Quite surprisingly, The Seventh Victim–in addition to being a disquieting, subtle thriller–is mostly about urban apathy and discontent. Though there aren’t any establishing shots of New York City (or of the small New England town protagonist Kim Hunter comes from), Robson and writers Charles O’Neal and DeWitt Bodeen are quite clear about it. There’s no a single happy character–or moment–in the picture.
It should be depressing, but the suspense in the main story–Hunter is trying to find her sister, Jean Brooks, who has disappeared–distracts. And I suppose if one wasn’t so engrossed with that plot, he or she could still keep up hope for some kind of nicety. Even O’Neal and Bodeen have a scene with a comment on positivity… the characters are clearly defeated, even if they are earnest.
Victim‘s narrative structure is also strange. The third act switches protagonists (though Hunter had been slowly giving way to admirer Erford Gage) and the filmmakers decide to go out on a high point instead of a narratively satisfying one. It just adds to the disquiet.
Robson’s direction is outstanding. He isn’t just able to handle the budget, he’s also able to capture all this muted sorrow in his actors. I don’t think Hunter has one intense moment–no screaming, no crying–but she’s constantly full of emotion. Gage, playing a pretentious poet, is fantastic. Hugh Beaumont is sturdy support and Tom Conway does a great job in a difficult role.
It’s an exceptional film.
Directed by Mark Robson; written by Charles O’Neal and DeWitt Bodeen; director of photography, Nicholas Musuraca; edited by John Lockert; music by Roy Webb; produced by Val Lewton; released by RKO Radio Pictures.
Starring Kim Hunter (Mary Gibson), Hugh Beaumont (Gregory Ward), Erford Gage (Jason Hoag), Tom Conway (Dr. Louis Judd), Jean Brooks (Jacqueline Gibson), Mary Newton (Esther Redi), Lou Lubin (Irving August), Marguerita Sylva (Mrs. Bella Romari) and Ben Bard (Mr. Brun).
Posted in 1943, Black and White, Drama, English, Horror, Italian, Mystery, Thriller, USA
Tagged Ben Bard, Charles O'Neal, DeWitt Bodeen, Erford Gage, Hugh Beaumont, Jean Brooks, John Lockert, Kim Hunter, Lou Lubin, Marguerita Sylva, Mark Robson, Mary Newton, Nicholas Musuraca, Roy Webb, Tom Conway, Val Lewton
The Leopard Man has such beauteous production values–one would never think it was a low budget picture, not with Robert De Grasse’s lush blacks and he and director Tourneur’s tracking shots–it’s a shame the acting fails the film.
A lot of the problem the script. Co-screenwriters Ardel Wray and Edward Dein try hard to show Hispanic culture in a New Mexico town, both in the dialogue and the tone. Sadly, they fail miserably. The script seems to be showing the townspeople as solemnly dignified, but it comes off as callow and ignorant.
Tourneur follows prospective victims around to ratchet up the fear factor, which is a fine approach, but the actors are just terrible. Second-billed Margo gives such an awful performance–not to mention her character being a lousy human being in general–every time the titular monster takes a victim, it’s sad it’s not her. Her fellow ingenues, Margaret Landry and Tuulikki Paananen, are both awful too.
In the ostensible female lead, Jean Brooks is good but she has almost nothing to do. She and leading man Dennis O’Keefe are literally visitors in The Leopard Man; the film downgrades their presence to a subplot.
Good supporting work from James Bell and Abner Biberman helps. Ben Bard is iffy as the cop.
Great music from Roy Webb, excellent cutting from Mark Robson. Tourneur’s composition is outstanding no matter the scene. The Leopard Man is a technical delight to behold… it’s a shame about the middling stuff.
Directed by Jacques Tourneur; screenplay by Ardel Wray and Edward Dein, based on a novel by Cornell Woolrich; director of photography, Robert De Grasse; edited by Mark Robson; music by Roy Webb; produced by Val Lewton; released by RKO Radio Pictures.
