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WNM Movie Night Liner Notes

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Search Feature

Search Title: Search Director: Year Seen:  

2009

Title: Director [Year]
"State of Play"* (TV) David Yates [2003]
"Rendition"* Gavin Hood [2007]
"The Visitor"* Thomas McCarthy writer/director [2007]
"Tony Rome"* Gordon Douglas [1967]
"Frozen River"* Courtney Hunt writer/director [2008]
"Tough Guys Don‘t Dance"* Norman Mailer writer/director [1987]
"Charley Varrick"* Don Siegel [1973]
"Killing Hitler"* Jeremy Lovering, documentary [2003]
"The Dark Knight"* Christopher Nolan [2008]
"In the Electric Mist"* Bertrand Tavernier [2009]
"Bella Martha (Mostly Martha)"* Sandra Nettelbeck writer/director [2001]
"La Scorta"* Ricky Tognazzi [1993]
"Wanted"* Timur Bekmambetov [2008]
"Bottle Shock"* Randall Miller writer/director [2008]
"Chocolat"* Claire Denis writer/director [1988]
"Efter brylluppet (After the Wedding)"* Susanne Bier [2006]
"Hobson‘s Choice"* David Lean [1954]
"Charlie Wilson‘s War"* Mike Nichols [2007]
"The Last of Shelia" Herbert Ross [1973]
"In a Lonely Place"* Nicholas Ray [1950]
"Ne le dis a persone (Tell No One)"* Guillaume Canet writer/director [2006]
"Swades: We the People"* Ashutosh Gowariker writer/director [2004]
"While She Was Out"* Susan Montford writer/director [2008]
"The Thomas Crown Affair"* Norman Jewison [1968]
"Voyage of the Damned"* Stuart Rosenberg [1976]
"Ronin"* John Frankenheimer [1998]
"Johnny Got His Gun" Dalton Trumbo [1971]
"Special"* Hal Haberman writer/director [2006]
"Twilight" Robert Benton [1998]
"The First Deadly Sin" Brian G. Hutton [1980]
"Der Tunnel (The Tunnel)" Roland Suso Richter [2001]
"Five Days"* (TV) Otto Bathurts/Simon Curtis [2007]
"White Dog"* Sam Fuller writer/director [1981]
"The Counterfeit Traito"* George Seaton [1962]
"Shooting the Past"* (TV) Stephen Poliakoff writer/director [1999]
"Le papillon (The Butterfly)"* Philippe Muyl writer/director [2002]
"Dresden - das Inferno"* (TV) Roland Suso Richter [2006]
"Burn Notice"* various directors (TV) [2007]
"The Taking of Pelham 123"* Tony Scott [2009]
"Le grand blond avec une chaussure noire (The Blonde Man with One Black Shoe)"* Yves Robert [1972]
"Vinyan" Fabrice Du Welz [2008]
"Wide Sargasso Sea"* John Duigan [1993]
"The Friends of Eddie Coyle" Peter Yates [1973]
"Romeo Is Bleeding" Peter Medak [1993]
"The Bank Job" Roger Donaldson [2008]
"Man on Fire" Tony Scott [2004]
"Sliver" Phillip Noyce [1993]
"Kiss of Death" Henry Hathaway [1947]
"House of Wax" Andre De Toth [1953]
"La historia oficial (The Official Story)" Luis Puenzo [1985]
"A Soldier‘s Story" Norman Jewison [1984]
"Hope and Glory" John Boorman [1987]
"Bonfire of the Vanities" Brian De Palma [1990]
"Lonely Are the Brave" David Miller [1962]
"Good Bye Lenin!" Wolfgang Becker [2003]
"Swimming With Sharks" George Huang [1994]
"Angel Eyes" Luis Mandoki [2001]
"The year of Living Dangerously" Peter Weir [1982]
"Captain Corelli‘s Mandolin" John Madden [2001]
"Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran" Francois Dupeyron [2003]
"Underworld U.S.A." Samuel Fuller [1961]
"Joyeux Noel" Christian Carion [2005]
"Hotel New Hampshire" Tony Richardson [1984]
"Salo o le 120 giornate di Sodoma" Pier Paolo Pasolini [1975]
"Tough Guys Don't Dance"* Norman Mailer [1987]
"Foyle's War: Season 6, Episode 2 "Broken Souls""* Anthony Horowitz (TV) [2008]
"Hobson's Choice"* David Lean [1954]
"Charlie Wilson's War"* Mike Nichols [2007]
"The Counterfeit Traitor"* George Seaton [1962]
"A Soldier's Story"* Norman Jewison [1984]
"All Passion Spent"* Martyn Friend [1986]
"That Hamilton Woman"* Alexander Korda [1941]
"Fracture"* Gregory Hoblit [2007]
"A Very British Coup"* Mick Jackson (TV) [1988]
"Taken"* Pierre Morel [2008]
"Captain Corelli's Mandolin"* John Madden [2001]
"Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran (Monsieur Ibrahim)"* Pierre Boulanger [2003]
"Aideista parhan (Mother of Mine)"* Klaus Haro [2005]
"The Politician's Wife"* Graham Theakston (TV) [1995]
"Joyeaux Noel"* Christian Carion [2005]

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

Liner Notes.

