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WNM Movie Night Liner Notes

Note: We are now database driven; but there are some gaps. As these links get filled in, we are getting closer and closer to being caught up.

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Search Feature

Search Title: Search Director: Year Seen:  


Title: Director [Year]
"Easy Virtue" Stephan Elliot [2008]
"Adam‘s Rib" George Cukor [1949]
"The Sting" George Roy Hill [1973]
"As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me" Hardy Martins [2001]
"The Informant!" Steven Soderbergh [2009]
"Eastern Promises" David Cronenberg [2007]
"Prizzi‘s Honor" John Huston [1985]
"One, Two, Three" Billy Wilder [1961]
"One False Move" Carl Franklin [1992]
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" Niels Arden [2009]
"Artois the Goat" Kyle and Cliff Bogart [2009]
"Ruggles of Red Gap" Leo McCarey [1936]
"Ball of Fire" Howard Hawks [1941]
"Splice" Vincenzo Natali [2009]
"The Image"* Peter Werner (TV) [1990]
"Moon"* Duncan Jones [2009]
"Out of Africa"* Sydney Pollack [1985]
"Surrogates"* Jonathan Mostow [2009]
"Elsa y Fred (Elsa and Fred)"* Marcos Carnevale [2005]
"Timeline"* Richard Donner [2003]
"Inspector George Gently"* (TV) [2007]
"Edge of Darkness"* Martin Campbell (TV) [1985]
"Grey Gardens"* Michael Sucsy (TV) [2009]
"Power"* Sidney Lumet [1986]
"Band of Brothers"* various (TV) [2001]
"Bangkok Dangerous"* Oxide & Danny Pang [2008]
"Pane e tulipani (Bread and Tulips)"* Silvio Soldini [2000]
"The Pacific"* (TV) [2010]
"Nordwand (Northface)"* Phillip Stolzl [2008]
"Take the Money and Run"* Woody Allen [1969]
"Idiocracy"* Mike Judge [2006]
"Hurt Locker"* Kathryn Bigelow [2009]
"Charlotte Grey"* Gillian Armstrong [2001]
"Book of Eli"* Albert Hughes [2010]
"Alice"* Nick Willing (TV) [2009]
"Adam's Rib"* George Cukor [1949]
"The Informant"* Steven Soderbergh [2009]
"Formosa Betrayed"* Adam Kane [2009]
"Rebus: Black and Blue"* Martyn Friend (TV) [2000]
"Place of Execution"* Daniel Percival (TV) [2008]
"Prizzi's Honor"* John Houston [1985]
"Leaving Las Vegas"* Mike Figgis [1995]
"Man som hatar kvinnor (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)"* Niels Arden Oplev [2009]
"Collision"* Marc Evans (TV) [2009]
"The Murder Room"* Diarmuid Lawrence (TV) [2004]
"Sahara"* Breck Eisner [2005]
"Agora"* Alejandro Amenabar [2009]

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

Liner Notes.

© 2010 WNM and the respective authors. "All Rights Reserved."

"Easy Virtue" [Stephan Elliot] 2008

"Easy Virtue [2008] is a light comedy directed by Stephan Elliot. It is based upon a play by Noel Coward. The screenplay was written by Stephan Elliot and Sheridan Jobbins. It stars Kristen Scott-Thomas, Colin Firth and Jessica Biel.

"Stephan Elliot is one of Australia‘s better-known directors. He is unusual in that he also writes most of what he directs, which makes his films personal statements. Elliot is best known for The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert [1994], which won several awards. His more recent films were not as well received. Elliot demonstrates in Easy Virtue that he can handle this comedy of manners rather well.

"The film takes place in rural England of the 1920s, a few years after WWI. This film is not a simple comedy. There is an undercurrent of tragedy resulting from the war. Colin Firth and Kristen Scott-Thomas play estranged husband and wife who own a historic estate and who live together now for propriety sake. Firth plays a former Captain and most of his men died in the trenches. He no longer has the traditional upper-class outlook on life, whereas his wife, played by Scott-Thomas, rigidly holds to her snobbish, upper-crust mannerisms.