Starring Dennis O’Keefe (Jerry Manning), Jean Brooks (Kiki Walker), James Bell (Dr. Galbraith), Ben Bard (Chief Roblos), Abner Biberman (Charlie How-Come), Margaret Landry (Teresa Delgado), Tuulikki Paananen (Consuelo Contreras), Isabel Jewell (Maria the Fortune Teller) and Margo (Clo-Clo).
Posted in 1943, Black and White, English, Film-Noir, Horror, Mystery, RKO Radio Pictures, Spanish, Thriller, USA
Tagged Abner Biberman, Ardel Wray, Ben Bard, Cornell Woolrich, Dennis O'Keefe, Edward Dein, Isabel Jewell, Jacques Tourneur, James Bell, Jean Brooks, Margaret Landry, Margo, Mark Robson, Robert De Grasse, Roy Webb, Tuulikki Paananen, Val Lewton
If there’s a better example of why not every successful film should have a sequel than The Jewel of the Nile, I can’t think of it.
Nile should be a lot of fun–Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner are still likable, Danny DeVito’s still hilarious… but it soon becomes clear Douglas and Turner are more likable apart. Her character has completely changed, while his changes might just be seen as character development. Might.
Screenwriters Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner don’t really have a story for the duo, so they flop their way into one. There’s a lot of resolution to the previous film’s ending, which seems like a waste of run time. The first twenty minutes of Nile could be done in three lines of good expository dialogue.
The film does have some decent action, thanks to too much money, a fine workman director in Teague and great Jan de Bont photography. The Jack Nitzsche score is iffy, but Peter Boita and Michael Ellis’s editing is sublime. It never gets boring, even when the action scenes are clearly padded out. There’s just too much technical competence.
Nile does rely a lot on racial stereotypes. The filmmakers seem to think they’re being respectful, but it’s still uncomfortably exploitative.
One of the script’s biggest mistakes is to give DeVito his own storyline. He’d have been funnier with Douglas and Turner, who instead accompany Avner Eisenberg. Eisenberg is no DeVito.
It’s also too bad Douglas can’t feign interest. He produced it after all.
Directed by Lewis Teague; screenplay by Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner, based on characters created by Diane Thomas; director of photography, Jan de Bont; edited by Peter Boita and Michael Ellis; music by Jack Nitzsche; production designers, Richard Dawking and Terry Knight; produced by Michael Douglas; released by 20th Century Fox.
Starring Michael Douglas (Jack Colton), Kathleen Turner (Joan Wilder), Danny DeVito (Ralph), Spiros Focás (Omar), Avner Eisenberg (Al-Julhara), Paul David Magid (Tarak), Hamid Fillali (Rachid) and Holland Taylor (Gloria).
Joan Wilder series:
Posted in 1985, 20th Century Fox, Action, Adventure, Arabic, Color, Comedy, English, Romance, USA
Tagged Avner Eisenberg, Danny DeVito, Diane Thomas, Hamid Fillali, Holland Taylor, Jack Nitzsche, Jan de Bont, Kathleen Turner, Lawrence Konner, Lewis Teague, Mark Rosenthal, Michael Douglas, Michael Ellis, Paul David Magid, Peter Boita, Richard Dawking, Spiros Focás, Terry Knight
Murder on a Honeymoon is a tepid outing for Edna May Oliver and James Gleason’s detecting duo. It’s the third in the series and, while Oliver and Gleason are back, it’s clear some of the magic was behind the camera. Robert Benchley and Seton I. Miller’s script is a little too nice (in addition to being boring) and Lloyd Corrigan’s direction lacks any inspiration.
Honeymoon takes place on Catalina, which–from the film–seems to be the most boring vacation spot in the world. The only time the murder investigation overlaps with vacation activities is in a closed casino, which is one of the film’s better sequences.
But the script’s the real problem. It ignores suspects, forgets the supporting cast and makes Gleason way too nice to Oliver. Their bickering originally had a give and take–in Honeymoon, Gleason pulls his punches. The only one being really mean to Oliver is the film’s confirmed villain.
