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WNM Movie Night Liner Notes

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Search Title: Search Director: Year Seen:  


Title: Director [Year]
"The Way Back" Peter Weir [2010]
"Cisco Pike" Bill L. Norton [1972]
"Such Good Friends" Otto Preminger [1971]
"Limitless" Neil Burger [2011]
"Beneath Hill 60" Jeremy Sims [2010]
"Battle Los Angeles" Jonathan Liebesman [2010]
"The Ghost and the Darkness" Stephen Hopkins [1996]
"The Escapist" Rupert Wyatt [2008]
"Paul" Greg Mottola [2011]
"Quo Vadis" Mervyn LeRoy [1951]
"Across the Line: The Exodus of Charlie Wright" R. Ellis Frazier [2010]
"Sorry, Haters" Jeff Stanzler [2005]
"The Thirty-Nine Steps" James Hawes [2008]
"In the Heat of the Night"* Norman Jewison [1967]
"In the Name of the Father"* Jim Sheridan [1993]
"Dark Passage"* Delmer Daves [1947]
"Jesse Stone: No Remorse"* Robert Harmon (TV) [2010]
"Shock Corridor"* Samuel Fuller [1963]
"Brute Force"* Jules Dassin [1947]
"Mildred Pierce"* Michael Curtiz [1945]
"The Next Three Days"* Paul Haggis [2010]
"In the Valley of Elah"* Paul Haggis [2007]
"Unstoppable"* Tony Scott [2010]
"Dinoshark"* Kevin O'Neill [2010]
"Hereafter"* Clint Eastwood [2010]
"From Paris With Love"* Pierre Morel [2010]
"Pertrified Forest"* Archie Mayo [1936]
"The Big Bang"* Tony Krantz [2011]
"Emperor of the North"* Robert Aldrich [1973]
"Red"* Robert Schwentke [2010]
"Carnal Knowledge"* Mike Nichols [1971]
"The 39 Steps"* James Hawes (TV) [2008]
"The Best and Brightest"* Josh Shelov [2010]
"Presumed Innocent"* Alan J. Pakula [1990]
"Ironclad"* Jonathan English [2011]
"The Romantic Englishwoman"* Joseph Losey [1975]
"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"* Frank Oz [1988]
"Two For The Road"* Stanley Donen [1967]
"Incendies"* Denis Villenueve [2010]
"The Kite Runner"* Marc Forster [2007]
"Green Zone"* Paul Greengrass [2010]
"Queen To Play"* Caroline Bottaro [2009]
"Winter Kills"* William Richert [1979]

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

Liner Notes.

© 2011 WNM and the respective authors. "All Rights Reserved."

"The Way Back" [Peter Weir] 2010

"The Way Back [2010] was written and directed by Peter Weir. It has an ensemble cast led by Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell and Ed Harris. This is a good, engrossing escape film about prisoners in a Soviet gulag in Siberia in 1940. The prison segment occupies the first quarter of the film. Weir efficiently sets up the characters and situation that forces them to either escape or die of exposure and abuse in a mine. The escape sequence and preparation is not what drives this film. Instead, it focuses on the physical obstacles that must be overcome in the long walk toward freedom in India.

"The travel sequences, from winter to fall and from snow to dessert, force Weir to devote relatively little time to character development. This is a difficult balancing act and this could have been a better film if it was a bit longer. The one character that does stand out, Mr. Smith, well played by Ed Harris, is an American prisoner who has both aged physically and hardened mentally in the gulag.

"Little need be said about Weir, who is both talented and who carefully chooses what he directs. He has received six Oscar nominations for his writing and direction.

"The film is based upon a successful book, The Long Walk, dictated by a fraudulent author, Slavomir Rawicz, who claimed to have escaped as shown in the film, but who was actually released in 1942. This perhaps explains why someone who has read Varlam Sholomov‘s short stories about life in the Kolyma gulags will notice situations that seem pulled from his work."


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"Cisco Pike" [Bill L. Norton] 1972

"Cisco Pike [1972] was written and directed by Bill L. Norton. It stars Karen Black, Gene Hackman and Kris Kristofferson in his first film.

