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Search Title: Search Director: Year Seen:  


Title: Director [Year]
"The Bedford Incident" James B. Harris [1965]
"Captain Phillips" Paul Greengrass [2013]
"The Ice Storm" Ang Lee [1997]
"Out of the Furnace" Scott Cooper [2013]
"All Is Lost" J.C.Chandor [2013]
"Plunder of the Sun" John Farrow [1953]
"Cry Danger" Robert Parrish [1951]
"Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" Kenneth Branagh [2014]
"Nebraska" Alexander Payne [2013]

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Liner Notes.

© 2014 WNM and the respective authors. "All Rights Reserved."

"The Bedford Incident" [ James B. Harris] 1965

"The Bedford Incident [1965] was directed by James B. Harris and stars Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier. The screenplay by James Poe is based upon the Mark Rascovich novel of the same name.

"In one of his best roles, Widmark plays Capt. Eric Finlander, who commands a guided missile cruiser which is hounding a Soviet submarine. For reasons he does not like, Finlander has been saddled with two new crew members, a reporter, played by Poitier, and a doctor, played by Martin Balsam.

"The doctor and reporter are not key players in the film, but they are necessary. They exist to draw out Finlander in conversation to expose Finlader‘s character in ways that junior officers could not believably do. Finlander is a perfectionist and an aggressive commander that is revered by his crew. He tolerates only the best and as a reward keeps his crew engaged, often on the edge of their seats.

"Although on its surface a cat and mouse game between a surface vessel and a submarine, the submarine and its crew is never really seen. This film is primarily a character study of a superbly skilled commander who has one serious flaw. His mono-maniacal focus does not allow him to realize where the balance between risk and reward lies.

"The Bedford Incident is one of the better cold war nightmare films. Without a huge budget, some obvious use of scale models is made, but this is not a huge drawback due to the film‘s focus on character. Although it ranks a bit behind Fail Safe [1964] and Seven Days in May [1964], The Bedford Incident is well worth watching to see Widmark play the Captain."


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"Captain Phillips" [Paul Greengrass] 2013

"Captain Phillips [2013] is the true story of the captain of a US-flagged cargo ship that was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009 and the captain‘s eventual rescue by the US navy. The film was directed by Paul Greengrass, with the screenplay written by Billy Ray based upon the memoir "A Captain‘s Duty" by Captain Richard Phillips. Phillips is played by Tom Hanks and the chief hijacker by Barkhad Abdi.

"Realism was considered important enough by Greengrass that Somalis were recruited to participate as characters in the film. That decision may have been risky, but it paid off well. Abdi in particular is convincing as the leader of the highjackers. He is extremely lean, portraying a man out of his depth, made desperate by circumstances in his country, but clearly capable of command. Hanks also gives a fine performance, but that is less surprising than that of Abdi‘s, since Hanks is a seasoned professional.

"Captain Phillips is not just an action film. The director wants the viewer to understand the hijacker‘s motivations. Those who expect only an action film may find it drags a bit here and there. On the whole though this is a very good film."


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"The Ice Storm" [Ang Lee] 1997

"The Ice Storm [1997] was directed by Ang Lee who just previously directed the critically successful Sense and Sensibility [1995]. Ice Storm was his second English-language film, well-made, well-acted and thoughtful. It is autumn 1973. The film centers on two bright, very well-to-do couples who saw the social revolution of the 1960s but who came of age too early to have directly participated.

"Played by Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Kline, Joan Allen and Jamey Sheridan, the couples are now married and in their late 30s or early 40s. Along the way they have had children, lost most of the love they once had for their partners and are saddled with responsibilities. Jaded and bored, they search for ways to add zest back into their lives, along the way confusing and hurting their children.

"While the props may change from generation to generation, the desperate feeling that arises in middle age that there must be something better and more fulfilling than what one has now seems to be a constant of life. The Ice Storm is a window into that revelation for early ‘boomers‘. It peers into and deconstructs two affluent families. It is clearly reminiscent of the actual deconstruction of the Loud family in the ground-breaking documentary An American Family [1971].

"A similarly well-written film taking place at the same time but which involves late ‘boomers‘, born roughly as decade later, who did participate in that turmoil, is The Return of the Secaucus Seven [1979]. Those who came of age in the late 60‘s and early 70‘s and who do not connect with Ice Storm may find Secaucus internally disturbing and sadly nostalgic."


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"Out of the Furnace" [Scott Cooper] 2013

"Out of the Furnace [2013] was directed by Scott Cooper. This film has a good principal cast, Casey Affleck, Christian Bale, Willem Defoe, Forest Whitaker, Woody Harrelson and Sam Shepard, all of whom give fine performances.

"Critics as a rule do not like this film. Some complain that there are too many plot elements. Others dislike its vigilante theme. Virtually all agree that the acting stands out as the best part of the film. Harrelson is particularly convincing.

"This is not a complicated film. The story is straightforward and flows well. Are there unnecessary scenes? The short deer hunting and butchering scenes could be removed without hurting it. The vigilante aspect is well motivated and forms the core motivation of the plot. Complaining about it as a plot element is more a social than critical comment.

"The ‘Furnace‘ referred to in the title is a blast furnace. The steel mill and surrounding town in the film are that of the Edgar Thomson steelworks located in Braddock, PA. These are the last two blast furnaces operating near Pittsburgh. US Steel by itself operated 23 furnaces in Pennsylvania in 1971. The two in Braddock are all that remain operating in the state."