© 2009 WNM and the respective authors. "All Rights Reserved."


"The Last of Shelia" [Herbert Ross] 1973

"This is an Australian film about a bunch of randy men in a small, out of the way mining town who must compete for the favors of the only woman remaining in town ... Oh no, sorry, I got confused. That movie is "The Last Sheila". This is what happens when you have seen too many films.

""The Last of Sheila" is a smartly written mystery, by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins. The film was made in 1973 and generally got fine reviews. A bunch of wealthy Hollywood types with sharp tongues go on a yacht to solve a murder mystery by playing a sophisticated game arranged by the wealthy producer, whose wife was murdered a year ago, perhaps by one of the guests.

"Each of the guests was in fact a hot Hollywood ticket at the time: Dyan Cannon, Richard Benjamin, James Coburn, James Mason, Raquel Welch, Joan Hackett and Ian McShane, which makes the wicked conversation and insider comments seem natural."

--ggf

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"Johnny Got His Gun" [Dalton Trumbo] 1971

"Johnny Got His Gun concerns a young US soldier who was blinded and had his arms and legs blown off in WWI just before the armistice. It is an intensely anti-war film in message, but unlike the better known All Quiet On the Western Front [1930], it includes almost no war scenes, instead concentrating almost exclusively on what the soldier thinks about as he lies trapped in a body, lying in a bed for year after year, unable to speak or see, tended to by medical staff who believe for years that he has no consciousness. Johnny relives what he can remember about his past, his fiancée, his father, others he knew and fantasizes about Christ.

"This film is considered a classic by many critics and as a poor film by others. The split occurs because some consider it honest and non-preachy, while others consider it too staged. It is not an easy film to watch and has a consistently depressing atmosphere. Trumbo uses color to denote how Johnny sees his world in his dreams, but uses B&W to depict what happens in the real world around him. In the end Johnny finally is able to communicate with the outside world, but his military doctors refuse to honor his request and allow him to die, leaving him forever trapped in his bodily prison.

"Dalton Trumbo is a legendary figure in Hollywood history. He was one of the Hollywood Ten who were held in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in 1947 to protect the rights of free assembly and speech. Eventually, approximately 160 writers, directors, composers, musicians, journalists, actors and actresses were blacklisted. Attacking Trumbo as an un-American figure in Hollywood was historically peculiar insofar as he wrote perhaps the most successful pro-war propaganda film for the US, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo [1944].

"Trumbo is also a tragic figure, because he felt the need to name the names of those who might be pro-Nazi sympathizers in 1941, but was himself named as a Communist sympathizer in 1947. His acting as an informant for the FBI badly tarnished his reputation as did his adherence to non-intervention by the USA as long as Nazi Germany adhered to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of non-aggression. Trumbo was a member of the Communist Party USA from 1943 until 1948.

"Trumbo was a very talented screenwriter and wrote The Brave One [1956], using the front (false) name of Robert Rich, for which he was awarded an Oscar. He was also posthumously awarded the Oscar for Roman Holiday [1953] for which a stand-in had taken credit to shield him.

"Otto Preminger and Kirk Douglas brave enough to allow Trumbo to use his real name again in credits for the films Exodus [1960] and Spartacus [1960. This helped bring about a rapid end to the blacklist era.

"Johnny Got His Gun [1971] was directed by Dalton Trumbo and is based upon the novel of the same name which he wrote in 1939."

--ggf

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"Twilight" [Robert Benton] 1998

"Twilight is a modern film-noir written by Robert Benton and Richard Russo and directed by Benton. It stars three veterans approaching the end of their careers: James Garner, Paul Newman and Gene Hackman. The leading lady is played by Susan Sarandon. The supporting cast includes Stockard Channing.

"There is no question that this film features a cast of heavyweights that provide almost overwhelming presence. The title presumably refers to the fact that the three leading men are in the twilight of their years and well past their prime.

"Critics split over this film, some giving it and A rating, while others thought it mediocre. Why escapes me. The acting is well above average throughout. The story is a good one and the basic noir formula is followed to a tee. The setting makes sense. The locations are good. So what is wrong?

"Some critics complained that the aging actors were visually old and unappealingly sophisticated. Smart people get old too. Tough luck.

"Some critics considered the plot absurd. Baloney! As plots go this one makes sense. A wealthy man paid to cover up what he assumes is his wife‘s murder of her lover, because he knew she would come back to him, which she did, staying with him subsequently through thick and thin. Both husband and wife are devoted to one another, if admittedly they dally a bit.

"Years go by and a retired, crooked detective decides that lover‘s supposed disappearance is too pat. He and a dishonest probation officer decide to investigate with the objective of blackmail. Unknown to them, the husband and wife were blackmailed years ago by someone a lot smarter than them and none of the original players want the grief caused by newcomers nosing around. It is into this mess that Paul Newman, an ex-cop, friennd and retired private detective steps. This is a good, entertaining noir."