"Their huge estate is in deep financial trouble. While in Europe their son marries an older, widowed American race car driver, played by Jessica Biel, just after she won the Grand Prix at Monte Carlo. Marriage to an American is not what the son‘s strong-willed mother expected and she sets about breaking them apart.

"Both Firth and Scott-Thomas give very good performances here. Some critics complain that Biel‘s performance is weak by comparison. I disagree. Biel plays a character who emphatically does not fit into her new role as a member of the landed gentry. Although this character is obviously strong-willed, an American female athlete would be very out of water there today, let alone in the 1920s. After trying to adjust she realizes that she cannot and that she is not wanted. Beil‘s somewhat confused characterization seems appropriate."


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"Adam‘s Rib" [George Cukor] 1949

"Adam‘s Rib [1949] is one of nine films starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. It was directed by George Cukor.

"Adam‘s Rib is a light comedy about the battle between the sexes. In this case Tracy and Hepburn are attorneys. He a prosecutor and she a defense lawyer. The plot revolves around a wife who shoots her philandering partner. For a wife to take such action, as opposed to a husband, is seen as unusual and the societal double standard sets up a battle between Tracy and Hepburn.

"Little needs to be said regarding the skills that both Tracy and Hepburn brought. They played a couple so well that the two of them became a fixture, playing off one another for 25 years. Of their nine films together Cukor directed three.

"George Cukor is best known today for My Fair Lady [1964] for which he won the best director Oscar. A superb director, he was nominated five times. The screenplay for Adam‘s Rib was written by the husband/wife team of Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, who received an Oscar nomination for this film. They also wrote the screenplay for another Cukor/Tracy/Hepburn screwball comedy, Pat and Mike [1952], which is generally considered a better effort.

"Adam‘s Rib is a good but not a great film. It feels a bit too forced and staged. It is nevertheless enjoyable and, considering its liberated theme, was well ahead of its time."


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"The Sting" [George Roy Hill] 1973

"The Sting [1973] is considered by some to be one of the 100 best films made. It stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford and was directed by George Roy Hill.

"The film takes place during the Depression in Chicago. Redford plays a small-time con artist, Johnny Hooker, who together with his partner accidentally steal from a big-time, mean but smart mobster, well played by Robert Shaw. Hooker‘s partner is tracked down and murdered. To get revenge, Hooker partners with a very professional con-artist, Henry Gondorf, played by Newman. With a good deal of preparation they set up a sting to take 100s of thousands from the mobster.

"Although the film has a serious undertone, set during its first twenty minutes or so, this is not a traditional crime drama. It has elements of humor and is directed and acted in a light-hearted manner, which gives it a bit of a fairy-tale feel, dulling the hard edge this film began with. It is very enjoyable.

"David Ward wrote the screenplay and got his Oscar for this film. The other screenplays for which he well known are Sleepless in Seattle [1993] which was co-written with Nora Ephron and Jeff Arch, and the very successful comedy Major League [1989].

"George Roy Hill directed Redford and Newman in their two best-known films, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid [1969], for which he was nominated for best director, and here in The Sting, for which he got the best director Oscar. Hill started as a TV director. His career directing film was rather short. He directed 14 films from 1962-1988, but unfortunately, no others rose to the level of either of his two Redford and Newman films."


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"As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me" [Hardy Martins] 2001

"As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me [2001] is a German film directed by Hardy Martins. It is based on the novel by Josef Bauer. It stars Berhard Betterman who plays Clemens Forell.

"Forell was a German army officer in WWII who was captured by the Soviets and sentenced to many years forced labor in a Siberian coal mine. It is made clear that the Soviets did not intend to ever release them. While virtually all are beaten down and accept their fate, Forell does not. He finally escapes after four years. Two years later he has walked from north-eastern Siberia to Iran and freedom.

"Hardy Martins has directed two films, of which this is the best by far and proves that he is capable of doing fine work. This film is nearly an epic. It looks like one, well photographed at several greatly separated locations. This is very impressive considering the budget was under $10M. The reunion scene between Forell, his wife and child is powerfully expressive and closes the film."


