Thursday, October 30, 2014

Penthouse

Penthouse (1933)

Runtime: 89 minutes

Directed by: W.S. Van Dyke

Starring: Warner Baxter, Myrna Loy, Mae Clarke, C. Henry Gordon, Nat Pendleton

From: “Metro Golwyn Mayer”, according to the film's title card

This may look like a random movie but I actually picked it out for a reason, which I'll get to in a bit. I watched it via (site redacted), a place I've used for a long while now and considering it's not 100% ethical I shouldn't complain that as of late some of the videos don't work; it's still annoying, though. Onto the Letterboxd review:

This is indeed a movie I decided to watch as someone I follow on Letterboxd (and he also follows me) recently watched it and enjoyed the film. I had heard of it before and it was no problem finding a copy to watch, but his review was the impetus for me to check it out, and it was a wise decision on my part. It's not a must-see but it was a pretty amusing hour and a half.

This is a Pre-Code movie (it certainly has some dialogue and visuals you could never do once the Code came in, blood being the most obvious, but also a leading lady who implies she wants s-e-x in a more than subtle fashion) dealing with the world of gangsters, racketeers, and other reprobates, and it's centered on defense attorney Jackson Durant who unwittingly becomes buddies with a gangster who really enjoys the acquittal he gave him; his new friendship actually proves beneficial although at first it causes conflict as some people really don't care for Durant and who he defends. He is another party in a love triangle and he has to free a man set up for murder, and his biggest assist is a “lady of the night” played by Myrna Loy.

Warner Baxter (w/ trademark pencil-thin mustache) is Jackson Durant and he was fine as a lead, along with the rest of the cast (including some people I recognized from other gangster films of the era), it was unsurprisingly Loy who gave the best most nuanced performance, playing a very charming lady despite her being a call girl that works for a notorious gangster. There are many colorful characters and between that and the story that's never dull, it's an entertaining motion picture filled with comedic moments and lines.

The biggest impact of the film is that the director W.S. Van Dyke first met Myrna Loy and recognized her talent and from there they worked together often, including many of The Thin Man movies, and that launched her career.

I'll return tomorrow night and for the day it will be horror-themed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I Talk About Terminator: Genisys (blah)

Tonight is the last day of the Major League Baseball season, Game 7 of the World Series so I'll definitely be watching that instead of any films. But, the news breaking today about the movie that should be known as Terminator: Genesis... it does give me something to talk about.

Eventually (hopefully soon) I'll start watching the Blu-ray set I have of all 4 Terminator films* and talk about them here for this page and my Letterboxd page; in short, the first two are great, and the other two, not so much. I'll explain why in those future reviews. As for the 5th movie, they had been talking about it for awhile now and they were finally able to get it together; whether or not there SHOULD be one is something else entirely but that's not my point of contention.

What I don't like is what has been revealed about the plot for the 5th Terminator. You can read this Collider article here for the details but in case you don't want to be spoiled, the new film makes big changes to the entire mythology. I realize that can happen with a time travel series, where things can become a huge mess if you try to look at it logically; it's just that the changes sound really stupid and nonsensical, and while I've never looked forward to it, actually wanting to see it is now pretty far down the list; there are literally thousands of films in the history of motion pictures I'd rather see than watch something calling itself Genisys.

I'll return with something or another tomorrow night.

* By the way, it was a nice feat for them to be together considering they were made by four different studios and released by three different studios (at least in the United States)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

John Wick

John Wick (2014)

86% on Rotten Tomatoes (out of 113 reviews)

Runtime: 101 minutes

Directed by: David Leitch, Chad Stahelski

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Dean Winters, Willem Dafoe

From: Summit Entertainment

Here it is, my review of a movie that has done quite a bit better at the box office than expected, and that is a great thing, as this motion picture is something well worth seeing, and I am glad I got to see it on a giant screen. Onto the Letterboxd review; I'll be back tomorrow night with something or another.

I'll be honest here, it wasn't until relatively recently that I had even heard of this movie. I'd definitely be interested in it once I heard the plot and then saw that people here were going wild for it. But believe it or not, I know someone who worked on the film, albeit in an uncredited PA role on set. I just know him from the online world but I definitely had to see it for that reason; it turns out he managed to work on something that's pretty awesome.