"Kristofferson plays Cisco Pike, once a famous musician, but who has fallen from that pedestal. As the film opens he has just returned from prison for selling marijuana. He arrives at his small alley house in Venice where his girlfriend Sue, played by Karen Black, has been waiting for him.

"The officer who arrested Pike, Leo Holland, is played by Gene Hackman. Holland is ill, but he needs another year to be vested in his pension with the LA Police Department. This causes him to seize a large shipment of dope and pressure Pike to sell it fast. Sue wants to marry Pike and sees selling dope as a path back to prison for him and the loss of her dreams.

"The joys of this film are found in its characterizations, its time and place. Norton takes pains to give this film authenticity. It occurs in west Los Angeles, principally in the Venice area of 1971. Those who lived in LA at the time will note the remains of Pacific Ocean Park in one scene and the canals and bungalows of Venice before they were gentrified. While not intended when it was made, this now gives the film a nostalgic draw for old-time Angelenos.

"Kristofferson gives a stand-out performance, believably playing a musician/songwriter struggling with his past. This was of course not a great character stretch for him. Nevertheless, he anchors this film well.

"Although Norton did a good job here, he did not become a successful Hollywood director. He has however a well established career directing for television."


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"Such Good Friends" [Otto Preminger] 1971

"Such Good Friends [1971] is one of Otto Preminger‘s last films. It is also one of his better films. The screenplay was written by Elaine May. It is a black comedy about the well-to-do professional class in the New York City of the early 1970s.

"The plot revolves around a wife and mother, well played by Dyan Cannon. Her husband is an editorial director of Life magazine. He goes in to have a simple, non-malignant mole removed, but complications set in and he eventually dies. That sounds awful, but this is a black comedy and the medical profession in particular gets well-gored.

"As she digs to discover how this turn of events happened, she finds that her husband regularly slept with her ‘good‘ friends. Apparently, the beautiful people ... aren‘t.

"This film is now largely forgotten and that is unfortunate. While not a great comedy, it is still worth watching. It is now also a period piece, which may cause you some nostalgia."


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"Limitless" [Neil Burger] 2011

"Limitless [2011] was directed by Neil Burger. The proposition in this soft science fiction film is that an illegal drug has been developed that allows a person to utilize the 90% or so of their mental capacity that is typically inaccessible. Since the drug is illegal, getting it exposes one to some dangerous people, and since the drug is impure, using it exposes one to some nasty side-effects.

"The protagonist, Eddie Morra, played by Bradley Cooper, is a young alcoholic writer, living in New York City, who is going nowhere and has wasted the advance on his novel. His brother-in-law from a previous marriage is a drug dealer and introduces him to the drug. Using his new talents he gets noticed by an unscrupulous, but brilliant financial broker, Carl Van Loon, played by Robert De Niro, who wants to corner the energy market.

"The underlying premise here is that only a few people have access to the drug in the financial community. They make huge leaps in short term profitability as a result, since they can out-think anyone else.

"One has to set aside logic to enjoy this film. If you can, it is well made, suspenseful and somewhat intriguing. Another strength of this film is its visual inventiveness. Unfortunately, the plot is not believable. It presumes an illegal drug operation develops a new drug, then restricts its distribution to just a handful of people. That is silly.

"Burger is a new and talented writer/director. His earlier film, The Illusionist [2006] is worth seeing."


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"Beneath Hill 60" [Jeremy Sims] 2010

"Beneath Hill 60 [2010] is directed by Jeremy Sims. It is an Australian film about WWI that many compare to Gallipoli [1981]. Based upon real people and events, the film follows Captain Woodward and his group of miners as they undermine a German hill position in the Ypres area.

"This film falls a little short of Gallipoli due to its subject matter. Most of the action occurs underground in tight tunnels, where there is little scope for scenery and conversation. A back story concerning Woodward‘s romance attempts to fill in the main character, but it gives the viewer the feeling of being spliced in. Nevertheless, this is a nice, well-acted, action film about a little-known, but important event in the war."


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"Battle Los Angeles" [Jonathan Liebesman] 2010

"Battle Los Angeles [2011] is a science fiction film about aliens that invade the earth. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman, it has reasonable special effects that are moderately believable rather than drawn from comic books.