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"All Is Lost" [J.C.Chandor] 2013

"All Is Lost [2013] was directed by J.C.Chandor. This is an unusual film about a yachtsman who is single-handing a yacht in the Indian Ocean. The one character in the film is played by Robert Redford and he has no character name.

"This is an intense character study of a late middle-aged man placed under immense stress and deprivation. What you see is his reaction and activities after his yacht is badly holed and eventually sunk after it collides with an abandoned shipping container at night while he is asleep and the yacht is auto-piloting. Virtually no lines are said in this film other than a few curses and radio calls. There is after all nobody to talk to but himself.

"This film must succeed on the strength of its lone actor and it does. Redford gives an assured, believable performance that demonstrates how good he remains.

"Some may find this film a bit boring. Most will not. It is an action film stripped to its bare essentials, one man fighting the elements with his skill.

"J.C. Chandor‘s previous film was Margin Call [2011], which he also wrote. All Is Lost is the polar opposite of that film. That both such wildly different films are good speaks well of his skills."


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"Plunder of the Sun" [John Farrow] 1953

"Plunder of the Sun [1953] was directed by John Farrow and stars Glenn Ford. This is a reasonably good, but not fine film noir. The screenplay was based on the novel by David Dodge, best known for the book To Catch a Thief, which was used by Hitchcock. The director is indeed Mia Farrow‘s father.

"The principal characters here are all shady to various extents. Ford plays Al Colby, man down on his luck in Havana, out of money since his business partner cheated him. Because of that and his obvious intelligence, he is contacted by an unscrupulous collector to smuggle a small unknown package of goods into Mexico for a large amount of money.

"Colby is intelligent and realizes that this is risky and of course illegal. Just how risky becomes clear when yet another smooth-talking crook gets involved. He then looks into the package and discovers a 16th century Mexican Indian manuscript which he now suspects is worth big money and so is very risky for him to have. His greed though gets the better of him.

"The film‘s strength is its writing and Colby‘s character, which is neither bad nor good. Ultimately, he does the right thing, driven by revenge, not because it is the right thing to do. Love interest here is clearly secondary to money.

"Visually, this is well shot and makes good use of locations at various Mexican temple ruins and poor areas of Mexican towns."


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"Cry Danger" [Robert Parrish] 1951

"Cry Danger [1951] was directed by Robert Parrish and stars Dick Powell, Richard Erdman and Rhonda Fleming. This is one of the best Holywood noir films and until recently it was next to impossible to see, having been tied up in a copyright issue for many years.

"One of the pleasures watching this is that it was filmed in the declining Bunker Hill core of downtown Los Angeles. The locations were real and largely untouched for the film. Today, Bunker Hill is dominated by skyscrapers. Back then it was filled by old hotels and tenements - natural atmosphere for a noir.

"Powell plays Rocky Mulloy, sent to prison for a robbery he did not commit. Erdman plays Delong, a decorated and wounded ex-marine with an angle. Now pardoned as a result of Delong‘s falsely swearing he was with Mulloy when the crime occurred, Mulloy arrives in Los Angeles intending to figure out what did happen. It becomes clear that Mulloy is not squeaky clean, given his past associates. The two of them form an unspoken partnership of sorts, each knowing that they are not exactly clean, but trusting one another.

"The smaller roles in this film are also notable, in particular Regis Toomey as the detective and Joan Banks as a widow on the make. The screenplay by William Bowers is smoothly noir, clipped and to the point. The pacing matches the script. Time is not wasted. The B&W cinematography is noteworthy and complements the locations.

"There is a lot to like here."


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"Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" [Kenneth Branagh] 2014

"Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit [2014] was directed by Kenneth Branagh and stars Chris Pine, Kevin Kostner and Keira Knightly.

"Pine plays the Jack Ryan franchise character created by Tom Clancy, but this film is not based upon a Clancy novel. Here we have prequel that explains how Ryan got wounded in Afghanistan, needed extensive rehab, fell in love with his nurse, was noticed by a CIA recruiter, started to work for the CIA and got pulled into doing black ops in order to save the US financial system from an evil mastermind currency trader.

"This film is not inventive enough to make one care about it as anything other than a competently-made action film with a lot of chases and predictable violence. There is plenty of talent here, but the script does not rise to meet them."


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"Nebraska" [Alexander Payne] 2013

"Nebraska [2013] was directed by Alexander Payne and written by Bob Nelson. It stars Bruce Dern in what many believe to be the best role of his career.

"The plot revolves around a cantankerous old man, Woody Grant, played by Dern, who believes he may have won an award on the basis of a mass circular from a sweepstakes marketing company. He prevails on his son to take him to the town where the sweepstakes company is located to pick up his award, which of course amounts to nothing.

"Woody is an alcoholic and not at all lovable. But he is played with conviction by Dern, who squeezes a measure of nobility out of him. There are several fine supporting roles as well.

"The film is shot in black and white, which accentuates the spartan open country and small towns of the midwest. This is an art film and should be approached as such. It has no shootings or car chases. If that is what you want to see, don‘t go here.

"Nebraska was nominated for six Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress and Cinematography. It did not win any, but that still indicates just how strong this film is."


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