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"The Informant!" [Steven Soderbergh] 2009

"The Informant! [2009] is a comedy/drama based loosely on the life of an upper-level executive at Archer-Daniels Midland in the mid-1990s who became a problematic informant for the FBI. It is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Matt Damon as the real-life informant Mark Whitacre.

"This film has the problem of being neither fish nor fowl. The comedy element comes from Whitacre‘s enjoyment being an informant for the FBI but an incredibly inept one. However, the character of Whitacre himself is that of a con man that the viewer does not sympathize with, so the comedy is somewhat flat. At the same time, the comedy spoils the film as a docudrama."


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"Eastern Promises" [David Cronenberg] 2007

"Eastern Promises [2007] is a crime drama directed by David Cronenberg. The plot revolves around a clan of the brutal Russian mafia operating in London. The screenplay by Steven Knight delineates the characters well. The principal actors are Viggo Mortensen, who plays Nikolai, a driver for the clan, and Armin Mueller-Stahl as Semyon, the aging but still powerful head of the clan.

"Mortensen gives a fine performance as the driver who is clearly a criminal, but not totally without scruples. He was nominated for the best actor Oscar. For myself, it is Mueller-Stahl as Semyon who really stands out. At first Semyon seems grandfatherly and charming as the owner and chef of an upper-scale Russian restaurant, but slowly you see how calculatingly brutal he is, an extremely dangerous criminal who leads two lives, charming restaurateur on the one hand, brutal mob boss on the other.

"The plot is set in motion when a baby is born to a dying, addicted prostitute. A mid-wife at the hospital, Anna, played by Naomi Watts, finds the prostitute‘s diary, sees a bookmark in it that advertises the restaurant owned by Semyon and takes it there to be translated. One of Semyon‘s businesses is importing under-age girls from eastern Europe and forcing them into prostitution. The dead prostitute was one of those girls. The need to cover that up drives much of the action.

"Cronenberg made his reputation directing and writing horror films. He worked his way upwards building on his successes until he was directing major Hollywood horror films, such as Scanners [1981] and a remake of The Fly [1986]. Eastern Promises is a more mainstream effort for him.

"This is a very good film, although graphically violent in places. The violence is believable, not gratuitous and is central to the plot. You have been warned."


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"Prizzi‘s Honor" [John Huston] 1985

"Prizzi‘s Honor [1985] is a black comedy directed by John Huston, starring Jack Nicholson, Angelica Huston and Kathleen Turner.

"The film is based upon the book and screenplay of Richard Condon, who is best remembered for his novel and the film based on it The Manchurian Candidate [1962]. Condon was a master of the complexly plotted conspiracy. He often mixed satire into his conspiracies and he does so in this screenplay, which is wickedly funny in spots. Huston‘s direction preserves this attitude in the film.

"The plot revolves around a mafia family, its enforcer and the romantic troubles that swirl around him. The performances here, the writing and direction are uniformly top notch. Special mention has to be made of William Hickey, who played the godfather of this mafia family. He plays his part so well he almost steals the show. Watching him is a lot of fun.

"Prizzi‘s Honor is certainly one of the best films made in the 1980s. It is well worth watching."


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"One, Two, Three" [Billy Wilder] 1961

"One, Two, Three [1961] was directed by Billy Wilder and stars James Cagney. The screenplay was co-written by Wilder and his long-time associate I.A.L. Diamond.

"This film is a farce that takes place in Berlin. It makes fun of the Soviet attitudes toward capitalism while also poking fun at US corporate culture.

"Cagney plays a fast-talking executive of the Coca Cola company who is stationed in Berlin. He is trying to interest East German officials in running a Coke bottling plant as a way of opening up the entire Soviet empire to Coke. This would raise his reputation in the company and he could move up the ladder a rung and move to the London office. Trouble ensues when he has to babysit his boss‘s daughter for a couple of weeks. She goes off to East Berlin and has an affair with a dedicated young communist. Getting out of this jamb is what drives the film.

"The film is a bit of a black comedy to those who remember the East/West tensions in 1961. It was made while the Berlin wall was going up, but the Berlin of the film still allowed people to freely cross in and out of East Berlin. The fear of communism in the west meant that this was a risky subject to tackle as a comedy and indeed the film was a commercial failure.