--ggf

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"The First Deadly Sin" [Brian G. Hutton] 1980

"The First Deadly Sin [1980] is directed by Brian G. Hutton and written by Mann Rubin based on the Lawrence Sanders novel. The basic plot is not surprising. A detective hunts for a smart serial killer in Manhattan. One thing makes this film rise above its genre, the lead character is Frank Sinatra who plays a weary, aging detective just about to retire.

"This role was essentially Sinatra‘s swan song and he did a good job with it. Sinatra inhabits this role, neither looking nor sounding pretty. This was quite a change from the pop-shlock roles he played earlier, such as in Tony Rome [1967], Lady In Cement [1968] and Dirty Dingus Magee [1970], all of which were unimpressive material.

"While there is nothing particularly special about this film, it is a good piece of entertainment that is well put together.

"The director, Brian Hutton, started as an actor and essentially never rose above supporting roles. By the mid-1960s he had switched to directing and had fairly quick commercial success with Where Eagles Dare [1968] and Kelly‘s Heroes [1970], both WWII yarns. As an amazing career change, Hutton stopped directing in the mid-1980s and became a plumber. There is probably an interesting story there somewhere."

--ggf

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"Der Tunnel (The Tunnel)" [Roland Suso Richter] 2001

"Der Tunnel (The Tunnel) [2001] was directed by Roland Suso Richter. Based loosely upon actual events, the story begins during the construction of the Berlin wall in 1961. A group of East Germans tries to escape before it becomes too difficult. Some make it and others do not. Those that do decide to dig a tunnel under the wall to get out their loved ones. East German intelligence tries to discover and stop them.

"Heino Ferch plays Harry Melchior, the central character, an East German swimming champion who decided to escape. His sister was caught and remains in the East. Melchior collects sufficient help and skilled individuals to dig his tunnel, making this a large-scale enterprise subject to great risks as the number of people they seek to get out of East Germany grows.

"This is a reasonably taught suspense film, weakened by the treatment of the tunneling, which is both somewhat unbelievable and formulaic. That the hero is nearly buried alive by a cave in is a cliche. It is amusing to see an NBC TV crew blackmailing their way into an exclusive right to film the affair, which has been called by some an early step to ‘reality‘ TV. It is the ‘reality‘ that this escape actually did occur that raises this film a notch."

--ggf

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"Vinyan" [Fabrice Du Welz] 2008

"Vinyan [2008] is a European-flavor horror film directed by Fabrice Du Welz and stars the well-known French actress Emmanuelle Beart, who plays a mother Jeanne who recently lost her young son. Her husband Paul is played by Rufus Sewell, a veteran British actor.

"Du Welz is a relatively new European writer/director who generated some controversy with his recent horror film Calvaire [2004]. That film combined elements of a slasher film with that of sexual deviance and cretinous inbreeding. It was at once uncommon and unsettling. Not for the faint of heart, if horror films attract you, Calvaire was sufficiently unusual that it was somewhat interesting.

"With Vinyan Du Welz raises his sight somewhat. Here we have a couple who returned to Thailand where there son had been killed by the 2004 tsunami that struck Thailand. Jeanne still actively mourns her son‘s loss and still thinks it possible that he is alive somewhere. Paul wishes she would move on. It becomes clear that she is near a nervous breakdown.

"At a charity benefit she sees a film of discarded, orphaned children in Myanmar and thinks she sees her son. This starts both of them on a quest to find whether or not her son is still alive. To get into Myanmar they must deal with serious criminal element and in particular with a crime boss in Myanmar who is rather reasonable.

"Once entering Myanmar however, civilization gets left behind by stages and the horror begins. This withdrawal reminds one a bit of Apocalypse Now. Eventually, the two of them are alone in the jungle with feral children.

"This is a European-based film. The horror genre there is at once more arty and less satisfying than most American horror films. There is no hero here who saves the day. The film concludes in an arbitrary fevered tragedy. One could treat the entire second half of the film as a terrible nightmare. This is the big weakness of this film. In the end it all seems pointless."

--ggf

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"The Friends of Eddie Coyle" [Peter Yates] 1973

"The Friends of Eddie Coyle [1973] is an unusual crime film. Directed by Peter Yates, it immerses the viewer in the seedy Boston underworld of the 1970s. Yates knows how to make crime dramas. He is perhaps best known for Bullitt [1968].

"Unlike virtually all crime films, it follows a small-time hood, Eddie Coyle, played by Robert Mitchum, who was recently caught driving a truckload of contraband. His life has been one of working as a lower-echelon functionary for the local mob. Now he has been sentenced and is soon to report to start serving time.

"The film concentrates on how Eddie tries to deal with his immediate situation, given that he has almost nothing to deal with. Surprisingly, Eddie is a loving husband and father, who is very concerned about what will happen to his family when he goes to prison. This pressure causes him to cooperate with a sleazy detective. He turns informer on some other crook he knows who is not in his mob, but that does not get him out of his fix.