I am sure by now most know the plot (John Wick is played by Keanu Reeves and he's an assassin; his wife dies of cancer and he receives a puppy as a gift. The dog is killed and his '69 Ford Mustang Boss 429 is stolen by some Russian punks; quite understandably he gets PISSED and returns to the lifestyle to get revenge) so I won't spend much time on that. It's definitely not complicated, and that is OK, as the fun is seeing Wick get revenge and oh boy does he ever.

Much to my relief not only was the action great and plentiful (it was like an unrelenting action hammer once it got going), but it was actually shot where it was clear and you always understood what was going on. Not of the shaky-cam nonsense or Michael Bay ADD editing going on. You have some tremendous action setpieces, the best being in a nightclub and featuring an appropriate soundtrack there, although the music as a whole was nice.

It's a very colorful world and it's brought to the screen in a nice manner. Keanu is great as the unstoppable lead but the cast overall does a swell job, especially Michael Nyqvist at his Donald Pleasence-est, to steal a comment. It's a neo-noir with style and to think that it was directed by a pair of longtime stuntmen, neither of who had directed anything before, and they made one of the best movies from this year that I've seen this year. The film is inspired by the past but is wholly original and they delivered in a confident and more than competent fashion.

What I saw and did not expecting was how well the world-building was and how interesting it was. Without spoiling anything there were many nice little touches and the universe of assassins is quite interesting.

For you meat and potatoes action movie fans who prefer the films of old which were simple & weren't pretentious and had many cool moments, this is something you must watch.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Curse Of Frankenstein

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Runtime: 82 minutes

Directed by: Terence Fisher

Starring: Peter Cushing, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart, Christopher Lee

From: Hammer

I went old-school with this horror choice. It was the film that started Hammer as a popular horror studio. Onto the Letterboxd review, and note that I'll return Tuesday afternoon:

Last night on TCM they showed this film so of course I had to check it out, the motion picture that was a hit and started Hammer's long run of doing gothic horror movies.

Everyone knows Mary Shelley's classic story so I won't recap that. Instead I'll mention that unlike the 1931 film starring Boris Karloff, this telling of the tale is more focused on Baron Frankenstein. That works, as the character is quite evil; he's happy to kill someone if they cause trouble, his thinking that if someone dies, “they don't need their bodies” so it's OK to engage in grave robbing for your mad scientist plot of building a human being then animating him to become alive, not to mention giving the guilt trip to others to help him with his crazy ideas.

Also, and this is a big key, Victor Frankenstein was played by the great Peter Cushing, and needless to say he was superb in the role. Christopher Lee (w/ Moe Howard's hair) as “the creature” was good with what he was given to do (he was more monster than man), and the rest of the cast do admirable jobs.

As expected from the studio, the Technicolor look of the movie is indeed pretty colorful, and dripping with atmosphere and mood. The sets are also quite good, a big part of the atmosphere and mood; you believe this is a tale from olden times. This is effective as good old fashioned entertainment, complete with a busty lady.

While I think that the '31 film from James Whale is the definitive tale, it doesn't mean you should ignore this alternate look at the story.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fantasy NBA Drafts...

are more important than seeing any films last night or tonight... at least until late when I see something on TCM that is horror related. So, I will return tomorrow night and this time it'll be with a review.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Fog

The Fog (1980)

Runtime: 91 minutes

Directed by: John Carpenter

Starring: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook

From: AVCO Embassy

The viewing of this film came courtesy of TCM, who aired it late last night. I certainly wanted to watch this more than staying up to the morning hours to see again Night of the Lepus, something I had seen before long before starting this blog, and I was surprised they showed it and it wasn't TCM Underground; it's what I'll call “charmingly terrible”. But onto this movie, one that has great California scenery and plenty of atmosphere. So, onto the plot description then the Letterboxd review. I'll be back Saturday night:

“The centenary of the small seaside town of Antonio Bay, California is approaching. One hundred years ago, the wealthy leper Blake bought the clipper ship Elizabeth Dane and sailed with his people to form a leper colony. However, while sailing through a thick fog, they were deliberately misguided by a campfire onshore, steering the course of the ship toward the light and crashing her against the rocks. While the townsfolk prepare to celebrate, the victims of this heinous crime that the town's founding fathers committed rise from the sea to claim retribution. Under cover of the fog, they carry out their vicious attacks, searching for what is rightly theirs.”

