a family of her own to support. There are the usual complement of difficulties caused by husband and wife behaving in strange ways, but not so difficult that they cannot be solved with a bit of help.

"The contrast in wealth and behavior is somewhat uncomfortable for the viewer, who may feel a bit guilty, but this is leavened with enough comedy to dull that sufficiently so that you can have a good time. This is not a message movie. Some have criticized it for its wobbling between comedy and drama. Have it your own way.

"Brooks is a very accomplished writer and director. He is best known for Terms of Endearment [1983] for which he won three Oscars, Best Picture, Director and Screenplay based on another work. He has been nominated five more times."

--ggf

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"Collateral" [Michael Mann] 2004

"Collateral [2004] is a thriller directed by Michael Mann and written by Stuart Beattie. It stars Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx.

"Foxx plays Max, a nighttime cab driver in Los Angeles, who dreams of starting a limo business. One night he picks up an apparently wealthy and well dressed client named Vincent. Vincent is played by Cruise. Vincent says he has a few places to stop and offers Max a large fee. What Max finds out quickly is that Vincent is a professional hit man who must eliminate a few targets that night. Max must now drive Vincent around with the realization that he might not survive to see the next day. Vincent is not strictly speaking a monster. He is urbane. Max tries to figure out how he can survive and Vincent leads him on. This keeps the viewer‘s attention as does the various goings on as Max drives Vincent around.

"What sets this film apart is its writing. This is not a simple contrived thriller. It is intelligently written by Beattie, well acted and well paced by Mann. This movie was quite a pleasant surprise when viewed and is well worth a watch."

--ggf

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"Crash" [Paul Haggis] 2004

"Crash [2004] is a drama directed and largely written by Paul Haggis. The film has an ensemble cast that includes Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Tony Danza and Matt Dillon.

"This is a good film, although perhaps over-hyped due to its subject matter. It won three Oscars: for best picture, screenplay and editing. Haggis‘ previous screenplay was for Million Dollar Baby [2004], which was a truly fine film. In my opinion the screenplay here is perhaps more difficult to write, but not quite as good.

"The film follows connections between several people in Los Angeles over a couple of days. These interaction occur between people of different ethnic, racial and income backgrounds.

"Racism plays a part in some of these stories. In general the racism is not the nasty overt kind, it is stereotyping. However, it still makes the viewer a bit uncomfortable. You can recognize the racist comments when some of the characters speaking them apparently do not.

"As with any film that is politically correct for its time and celebrated, one wonders whether it will stand the test of time."

--ggf

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"A Very Long Engagement" [DIRECTOR] 2004

"A Very Long Engagement [2004] is the English title for the French film Unlong dimanche de fiançailles that was directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It stars Audrey Tatou

"This is a very good film, sometimes visually stunning and a bit off-beat. This has become almost a trademark of this very talented director, whose previous films of note are the bizarre and funny Delicatessen [1991] La cité des enfants perdus [1995], known here as The City of Lost Children, and the touching Le fabuleux destin d‘Amélie Poulain[2001], which was known here as Amelie.

"A Very Long Engagement is driven by a disaster that occurs in the trenches in WWI. At its center this film is about the devotion of a crippled wife, Mathilde, to her fiance, who was wounded and presumed dead. After the war she receives a letter which suggests that her fiance might not have died. This starts her on a long quest to find out what really happened to him.

"The storyline here is a heartfelt but not overly sweet. It is leavened by a revenge sub-plot. Jeunet has managed here to tone down the somewhat excessive visual oddity he is prone to, but not so much to remove the special look of his films. This is well worth watching."

--ggf

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"Straw Dogs" [Sam Packinpaw] 1971

"Straw Dogs [1971] was directed by and partially written by Sam Packinpaw. It stars Dustin Hoffman and Susan George.

"Hoffman plays a physicist David Sumner. George plays his wife Amy. They are a urban couple who have suffered violence in America and have decided to relocate to a rural area of England to escape those bad memories. Unfortunately, the area they have moved into is also frequented by some local thugs who resent their presence. Unpleasantness increases until Sumner must leave behind his non-violent disposition to defend his wife and home.

"This film followed Peckinpaw‘s critically very well-received The Wild Bunch [1969]. It suffers some by comparison. Whereas many critics thought that the use of violence in Wild Bunch was evocative of a mythic time, deliberate, and in that case necessary, in Straw Dogs they saw the violence as unnecessary and commercially gratuitous.

"Hollywood is sensitive to making big profits when they see a good thing and the Wild Bunch nearly created the trend toward frank and realistic violence. However, to be fair, Straw Dogs is certainly much less violent than Wild Bunch. For one thing it is set in and around a house, with a couple being terrorized by neighborhood thugs. The acting and writing is good, so what bugged many of the critics?

"Straw Dogs was not set in the mythic past, but in the supposedly civilized present. The violence in this film therefore was immediate and tangible. Suspension of disbelief is not as available to the viewer and the movie becomes a reflection on some unpleasant aspects of modern society. Considering that the Vietnam war was still in full swing at the time, one wonders why the critics were so sensitive to the violence in this film.

"For my part, the cramped atmosphere of the house in rural England where the couple is trapped makes the violence more personal and disturbing. Sumner is a flawed husband, whose lack of aggression is itself perhaps the spark that lights the flame. Pushed to the limit though, Sumner reverts to violence, which makes one wonder whether violence is an underlying part of mankind‘s makeup.