"What is depicted in this film is just how insecure a life of crime can be. There is no honor among thieves. Criminal friendships do not amount to much, since anyone might be an informant or setting you up to protect themselves.

"Mitchum was well cast and gives a fine and tragic performance here as a middle-aged crook who is in a bind that he cannot slip. Happy endings are for fairy tales and this film is not a fairy tale."

--ggf

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"Romeo Is Bleeding" [Peter Medak] 1993

"Romeo Is Bleeding [1993] was directed by Peter Medak. The cast is a serious one, starring Gary Oldman and Lena Olin.

"This is a stylistically overwrought film that tries to be a color noir thriller, but has the sensibility of a comic-book conversion. Oldman plays a crooked cop whose greed for money makes him a very bad man, but one we are oddly supposed to be in sympathy with.

"Olin is particularly effective as an insane Russian immigrant killer. Her performance is over-the-top and when she is in a scene she dominates it. Her character is believable though only in the context of a comic book villain, not as a noir villain.

"Ultimately, this film is unbalanced. It is not clear what it was supposed to be. The ending is also profoundly nihilistic and will be for some both distasteful and depressing."

--ggf

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"The Bank Job" [Roger Donaldson] 2008

"The Bank Job [2008] is loosely based upon a bank heist that goes awry. Directed by Roger Donaldson, this is a workmanlike film that tells its story reasonably well. The acting is up to par for the story, but none of the performances stand out. The screenplay is very loosely based on an actual robbery. It gives the impression of a jigsaw puzzle fitted together to make an action picture, rather than reality.

"Another weakness of this film is that little time is available to spend on character development. There is too much action and too many plot threads for that to occur. What one is left with then is a reasonable action movie that, while entertaining, in the end is not that memorable."

--ggf

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"Man on Fire" [Tony Scott] 2004

"Man on Fire [2004] was directed by Tony Scott and starred Denzel Wshington. Washington gives a good performance as an ex-US intelligence operative, Creasy, who has seen and done some things that have driven him to resign and start drinking heavily. A friend from his old days gets him a job as a bodyguard for the young daughter of a wealthy family in Mexico City, who is a possible kidnap target.

"The problem with this film is that it develops a serious, flawed main character, which one can identify with, while later on it morphs into an over-the-top action picture. This mix does not work well. The viewer is initially asked to involve themselves in the complex character of Creasy, who later on starts running around firing RPGs, blowing up cars and assassinating high-level members of both the mob and the Mexican security establishment without that government taking any action against him.

"As a result, this film is a misfire. Plenty of talent in front and behind the camera, but flawed in its basic conception."

--ggf

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"Sliver" [Phillip Noyce] 1993

"Sliver [1993] was directed by Phillip Noyce. The screenplay was written by Joe Eszterhas based on the novel by Ira Levin. It stars Sharon Stone, Tom Berenger and William Baldwin.

"This movie is a vehicle to show off Sharon Stone‘s body, which it does well in the unrated version. The plot is unfortunately much weaker than her body. Rosemary‘s Baby this isn‘t.

"Stone‘s character moves into a condo tower in NY City that was recently the scene of what was thought of as a suicide. The condo tower was constructed and is quietly owned by a somewhat sinister peeping tom, played by William Baldwin.

"Stone‘s character is pursued by a successful author, who also lives in the tower and by the sleazy owner, who spends most of his hours in a secret studio room watching cameras that tape and show him whatever goes on behind closed doors in his condo tower. This includes his eventual sexual escapades with Stone‘s character of course.

"Eventually, the police and the condo residents figure out that the supposed suicide is likely a murder and that a serial killer may be living in the condo.

"With all his video taping, knowing that he taped that murder, the sleazy owner ‘forgets‘ that he can use this to ID the murderer? That is absurd unless he himself is the murderer. But no, it turns out he is not the murderer, the successful author is the murderer.

"The completely unconvincing conclusion makes this an unsuccessful film. Even if that had worked, this film would only have been mediocre at best."

--ggf

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"Kiss of Death" [Henry Hathaway] 1947

"Kiss of Death [1947] was directed by Henry Hathaway and co-written by perhaps Hollywood‘s greatest screenwriter, Ben Hecht.

"On its surface, this is an average crime drama, written and filmed as a noir. The screenplay here is clean, but not one of Hechts best. The direction by Hathaway is straightforward, but not inspired. Hathaway is perhaps best known for True Grit [1969].

"Kiss of Death takes place in NYCity and centers around a smart armed robber Nick Bianco, played by Victor Mature, who is associated with a mob but who eventually tries to leave a life of crime for the sake of his wife and two children. It is clear from the outset that Nick is conflicted and not just a crook.

"Unfortunately, the only way out for Nick involves becoming an informer. This is eventually discovered and he must now confront the danger head on to save his wife and kids from revenge.