Looking around on Letterboxd, I see that this movie gets a mixed review and some don't care for the plot, it being “boring” to them, the identity and implementation of the villains, and the overall quality of the picture. I understand... but I still disagree.

I admit that the story is wacky (what basically are “pirate lepers” returning on the 100th anniversary of a town's founding in order to gain revenge for some people deliberately crashing their ship in order to steal the gold on the ship and prevent the people on the boat from founding a leper colony right by what would soon be their new town) and even a little preposterous; no matter what you think of the plot, I think it's executed rather well.

The cast is rather talented and that's a big asset; there's Janet Leigh and her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins-sadly sans mustache-Adrienne Barbeau, Hal Holbrook and even cult actor Buck Flower in a bit part. The musical score from Carpenter is pretty great, as expected.

And most importantly, the scene where Hal Holbrook literally pops up out of nowhere in a hysterical manner to meet Janet Leigh... actually, the feeling of atmosphere, mood and feeling is great; all together those three aspects here were the best that Carpenter ever did. That makes up for how some of the special effects look wacky in 2014.

If you're expecting this to be an action-packed slasher or that it'll be a tense thrill ride, then yeah you probably won't get it. But if you enjoy deliberately paced thoughtful films where there's a constant atmosphere and eventually it'll envelop you like the title presence that shows up two nights in a row (or a movie where there's more than a few horror references, especially what characters are named)... then you should check out this film, which while isn't my favorite of John Carpenter, it doesn't mean it's bad or not worth seeing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Manhattan Melodrama

Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

Runtime: 91 minutes

Directed by: W.S. Van Dyke and an uncredited George Cukor

Starring: Clark Gable, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Leo Carrillo, Nat Pendleton

From: MGM

Here's the movie I promised last night, something different from the horror movies I've seen in October, and the first real old movie I've seen in a few weeks. The IMDb plot description (part of it, anyhow) then the Letterboxd review; I'll be back tomorrow night and so will return the review of a horror film:

Orphans Edward "Blackie" Gallagher and Jim Wade are lifelong friends who take different paths in life. Blackie thrives on gambling and grows up to be a hard-nosed racketeer. Bookworm Wade becomes a D.A. vying for the Governorship. When Blackie's girlfriend Eleanor leaves him and marries the more down to earth Wade, Blackie harbors no resentment...”

This is a film I decided to watch today-although I did see it before, a long time ago-as a change of pace from all the horror movie watching I've been doing this month. It's a movie that lives up to the title (thankfully there's no false advertising) and is best known in history not just as the first of many films that William Powell and Myrna Loy did together, but as the movie that got noted outlaw John Dillinger out of hiding and he was gunned down after going to the theatre to see it.

The plot isn't too complex but that it OK; it's about a pair of boys who are pals, one of whom is played by Mickey Rooney. They are on the steamboat General Slocum when it catches fire (a real life incident, by the way) and both are orphaned. You then see them as adults and one is Blackie (Clark Gable), a gangster. The other is Jim Wade (Powell), a district attorney who is looking to become governor of the state of New York. Loy is Eleanor, a dame who was involved with Blackie but once she met Wade, realized his honest unwavering integrity was much more appealing to her. Blackie is OK with that and all three are genial with each other, even when things happen and Wade has to decide if he should be honest or if he should try and help his friend.

Sure, the movie is a melodrama but it isn't overblown or ridiculous. Things are grounded so you could believe that this situation could happen. Several real life aspects are brought in to add believably, that being the sinking of that ship, the trouble in Russia the early part of the 20th century, a day at the horse races at Belmont Park and even an important scene is set at an older version of Madison Square Garden at a hockey game. There are no deus ex machina convenient moments or any of that nonsense. It's not the cheeriest of endings but it's not preposterous either.

The movie's nicely done but what elevates it are the performances of the three leads, who help keep things even-keeled and don't delve into histrionics. All 3 are multidimensional and all 3 are greatly acted. This movie should be known more than the first teaming of Loy and Powell or the last movie that John Dillinger saw.