Even the supporting cast is a little weak. None of them have story arcs–except Lola Lane–and she’s absent for most of her own arc. Lane isn’t in the picture long enough to make an impression, but DeWitt Jennings is rather weak and Spencer Charters’s incompetent local police chief needs work. It might not be Charters’s fault, since the script never lets Oliver cut into him deep enough.
There are some amusing moments with Arthur Hoyt’s unprofessional medical examiner though.
The murderer’s identity’s a surprise, but a surprise doesn’t make up for the rest.
Directed by Lloyd Corrigan; screenplay by Seton I. Miller and Robert Benchley, based on a novel by Stuart Palmer; director of photography, Nicholas Musuraca; edited by William Morgan; music by Alberto Colombo; produced by Kenneth Macgowan; released by RKO Radio Pictures.
Starring Edna May Oliver (Hildegarde Withers), James Gleason (Inspector Oscar Piper), Lola Lane (Phyllis La Font), George Meeker (Tom Kelsey), Harry Ellerbe (Mr. Deving), Dorothy Libaire (Mrs. Deving), Leo G. Carroll (Director Joseph B. Tate), DeWitt Jennings (Captain Beegle), Spencer Charters (Chief Of Police Britt), Arthur Hoyt (Dr. O’Rourke), Chick Chandler (Pilot French), Matt McHugh (Pilot Madden), Willie Best (Willie the Porter), Morgan Wallace (McArthur) and Brooks Benedict (Roswell T. Forrest).
Hildegarde Withers series:
Posted in 1935, Black and White, Comedy, English, Mystery, RKO Radio Pictures, USA
Tagged Alberto Colombo, Arthur Hoyt, Brooks Benedict, Chick Chandler, DeWitt Jennings, Dorothy Libaire, Edna May Oliver, George Meeker, Harry Ellerbe, James Gleason, Kenneth Macgowan, Leo G. Carroll, Lloyd Corrigan, Lola Lane, Matt McHugh, Morgan Wallace, Nicholas Musuraca, Robert Benchley, Seton I. Miller, Spencer Charters, Stuart Palmer, William Morgan, Willie Best
The Thirteenth Guest has a lot of problems, but its biggest failing is Frances Hyland’s script. Hyland doesn’t just have a lot of logic problems, he also has a bunch of lousy humor. There’s Paul Hurst’s moronic police detective, who Hyland relies on for Guest‘s version of comic relief. Hurst whines a lot and annoys J. Farrell MacDonald, who should be a lot better as his superior. Why isn’t MacDonald better? Because Hyland writes in a bunch of jokes about MacDonald being upset about eccentric wealthy people.
But the dumbest part of Hyland’s script has to be protagonist Lyle Talbot’s passionate anti-murder position. He just can’t stand murder… as opposed to being pro-murder. But Hyland also decides to make the dapper Talbot a reluctant genius detective. So, while Talbot can’t stand murder, he apparently can’t stand having to solve murder cases even more.
Still, Talbot gives a strong performance and, at times, he nearly makes Guest worthwhile. There are some other good supporting performances from James Eagles and Frances Rich. In the other lead role, Ginger Rogers is somewhat ineffective. She’s a lot better in her first scene than she is in the rest of the picture.
Ray’s direction isn’t bad, but Leete Renick Brown’s editing is terrible. The low budget hurts Guest quite a bit. Ray isn’t able to establish any settings. It all looks too cheap in daylight.
Guest should have a compelling narrative, but the budget keeps those involved from taking advantage of it.
Directed by Albert Ray; screenplay by Frances Hyland, based on the novel by Armitage Trail; directors of photography, Tom Galligan and Harry Neumann; edited by Leete Renick Brown; produced by M.H. Hoffman; released by Monogram Pictures.
Starring Lyle Talbot (Phil Winston), Ginger Rogers (Marie Morgan), J. Farrell MacDonald (Police Capt. Ryan), Paul Hurst (Detective Grump), Erville Alderson (Uncle John Adams), Ethel Wales (Aunt Jane Thornton), James Eagles (Harold ‘Bud’ Morgan), Crauford Kent (Dr. Sherwood), Eddie Phillips (Thor Jensen), Frances Rich (Marjorie Thornton) and Phillips Smalley (Uncle Dick Thornton).