"Although the first half of this film is moderately tight and suspenseful, the writers could not resist adding patriotic jingoism in the last half. This weakened the film considerably, since it was out of place. Apparently, they thought that they needed to make this film more like Independence Day [1996]. They were wrong.

"The story line also gets into trouble after the first half. The writers apparently could not figure out a good way to have the marines beat the aliens, so they made the aliens both high-tech and dumb. The aliens locate one all-important, centralized communication center in each city they attack and they do not defend it well. This is not an intelligent film. It should have been better.

"Ed. Note: It was nice to see them bombing in Santa Monica Again!"


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"The Ghost and the Darkness" [Stephen Hopkins] 1996

"The Ghost and the Darkness [1996] was directed by Stephen Hopkins and stars Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas. It is an action film set in the Tsavo plain in Uganda in the late 1890s and based upon actual events.

"This is a pretty good action film and it is well shot. The story revolves around a railroad construction engineer, played by Kilmer, who has a schedule to keep. Two man-eating lions bring the work to a halt. He has to figure out a way to kill them. Eventually, a famous hunter, played by Douglas, shows up to help him. Douglas‘ character is a bit weak and seems based upon what Hollywood imagines a ‘great white hunter‘ to be.

"Some of the scenes are frustrating, insofar as the engineer does not seem to behave like a professional hunter. He wasn‘t. He was an amateur thrust into a dangerous situation beyond his skills. In one shooting scene the natives seem pathetically useless to the point of unbelievability. In fact they were that useless.

"Curiously, many professional reviewers compare this film to Jaws and feel it falls short. But Jaws [1975] was make believe and a shark like that exists only in fairy tales, whereas this film is based on fact. They complain that the lions do not generate the same tension and are just not scary. One wonders if the many people those two lions ate felt that way.

"Personally, I find the review by Roger Ebert of this film to be a bad joke. It would have been better if Ebert had a little knowledge of man-eaters and their behavior. He makes fun of the statement in the film: "Maneaters are always old, and alone, but not these two". Maneaters generally are alone, usually damaged, often older and so not able to take their normal prey. These two Tsavo lions did indeed exist. They did kill many people. They were indeed unusual.

"Tsavo lions are larger than normal and the males usually have no mane (unlike the lions used in this film). One of the two man-eaters was nearly 10 feet long from tail to nose. The engineer, John Patterson, who had to kill them wrote a book about it. This film does track the book in part. He did not have the help of a professional hunter though. An amateur hunter, he had to kill them both himself and not with big-game rifles, but with a .303 Lee-Enfield.

"This story was first made into the film Bwana Devil [1952] which was the first color 3-D feature film. To put it mildly, it is not nearly as good as this film."


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"The Escapist" [Rupert Wyatt] 2008

"The Escapist [2008] was directed an co-written by Rupert Wyatt. Wyatt is a relatively new director and writer. This is his first feature-length film and it is an impressive debut. This is a good small-budget picture, well written and directed. It was shot on super-16mm, which is not particularly noticeable.

"The film takes place almost entirely within an old British prison. Prison escape has been the basis for many films. The focus here though is not the escape itself, but the central character Frank Perry, a tough, aging prisoner played effectively by Brian Cox.

"The film persistently bounces back and forth between two time lines. The first explains Perry‘s reasoning and planning for the escape. The second is the escape itself. While this technique is initially a bit confusing, it becomes clear quickly what is happening. Wyatt uses this cutting back and forth to introduce the main characters, explain their motivation and eventually knits the narrative together."


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"Paul" [Greg Mottola] 2011

"Paul [2011] is a science fiction comedy woven around the idea that the crash at Roswell happened and the alien pilot was interned at a nearby base for the last 50 years. Being of good nature, the alien adopted the name Paul, learned English and from television and association with various people adopted a wise-ass, slacker attitude about life and culture here. He escapes when he realizes that the US government has finally decided to dissect him.

"Directed by Greg Mottola and written by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, the film presumes that viewers have a solid background in alien films of the gentler variety, especially those by Spielberg and Lucas. Visual jokes that refer to those films are scattered throughout.

"Paul meets a couple of British sci-fi fans on vacation who help him to escape. The couple are played by the writers Frost and Pegg. The comedy is built around the misadventures they have as they travel. Admittedly, this comedy is a one-trick pony. There are some good one-liners in it though and it should squeeze a few laughs from most viewers who are not fundamentalist Christians.