"What elevates this film above what is merely a competent noir is the portrayal of the man the mob uses as its enforcer, a borderline psychotic, leering, snickering sometime monster named Tommy Udo played by Richard Widmark in his first role. Widmark‘s creation of Udo is so creepy and convincing that he was nominated for best supporting actor. The comparison between Udo and Jack Nicholson‘s performance as The Joker in Batman [1989] is natural.

"This role was so outstanding that it propelled Widmark into a major career. It also unfortunately tended to typecast him."

--ggf

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"House of Wax" [Andre De Toth] 1953

"House of Wax [1953] is a remake of the original film Mystery in the Wax Museum [1933].

"House was directed by Andre De Toth and stars Vincent Price as a sculptor driven insane when he was nearly murdered. This film was designed to be a showcase for both 3D and color for Warner Brothers. This is the era when the studios were beginning to get scared about inroads being made by television. House of Wax was the first 3D film by a major studio.

"This film is so sumptuously shot that it detracts from the horror that the film should convey. The 3D effects were also unfortunately overdone. The director could not keep himself from over-emphasizing the 3D. For example, a ball-and-paddle exhibition was clearly added just for effect. It should not have been there. On the other hand, it is played for laughs, so the audience is brought in as it were on a visual joke. Oddly, the director De Toth had only one working eye and could not see in 3D.

"When watching this film, it is important to realize that two cameras had to film simultaneously to obtain the 3D effect. This made the use of doubles too obvious. As a result most of the stunts were performed by the actors. In particular, the burning building scenes early in the film were shot just as you see them, with the actors literally running and fighting through flaming rooms.

"This film was very successful, making a good deal of money for Warner Brothers. It also cemented Vincent Price‘s career as a premier horror star. Charles Buchinsky made his debut in this film, playing a deaf-mute. He later changed his name to Charles Bronson.

"House of Wax was filmed using the anaglyph 3D system. Although the 3D gimmickry detracts from it, this film is so well made that it is a pleasure to watch."

--ggf

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"La historia oficial (The Official Story)" [Luis Puenzo] 1985

"La historia oficial [1985] is titled in English as The Official Story. It was directed and co-written by Luis Puenzo.

"This movie brings us into the lives of a well-to-do family in Buenos Aires only a few years after the end of the Argentine military dictatorship. The middle-aged mother loves her adopted daughter. Her husband works high-up in a politically connected law firm.

"The mother is played by Norma Aleandro, who gives a fine performance as a mother who asked too few questions regarding what was happening to her country and what her husband was doing. Now, years later circumstances cause her to question how her daughter was adopted and what her husband was doing during the dictatorship.

"Ultimately, this is film about guilt. Those who are in the right place have the ability to surf along the waves of politics. They often do so at the expense of others and their own morality, without thinking about it much at the time. When the dust has settled and the damage has been done, looking backwards may be painful.

"This is the position of the mother, whose look backwards discloses that her adopted daughter was probably taken from a mother who was arrested, tortured, murdered and disappeared by those in power her husband dealt with.

"Her husband knows that looking backward is dangerous. He is concerned that the crimes committed by the dictatorship and those who helped it may result in his indictment and loss of wealth. He is deeply disturbed and angered that his wife is now asking questions and investigating adoption records. This eventually results in his disclosing a part of his character that his wife did not know.

"This is a good film about an unfortunate time. It is not pleasant to watch but worthwhile to see."

--ggf

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"A Soldier‘s Story" [Norman Jewison] 1984

"A Soldier‘s Story [1984] is a film about a murder that occurs on a segregated black US Army base in 1944. It was directed by Norman Jewison who is perhaps best known for Fiddler on the Roof [1971] and In the Heat of the Night [1967].

"Early in the film a no-nonsense career black master sergeant, played by Adolph Ceasar, is murdered. A black lawyer and captain, played by Howard Rollins, is sent down from Washington, D.C. to investigate and charge the person or persons responsible. What has happened is uncovered by him in a series of interviews with those involved and their flashbacks.

"The outcome of the investigation however uncovers a case of gross abuse of power on the sergeant‘s part due to reverse racism. The sergeant sees old-style southern blacks as a hindrance to his race and hates such people.

"As a murder/mystery, this film is reasonable, but not strong. There is essentially no suspense and the investigation itself is matter of fact. The potential cover-up by the white military establishment, which could have formed the core of a court drama, does not happen. The solution of the murder has little to do with segregation and the reason for the murder passes by too quickly.

"This film attempts to make a strong statement about segregation and oppression in the South at a time before the US armed forces became desegregated. This is could do if it was the primary purpose of the film, but this film is a about a murder. That the lead character is one of few black officers at the time and that he is a professional sent down into a segregated military base is a set-up one would think for a serious struggle with the white officers on the base, but little of that occurs either.

"The acting is good and the film was nominated for three Oscars: best picture, supporting actor and screenplay. Adolph Caesar deserved his supporting actor nomination, but I do not believe the other two nominations were warranted. This film has some good ingredients, but they are not properly mixed and the result lacks punch."