"The film would be seen as anachronistic when it was released. Seen now, after the Berlin Wall has both gone up and come down, the Soviet empire has collapsed and Germany re-unified, it is extremely dated. The reason to see this is to see Cagney and listen to the witty writing of Wilder and Diamond. If you don‘t remember what things were like in 1960 or are not curious about that era, this probably is not a film for you."


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"One False Move" [Carl Franklin] 1992

"One False Move [1992] was directed by Carl Franklin and stars Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton and Cynda Williams. Thornton also co-wrote the screenplay.

"This is a crime drama that has good direction, writing and acting, which combine to set it apart. Many consider this to be one of the best films made in 1992.

"The plot is set in motion when a trio of three criminals, two very bad men, one black and bright, the other white and mean and his black girlfriend. Operating together the two men are murderous killers. The girlfriend is trapped by her circumstances and lack of willpower. After a botched crime they have to leave Los Angeles to escape capture. They decide to return to the small hometown of two of them in Arkansas.

"Clues point that way and the LA cops contact the local sheriff, played by Paxton, who has deep knowledge of his town, the people in it and their interrelationships. His intimate knowledge of one of the trio leads ultimately to a tragedy.

"The surprise here is how well this film is directed. Previously, Franklin had a long career as a black supporting actor in major TV series. He decided to switch toward direction in the late 1980s. His first three efforts were low-budget, mediocre copy-cat films with poor writing. With One False Move he demonstrated what he can do with a good script and good acting. Shortly after this he did a few more crime dramas which are also good, but not quite as good as this."


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"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" [Niels Arden] 2009

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo [2009] is directed by Niels Arden Oplev and stars Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist in the lead roles of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. The film is based upon the first book in the trilogy by Stieg Larsson. Like the book, the film is intelligently written.

"The plot is a variation on the hunt for a serial killer and bears comparison to The Silence of the Lambs [1991]. Both films have a strong female heroine. However, here it is not known until well into the film that a serial killer is involved and it is not law enforcement who investigate but a reporter and a tough, bright female misfit.

"The character Lisbeth Salander is a young adult goth who is on probation (for what you do not find out until the film is almost over). She is much more complex than most characters in film, much more so than her counterpart, Clarice Starling, in Silence of the Lambs. Whereas in Silence the serial killer is a central character and the heroine is in a sense along for the ride, here it is the heroine who is central and the discovery that there is a serial killer becomes the way that Lisbeth and the reporter can work together. Whereas Clarice is an FBI agent who works within the system, the system has failed Lisbeth so she meets out her own justice.

"Lisbeth is just a little too bright and talented to be completely realistic. Noomi Rapace does a fine job playing Lisbeth. If it were not for her careful portrayal, Lisbeth would have been unbelievable. The film is long enough to allow the viewer to see part way into Lisbeth‘s character but much is left a mystery."


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"Artois the Goat" [Kyle and Cliff Bogart] 2009

"Artois the Goat [2009] is a screwball comedy about a lab assistant whose boring job makes him wish for more. He enjoys cheese and tastes a special goat cheese made by an obscure French cheese maker who wrote a how-to book. He finds it superb and then becomes driven by the desire to make the greatest goat cheese in America and so become a cheese entrepreneur, even though he knows nothing about goats or farming.

"This film was both written and directed by newcomers Kyle and Cliff Bogart. It does not quite make the grade as a good comedy. It has pleasant and funny moments, but it is not cohesive. It is however eccentric and can appeal to those seeking something different."


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"Ruggles of Red Gap" [Leo McCarey] 1936

"Ruggles of Red Gap [1936] is a comedy directed by Leo McCarey that stars Charles Laughton. It is based on the novel of the same name.

"Laughton plays Ruggles, a formal valet to the Earl of Burnstead in the early 1900s. The Earl has a penchant for drinking and card playing and loses Ruggles in a bet to a nice-mannered, somewhat hen-pecked Egbert Floud from Red Gap, Washington. Ruggles must then accompany Floud and his overly fashion and society conscious wife Effie back to Washington.