"Avoid this film if you are religious. The writers consider religion to be superstition and fundamentalists to be ignorant fools. Paul makes that clear several times in the film.

"Paul is not going to end up on top-ten lists. It is not that good. But as comedies go, it is not bad either."


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"Quo Vadis" [Mervyn LeRoy] 1951

"Quo Vadis [1951] is a biblical epic road picture based upon the book by Henryk Sienkiwicz. It was directed by Mervyn LeRoy and adapted by a number of co-screenwriters.

"Apparently, MGM thought it was a great idea to make a biblical epic. Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr played the leads. Their lines were poor. Their acting matched. Taylor was never known for being a fine actor, but it is hard to be kind to Kerr. The only saving grace for this film‘s acting is Peter Ustinov, who plays Nero. He effectively portrays Nero as a simpering, power-mad lunatic.

"This is not a good film. At 171 minutes it is much too long for its own good, as is the book from which it was drawn. Huge amounts of money were spent making Quo Vadis. A budget of $7.6M in 1951 equates to roughly $75M today. The sets and crowd scenes are admittedly impressive, but they really should have spent more money on the script. That it was nominated for best picture is hard to understand. Perhaps the Academy felt obligated due to its Christian plot elements."


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"Across the Line: The Exodus of Charlie Wright" [R. Ellis Frazier] 2010

"Across the Line: The Exodus of Charlie Wright [2010] was written and directed by R. Ellis Frazier. The plot centers on a financier who created a multi-billion-dollar Ponzi scheme and fled to Mexico before he could be arrested.

"This movie was shot on digital and went direct to video. This is not a bad movie, but it is not memorable. Given the strength of the cast, that is too bad. What you get finally is just another crime/action film. A better film could have been made by concentrating more on Andy Garcia‘s godfather character Jorge Garza. His performance here stands out."


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"Sorry, Haters" [Jeff Stanzler] 2005

"Sorry, Haters [2005] is a film about contemporary fears in the US after the 9/11 terrorist attack. It was both written and directed by Jeff Stanzler. This is his first widely reviewed film and it was shot on a very low budget.

"The film stars Robin Wright Penn as Phoebe, a supposedly wealthy and successful media executive and a cab driver, Ashade, played by Abdellatif Kechiche. Ashade is an ex-patriot who holds a PhD in chemistry, but fled his home in Syria with his brother for the US. His brother has been unjustly imprisoned in Guantanamo. Phoebe takes a ride in Ashade‘s cab. She gets involved in his private life and we slowly find out that she is not what she seems to be.

"The strength of this film is in the portrayals of its main characters, Phoebe and Ashade. Penn does great job with her character, who is in essence a sociopath. Kechiche is also good. Given the budget, I would guess that the challenge presented by the disturbing character of Phoebe is what attracted Penn to this role.

"The first half of this film is indeed quite good. The principal problem with it is it takes the Phoebe too far to the point that she becomes unbelievable."


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"The Thirty-Nine Steps" [James Hawes] 2008

"The Thirty-Nine Steps is a novel by John Buchan. It has been made into a movie four times, in 1935 by Alfred Hitchcock, in 1959 by Ralph Thomas, in 1978 by Don Sharp and this time in 2008 by James Hawes. The one thread that runs through the screenplays is that none of them follow the book closely. The basic idea is taken, but only as a starting point.

"This [2008] (TV) version departs the most from the novel. It stars Rupert-Penry Jones, as the main character Richard Hannay, and Lydia Leonard, who plays a suffragette/secret-service agent Victoria Sinclair. Hannay gets caught up in a dangerous situation by accident and Sinclair, who knows what is going on but does not tell him, helps him out of the mess.

"The original version is justifiably famous. When it was released in 1935 WWII was unimagined, while WWI was only 17 years distant and the plot of the novel still had serious sting. In 2008 though, the intricacies that led to WWI are not only distant, but completely unknown to most.

"The best thing about this version of The Thirty-Nine Steps is the way it starts. On the whole the film is not particularly good, but neither is it bad. As reviewers have stated concerning the other two remakes, this version is entertaining, but not inspired."


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