Posted in 1932, Black and White, Comedy, English, Monogram Pictures, Mystery, Thriller, USA
Tagged Albert Ray, Armitage Trail, Crauford Kent, Eddie Phillips, Erville Alderson, Ethel Wales, Frances Hyland, Frances Rich, Ginger Rogers, Harry Neumann, J. Farrell MacDonald, James Eagles, Leete Renick Brown, Lyle Talbot, M.H. Hoffman, Paul Hurst, Phillips Smalley, Tom Galligan
Meet the Parents requires an extraordinary suspension of disbelief. It’s an absurdist comedy, but the presence of Robert De Niro and–maybe even more so–Blythe Danner imply Parents is based in some kind of reality.
So the simplest thing–believing Teri Polo could be a well-adjusted adult after growing up with De Niro as a father–becomes Parents’s first hurdle. She and Ben Stiller have only the mildest chemistry and it only goes downhill as the film gets more absurd (and more funny).
Director Roach isn’t capable enough to make that romance, which should be the primary focus of Parents narratively, work, so he concentrates on De Niro and Stiller being funny together. It works. Stiller and De Niro are very funny together. While Stiller actually gives a good performance, De Niro’s is problematic. His best moments are either with Danner or Stiller. When De Niro has to play off Owen Wilson, it feels wrong, like De Niro’s doing a “Saturday Night Live” sketch mocking the film.
Roach’s inabilities carry over into the technical aspects as well. He can’t decide how realistic he wants Parents to play–the film opens with a series of home video shots and there’s some Steadicam later on, but it’s mostly static. It doesn’t necessarily need to choose, but it’s clear Roach is simply incapable of making the decision.
Towards the end, Parents gets very long. It can’t handle with the return to sensibly behaving characters. The acting helps get it through.
Directed by Jay Roach; screenplay by Jim Herzfeld and John Hamburg, based on a story by Greg Glienna and Mary Ruth Clarke; director of photography, Peter James; edited by Greg Hayden and Jon Poll; music by Randy Newman; production designer, Rusty Smith; produced by Robert De Niro, Roach, Jane Rosenthal and Nancy Tenenbaum; released by Universal Pictures.
Starring Robert De Niro (Jack Byrnes), Ben Stiller (Greg Focker), Teri Polo (Pam Byrnes), Blythe Danner (Dina Byrnes), James Rebhorn (Dr. Larry Banks), Jon Abrahams (Denny Byrnes), Phyllis George (Linda Banks), Kali Rocha (Atlantic American Flight Attendant), Thomas McCarthy (Dr. Bob Banks), Nicole DeHuff (Deborah Byrnes) and Owen Wilson (Kevin Rawley).
Posted in Universal Pictures, Color, English, USA, French, Comedy, Romance, Spanish, 2000, Hebrew, Thai
Tagged Ben Stiller, Blythe Danner, Greg Glienna, Greg Hayden, James Rebhorn, Jane Rosenthal, Jay Roach, Jim Herzfeld, John Hamburg, Jon Abrahams, Jon Poll, Kali Rocha, Mary Ruth Clarke, Nancy Tenenbaum, Nicole DeHuff, Owen Wilson, Peter James, Phyllis George, Randy Newman, Robert De Niro, Rusty Smith, Teri Polo, Thomas McCarthy
Final Deadball is a strange little thing.
At first I thought it would be incomprehensible without seeing Deadball–Final is a short spin-off semi-sequel for one of the supporting cast in Deadball–but halfway through there’s a big expository scene so one might be able to understand it without seeing the feature.
I wish I had some names but nothing was translated except the title.
It mostly consists of the protagonist, a recently released juvenile delinquent, trying to escape from his fate. The murderous deadball follows him around, killing bystanders, as he tries to escape it.
The guy who plays the protagonist is fantastic. Final is on DV and appears to be no budget, so the technical values–while creative–aren’t fantastic. But the lead stays professional, even though he’s in poorly lighted frames. He maintains sympathy throughout.