--ggf

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"Hope and Glory" [John Boorman] 1987

"Hope and Glory [1987] was written and directed by John Boorman. The characters are played by your typical group of good British actors and actresses, among them Sarah Miles and Ian Bannen. The lead character is a boy played by Sebastian Rice Edwards.

"The film centers on the experiences of a young boy growing up in London during WWII. He sees it as an exciting and fun time. He is too young to appreciate the fear and misery the war brings. The devastation and death never directly touches him, his family or friends, so paradoxically, and perhaps guiltily, his experience of the war is largely enjoyable.

"What makes this film both unusual and enjoyable is its concentration on the experiences of the boy. The film is largely told from his viewpoint, although it is shot from a third person perspective, which allows enough latitude to provide narrative continuity.

"Boorman is perhaps best known for Deliverance [1972]. In this film Boorman took great pains to get the physical details right. The film was popular in Britain and many who watched it lived through the blitz. Such an audience is sensitive to accuracy. This is a good film. It is enjoyable and accurately portrays an interesting slice of history."

--ggf

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"Bonfire of the Vanities" [Brian De Palma] 1990

"Bonfire of the Vanities [1990] is directed by Brian De Palma. The film is based on the well-known novel by Tom Wolfe. The screenplay was by Michael Cristofer.

"This film was created as a star vehicle. The major characters are played by Tom Hanks, Kim Cattrall, Melanie Griffith and Bruce Willis. The supporting cast includes Morgan Freeman, who is particularly effective as a no-nonsense judge in a crime ridden South Bronx court.

"Critics as a rule complained that the characters in the book were less likable and the satire more pointed. Thus they panned it, giving De Palma a severe drubbing for taking really good material and turning it into watery gruel. Oddly, many of them did not scorn the screenwriter, which I find inconsistent.

"I will not be so cruel. That the characters were all essentially phonies was made quite clear. That they only really cared for themselves was made clear. That race relations were often played upon for power and money was made clear. It may not be as good as the book, but as a film standing on its own, it is not that bad. It is enjoyable. It is not a really good film, but it does not deserve such a critically bad reputation."

--ggf

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"Lonely Are the Brave" [David Miller] 1962

"Lonely Are the Brave [1962] was directed by David Miller. It is by far his best directing effort. This film has a powerhouse of talent. It stars Kirk Douglas with supporting roles played by Walter Matthau and Gena Rowlands.

"The story revolves around an independent cowboy, Jack Burns, played by Douglas, who is living in the wrong century. The 1960s is the age of the car, the jet plane and urban government, but not the horse and the open range. The conflict between this man and the modern world is the core of this film.

"This remains Douglas‘ favorite film. It shows on the screen. His character is natural and seamless, never striking a false note. His character is a joy to watch.

"This is a film that few have seen, which is unfortunate. It was a box office flop and it is easy to understand why. The ending is not upbeat. The script was written by Dalton Trumbo who uses Burn‘s character to point out that modernity has costs measured in a loss of our independence and the undermining of our character.

"Lonely Are the Brave is now considered by many to be one of the best films of its decade."

--ggf

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"Good Bye Lenin!" [Wolfgang Becker] 2003

"Good Bye Lenin! [2003] is a light comedy directed and co-written by Wolfgang Becker. This is likely the only film by Becker that is available in the USA.

"This would be a screwball comedy if it did not have an edge of serious. A mother and her two children live in East Berlin, while their father has escaped to West Berlin. The mother has a nervous breakdown and after she returns a few weeks later from the hospital, she throws herself seriously into the betterment of the GDR. She becomes noticed and is honored by Erich Honecker.

"During the instability of 1989 her son attends a protest and she sees the police move into the protesters to arrest them. She has a heart attack and goes into an extended coma. When she emerges, East Germany has collapsed and the Berlin Wall has come down. But her doctor says that her health is very fragile. To protect her from the shock of the loss of her political life and ideals, her son and daughter conspire with those around her to make her believe that East Germany not only still exists, but it has liberalized and it is West Germans who are streaming into East Berlin to live.

"This is a good light comedy. The comedy comes from the absurdity of protecting the mother from knowing what has actually happened. They go to great lengths to achieve this. There is an element of seriousness however. Her children protect her not only to extend the time she has left but so that she can die thinking that her sacrifices were worth while. This mix of light comedy with sentimentality is well handled. This is a film worth seeing."

--ggf

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"Swimming With Sharks" [George Huang] 1994

"Swimming With Sharks [1994] was written and directed by George Huang. It stars Kevin Spacey, who plays the high-level studio exec Buddy Ackerman, Michelle Forbes, who plays an ambitious and experienced producer Dawn, and Frank Whaley, who is the central character, Guy, a young executive assistant to Buddy who is paying his dues to rise up the ladder.

"This is a Hollywood insider‘s film. Why it is often classed as a comedy escapes me. Virtually nothing in this movie is funny unless you find sadism amusing. Buddy is a nasty, two-faced, sadistic boss, who enjoys insulting Guy loudly in public. This could be played for comedy, but it is treated seriously by both of them. Admittedly, the ignorance of Hollywood history displayed by some of the executives could be seen as amusing, but that is pretty slim pickings to hang a comedy label on.