"Straw Dogs a bit closer to a horror/slasher film and as a rule critics don‘t like those. Still, there is nothing particularly weak about this film. It just does not rise to the height of The Wild Bunch."

--ggf

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"Major Dundee" [Sam Packinpaw] 1965

"Major Dundee [1965] was directed by Sam Peckinpaw. The film takes place during the Civil War. Major Dundee, played by Charleton Heston. Isolated and short of resources, Dundee must make use of waht he can get to seek out and destroy an Apache band that has been raiding a large area at will.

"Dundee is forced to gather a band of rejects and disreputable and then try to command them in a hard campaign. The rips in the American fabric of the time are not covered up. In particular, racism is quite evident. Dundee himself eventually starts to disintegrate under the pressure.

"This film is sometimes seen as an allegory for the Vietnam war. Some have noted that it foreshadows Apocalypse Now, substituting the desolate west for the jungle. Other elements are here as well: officers hated by their men, insubordination and an uncaring attitude to violence. It is gritty and far removed from the idealized Cowboys and Indians western films made so often by the studios.

"Like Apocalypse Now, this film project was too large for the budget and skills brought to bear on it. Columbia cut 33% of the budget and interfered to the point that Peckinpaw was eventually removed.

"Many would claim that Apocalypse Now was a majestic but seriously flawed film. The same thing seems to be true here. The first half of Dundee is good, but the last half wanders and the writing has clearly dropped a notch. The love aspect that shows up is gratuitous. The mistakes of scale, budget and script were instructive though. When Peckinpaw made his next movie, The Wild Bunch [1969], he made a masterpiece.

"At times during the shooting of this film Peckinpaw was abusive. Famously, Heston and Peckinpaw almost got into a serious sword fight. Equally well known is that Columbia acted in bad faith. The result that was released being less than satisfactory.

"The DVD release attempts to fix some of the problems by restoring several scenes that were cut. It cannot replace what was never shot though. However, it is well worth watching."

--ggf

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"Night and the City" [Jules Dassin] 1950

"Tonight we are watching the film Night and the City [1950]


"Night and the City [1950] is considered by some a masterpiece of film noir. It uses London for its background, which is an unusual noir setting. Richard Widmark gives a stand-out performance as the hapless Harry Fabian, a cheap hustler with much more ambition than he has brains. Living in the world of the fix, Fabian grabs for the brass ring and never knows that he doesn‘t have a chance.

"Night and the City was the last film Jules Dassin directed for Hollywood before HUAC/McCarthy and the Hollywood blacklist ended his career there. Well shot and moodily lit, it very successfully portrays a desolate and hopeless life for those in London‘s small-time criminal undercalss.

"Dassin went on to direct in Europe, where he became more successful than he was in Hollywood. Dassin is generally credited with inventing the ‘heist‘ movie with Rififi [1954]. The films Ocean‘s Eleven [1960] and Reservoir Dogs [1992] are rooted in the ground the Dassin broke. Dassin later met and married Melina Mercouri, with whom he made Never on Sunday [1960] and Topkapi [1964]."

--ggf

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"The Girl in the Cafe" [David Yates] 2005

"The Girl in the Cafe [2005] is directed by David Yates and stars Bill Nighy and Kelly Macdonald. The screenplay is by Richard Curtis, who has written such successful romances as Bridget Jone‘s Diary [2001] and Notting Hill [1999] as well as the Mr. Bean comedy skits.

"This film is well-written and acted comedy/romance that also functions as political drama. It centers around a aging, quiet senior researcher for the Cancellor of the Exchequer, played by Nighy, who against his better judgement falls in love with a much younger political activist, who is played by Macdonald.

"He takes her to a G8 summit meeting, where she causes not a small amount of grief with her outspoken activism. The struggle between his profession and his developing love for her forms the core of this film. Nighy‘s performance here is a fine one and makes you wonder why he has not been more recognized."

--ggf

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"Untergang, Der(Downfall)" [Oliver] 2004

"This evening‘s film will be "Untergang, Der", known in English as "Downfall".


"Downfall stars Bruno Ganz and was directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel. It was nominated for the Oscar for best foreign film and holds #61 on IMDBs list of top films, which places it next to "Bridge on the River Kwai".

"Bruno Ganz is one of Germany‘s best actors, with a long and well respected history. He has won numerous international awards for his work. Downfall has been called by many his best work to date. Ganz‘s best-known english-language film is likely "The Last Days of Chez Nous" [1992], which while good, is not up to the standards of this film.

"Downfall is based upon the memoirs of Traudl Junge, who was Adolf Hitler‘s personal secretary. Shortly before she died in 2002, she wrote the memoirs of her time with Hitler, which lasted from 1942 until his death in 1945. She shares writing credits for this film. Junge was not a Nazi party member, which to a degree shielded her from charges of being an apologist.

"Downfall concerns itself with the final weeks of Hitler‘s life and that of the Goebbels family, which were almost entirely spent in the command bunker in Berlin. It is a personal study of the man and is considered the only depiction to date that captures what he was actually like then. Previous films portray him as simply monstrous, which is both easy to do and safe. Without a detailed eyewitness account by one who was always near him, previous efforts had to fabricate much from whole cloth."

--ggf

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