"The film pokes fun at Effie and the way her society dames put on airs. Ruggles eventually discovers in America a place where he can become independent, find romance and be admired for his skills. While this is a classic comedy, it will be seen as dated by most and some of the characters will seem overbroad. Laughton gives his usual fine performance.

"Charles Laughton was one of the best actors to ever have made movies. His breadth of characterization was vast, equally good playing a villain, a king or a lovable buffoon. 1936 was a very good year for him. Ruggles was critically acclaimed, but justifiably overshadowed by his role as Bligh in Mutiny on the Bounty [1936].

"McCarey was a specialist in directing comedy and is responsible for pairing Laurel and Hardy. He won the best director Oscar twice, for The Awful Truth [1937] and Going My Way [1944], for which he also won for best screenplay. Although writing and direction sometimes go hand in hand, there have been seven directors so honored, McCarey has the distinction of also being nominated for best song for An Affair to Remember [1957]. Curiously, his best film is now generally recognized as Make Way for Tomorrow [1937], which was not a comedy and for which he did not win awards."


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"Ball of Fire" [Howard Hawks] 1941

"Ball of Fire [1941] is a screwball comedy directed by Howard Hawks and written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett. It stars Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck as the ‘Ball of Fire‘.

"Cooper plays a relatively young professor of English, Bertram Potts, living in a huge house in New York City. With seven other older professors in various fields, they are contracted to create a new encyclopedia by a wealthy patron. They are very serious, sober and absurdly non-worldly, never having left their ivory towers.

"Cooper encounters some working-class people and discovers that he has virtually no knowledge of working slang. To fix this problem, he wanders around town, eventually encountering a gorgeous nightclub singer/dancer Sugarpuss O‘Shea, who is engaged to a gangster. To escape arrest, she shows up at the professor‘s house under the guise of helping him understand slang derivation. A degree of romantic madness then occurs between her and Potts.

"This film is loaded with good character actors that give support to Cooper and Stanwyck. Stanwyck in particular stands out, carrying the show. The comedy shtick here is the absurd difference between the isolated world the professors live in and the real world outside. This comes across now as quite dated. Still, it is justly considered a classic, but it does not live up to the fine, older screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby [1938].

"Widler was one of Hollywood‘s great screenwriters and directors. His pairing with Brackett lasted for several years and they won multiple Oscars: Ninotchka [1940], The Lost Weekend [1945] and Sunset Boulevard [1950]. Although often thought of as primarily a writer of comedies, clearly Wilder also wrote and directed much more serious fare."


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"Splice" [Vincenzo Natali] 2009

"Splice [2009] is a science fiction film with a slight overlay of horror. It was directed a co-written by Vincenzo Natali and stars Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley.

"Natali has an inventive mind. He directed Cube [1997], Cypher [2002] and Nothing [2003], co-writing Cube and Nothing. He is considered by many to be a gifted writer/director of science-fiction films. He was first seriously noticed for Cube, which was a claustrophobic filmed nightmare, often compared to a Twilight Zone episode. With Splice he has misfired.

"Brodey and Polley play a couple, Clive and Elsa, who are top-flight genetic researchers whose work involves engineering lifeforms to produce drugs for a big pharmaceutical company. They have an artificial womb and decide to break protocol and engineer a new life-form by splicing new genetic material into a human egg cell. Naturally, it goes wrong.

"Elsa develops a mother complex regarding the life-form, Clive taking a backseat to her demands. The new life-form is brought to term and turns out to be a female that both Clive and Elsa develop a relationship with.

"The characterization of the two scientists here is unbelievable, likewise their relationships. What they are doing is ethically damning and extremely risky, both of which they know, but which they decide to ignore.

"The danger of surrounding a film with supposedly serious science is that the result of that science better be at least vaguely believable. The new life form however is not. The couple engineered it but are apparently surprised that their ‘child‘ has a deadly stinger? While effectively a human in shape and size, the child can fly using small wings folded into its body? That may work for a fantasy, but not here.

"Splice tries to be both a horror film and a ‘serious‘ science fiction film. It succeeded at neither unfortunately."


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Last update on Jan 15, 2010 at 12:15:10.