"Many critics considered this film to be quite good. Perhaps they were awed by Kevin Spacey‘s performance. For myself, the film does not rise above average. The key outcome of the film does not work. The viewer is asked to believe that after more than a year Guy flips out, kidnaps and tortures Buddy for revenge, and then in a bid to rise up the ladder, out of the blue murders Dawn in front of Buddy so that both he and Buddy could rise up the ladder one notch together.

"Perhaps the comedy lies in recognizing that the ending is preposterous."

--ggf

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"Angel Eyes" [Luis Mandoki] 2001

"Angel Eyes [2001] is a combination romance and suspense film directed by Luis Mandoki and written by Gerald Di Pego.

"The story centers around two characters, a female Chicago police officer, played by Jennifer Lopez, and a mysterious lonely man who recognizes her from somewhere and later saves her life. This man, named Catch, is played by James Caviezel.

"Lopez gives a credible performance as a troubled officer, who builds a wall around herself, essentially letting nobody in. When Catch saves her life, she realizes that she owes him a lot and she is immediately attracted to Catch, but has trouble forming a romantic relationship with him because he also is troubled, only more so than her. Finding out why is the suspense element.

"Both characters to a degree resolve their inner conflicts in the course of the film and there is the typical happy ending. There is nothing wrong with this film as far as acting or direction, but it fails to generate sufficient interest to keep one engrossed. The ending is perhaps a bit too pat. This is a better than average film, but it does not stand out."

--ggf

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"The year of Living Dangerously" [Peter Weir] 1982

"The Year of Living Dangerously [1982] was directed by Peter Weir. The film concerns a relatively new reporter Guy Hamilton from Australia, played by Mel Gibson, who arrives in Indonesia in the mid-1960s and tries to obtain serious stories about what is happening in that unstable and dangerous place. The Indonesia of this time is ruled by Sukarno, who had to tread a fine line balancing the Communists against the militant Islamists and the army. This is unraveling in the film, making living there dangerous for an ignorant outsider like Hamilton.

"Hamilton is dry behind the ears, but willing to take great risks to get stories. He is helped in this by a photographic assistant Billy Kwan, played by Helen Hunt, who got an Oscar for her work here. Kwan is trying to use Hamilton to release stories that he hopes will eventually help liberalize the society and aid the poor. Along the way Hamilton meets Jill Bryant, the daughter of a British attache, played by Sigourney Weaver. They have an affair which is a second strand in the plot.

"The enduring fame of this film is due to Linda Hunt‘s portrayal of the man Billy Kwan so convincingly, that many do not believe it until they see the cast credits.

"Weir is one of the few consistently good directors working now. Achieving notice with Picnic at Hanging Rock [1975], then directing The Last Wave [1977] and Gallipoli [1981] prior to this film. His work here is a very good balancing act. The dangerous flavor of the place, its pace, unstable politics and squalor are well presented as are some of its great scenic beauties. The supporting cast that Hamilton drifts into and out of never seem to strike a false note, resulting in a very convincing, if somewhat frenetic film."

--ggf

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"Captain Corelli‘s Mandolin" [John Madden] 2001

"Captain Corelli‘s Mandolin [2001] is a drama/romance directed by John Madden. This film stars Nicolas Cage, who plays an Italian army captain Corelli assigned to occupy a Greek island during WWII. He meets and falls in love with the daughter of the local doctor. The daughter Pelagia, is played by Penelope Cruz and the doctor by John Hurt.

"The screenplay is based upon the novel by Louis De Bernieres. The leads here are all capable of fine work. There is nothing particularly wrong with their performances. However, although it is more than two hours long, too much material is crammed into this film, giving it a rushed feel. In particular, the romance between the Pelagia and Corelli happens too quickly.

"Madden is a British director with a proven track record making period pictures such as Mrs. Brown [1997] and Shakespeare in Love [1998]. This film is not as successful as those two, but it is still above average material and worth your while to watch."

--ggf

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"Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran" [Francois Dupeyron] 2003

"Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran [2003] is a French production directed by Francois Dupeyron. It stars Omar Sharif as the leading character Ibrahim and Pierre Boulanger as a non-observant Jewish teenager. The film is set in a working-class neighborhood of Pais in the early 1960s.

"Momo is a teenaged Jewish boy living with his father. His mother abandoned the family years ago as has his older brother. The father is distant, does not want to be a father and it becomes clear does no love his Moma at all. In fact, he abandons Momo, who must now figure out how to pay for the apartment.

"Ibrahim is a peaceful and collected old man who emigrated from Turkey many years ago and has run a neighborhood grocery store in Paris ever since. This is the grocery that Momo frequents. The neighborhood is populated by hookers and the film opens with Momo celebrating his 13th birthday with one of them.

"Ibrahim knows that Momo and his father do not have much money. He also knows how little love Momo has seen during his life, so he lets Momo shoplift small items once in a while. Eventually, Momo and he develop a friendship. Ibrahim tries to teach him a bit about life. When Momo‘s father abandons Momo and later commits suicide, Ibrahim adopts Momo.

"The primary reason to watch this film is to see Omar Sharif play the part of a grizzled old muslim shopkeeper in Paris. Nostalgia for the way people lived in the 1960s may also make this an attractive film for some. While this is well-made and acted, it is not a gripping film by any stretch of the imagination and the way the film ends is a bit like a soap opera."

--ggf

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"Underworld U.S.A." [Samuel Fuller] 1961

"Underworld U.S.A. [1961] is a film that was written and directed by Samuel Fuller. It stars Cliff Robertson who plays Tolly Devlin. The Devlins, father and son, live in a bad neighborhood of a big city in the 1930s. He sees his father murdered by four mobsters and sets out to revenge himself upon them.

"The film follows the arc of Devlin‘s revenge, from his entry into prison to get the first of his father‘s killers, until after he leaves prison and joins the mob to become trusted and use that trust to engineer his revenge by cooperating with the authorities.

"This is not one of Fuller‘s better films in my opinion. It almost seems as if it was shot in the late 1930s. Perhaps that was intentional, I do not know. Stylistically however, this film was shot in 1961 and seems much older.

"Fuller was quite a character, a good writer and director. There are better films of his in the same style, such as Pickup on South Street [1953] and Scandal Sheet [1952]. While Underworld U.S.A. is not boring by any means, neither does it stand out as a really good film."

--ggf

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"Joyeux Noel" [Christian Carion] 2005

"Joyeux Noël [2005] concerns British, French and German front-line trench units in the first Christmas of WWI who famously decided on their own to declare Christmas eve and Christmas day as a holiday from the war without consulting their respective General staffs.

"Written and directed by Christian Carion, this film takes some liberties with the truth to make a better unified film. There is some early trench warfare carnage to act as contrast to the short peaceful respite that follows.

"The film has a fairly large cast in which no one stands out clearly as the star. Although well-made, it lacks the sufficient gritty back-story that trench warfare presents that would have made it more memorable."

--ggf

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"Hotel New Hampshire" [Tony Richardson] 1984

"Hotel New Hampshire [1984] was directed by Tony Richardson and stars Rob Lowe, Beau Bridges and Jodie Foster, who has the most difficult role here. The plot concerns an eccentric family that decides to run hotels of one kind or another and the various issues that arise. It is an odd mix of screwball comedy with short interludes of tragedy.

"This film is an interesting misfire. The film is a bunch of pieces stuck together in a way that propels it forward, but with too little time spent after each jump for a viewer to settle in. John Irving wrote two novels that were adapted for the screen in the 1980‘s. The other one is The World According to Garp [1982]. It may be that the nature of those two novels just does not lend itself to making a good coherent movie. Neither film quite worked out.

"Richardson was a director with a habit of choosing offbeat subjects for the films he made. Here he also wrote the screenplay and so is responsible for the way it was put together. For a much better example of his treating eccentric material, go and find The Loved One [1965] for which Terry Southern adapted the novel."

--ggf

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"Salo o le 120 giornate di Sodoma" [Pier Paolo Pasolini] 1975

"Salo o le 120 giornate di Sodoma [1975] was directed and co-written by Pier Paolo Pasolini. It was his last film. It is also possible that the making of this film caused him to be murdered. Salo is a film that is unique in the strength and breadth of reactions that it draws from viewers. This makes it stand out starkly and has ensured that it remains a special and respected film in spite of its disgusting contents.

"Salo takes place in Italy when the fascists clearly knew that the war was about to be lost. They use their power to gather a select group of late teenage boys and girls to sexually abuse and torture, some of whom are the sons and daughters of political opponents. Little is left to the imagination. Due to the content of this film and the apparent ages of some of the cast, it would likely be illegal to make in the US today.

"On the surface this film can be seen as a piece of disgusting sexual perversion and horror. From a political point of view, Salo is perhaps the strongest anti-fascist film made about the Mussolini era. The fascists in it are in their late 50s or early 60s and mostly sexually unattractive. They obtain their pleasure from torture and sexual perversion. By portraying them as he did, Pasolini is passing an obvious and strong judgment on the character of the fascist leaders in Italy. On a slightly less subtle level he also portrays them as hypocrites who choose to surround themselves with art and furniture that was considered by the fascists to be decadent.

"By obvious intent Pasolini chose to portray in Salo deviant and horrible acts that are so disgusting that it is incorrect to consider the film pornographic in the sense that it was intended to be disgusting, rather than sexually stimulating. In so doing Pasolini attempted to cover the fascists with their own filth.

"At the time this film was made, many former fascists were still in positions of power in Italy, for the same reasons that former Nazis were in positions of power in West Germany. Pasolini was himself an Italian Communist and a committed anti-fascist. Pasolini was murdered late in 1975 and the case remains effectively unsolved."

--ggf

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