It’s got a surprising amount of depth, given the constraints.
Released by Nikkatsu.
iSteve is pretty darn stupid. The film doesn’t make any attempt not to be stupid–occasionally, one has to imagine they went for the more stupid option–but it’s not unwatchable. In a few ways, it’s a great example of why biopics don’t work. In director Perez’s version, Steve Jobs doesn’t really have a particularly interesting life. The low budget nature even hurts further dumb joke ideas–when Jobs (played by Justin Long) moves back home after getting fired at Apple, his parents don’t appear. They’re always offscreen. At least they could have done the “Charlie Brown” adult talking bit….
As far as the bits go, some are a lot better than others. The subplot with Melinda Gates (Michaela Watkins in iSteve’s best performance) romancing both Jobs and Bill Gates is really funny at times. The stuff with Jobs directing Justin Long in the TV commercials is good. Perez isn’t making a movie about Jobs as a celebrity or Apple as a successful company or even a spoof biopic (it’s too inaccurate). For a few minutes though, it plays like a vanity project for Long–when he casts someone spoofing him to be in the commercials. If iSteve had any actual focus, instead of some sporadic, awesome eighties or nineties jokes, it might have worked.
Long’s okay in the lead. He doesn’t really have a part.
The editing–there are six or seven editors–is fantastic. Great soundtrack too.
iSteve’s biggest joke is its existence. But it could be worse.
Directed by Ryan Perez; written by Perez, Danny Jelinek, Charles Ingram, Anne Rieman, Nick Corirossi, Allison Hord and Bradly Schulz; director of photography, Brian Lane; edited by Pat Bishop, Andy Maxwell, Perez, Chris Poole, Caleb Swyers and Jelinek; production designer, Tricia Robertson; produced by Hord; released by Funny or Die.
Starring Justin Long (Steve Jobs), Jorge Garcia (Steve Wozniak), James Urbaniak (Bill Gates),
Michaela Watkins (Melinda Gates), John Ross Bowie (John Sculley), Steve Tom (Don Commodore), Nick Corirossi (Dell Dude), Anthony Gioe (Justin Long), Charles Ingram (George Lucas), Paul Rust (Billy Corgan), Juzo Yoshida (Otogawa), Jill Donnelly (Annie Leibovitz), Art Evans (Ol’ Mose), Joe Farrell (John Hodgman), Brian Huskey (Professor Palladino) and Kyle Mooney (Father).
Posted in 2013, Biography, Color, Comedy, English, Funny or Die, USA
Tagged Allison Hord, Andy Maxwell, Anne Rieman, Anthony Gioe, Art Evans, Bradly Schulz, Brian Huskey, Brian Lane, Caleb Swyers, Charles Ingram, Chris Poole, Danny Jelinek, James Urbaniak, Jill Donnelly, Joe Farrell, John Ross Bowie, Jorge Garcia, Justin Long, Juzo Yoshida, Kyle Mooney, Michaela Watkins, Nick Corirossi, Pat Bishop, Paul Rust, Ryan Perez, Steve Tom, Tricia Robertson
While it is exceptionally bad, Hybrids does have some really good CG composites. The fight scenes are incredible for a short; sure, the design of the evil alien monsters is laughable, but the silly monsters do exist in the physical environments.
Hybrids has three problems. First–and actually least important–is it’s pointless. It’s fine if Hybrids is a demo reel for CG effects; it doesn’t have to be awful though. Director Kalyn switches between bad Malick impressions for blissful country life and lousy future junkyard action for the fights. His writing’s even worse though. These aliens can master long distance space travel but they’re morons.
Another big problem is lead Daniella Evangelista. She’s goofy when she’s acting tough and her voiceover narration is awful.
At six minutes, Kalyn manages to be boring. Special effects competencies aside, Hybrids offers nothing.
A straight demo reel of ugly aliens would’ve been better.
Written, directed and edited by Patrick Kalyn; director of photography, Cliff Hokanson; music by Sam Hulick; produced by Gabriel Napora.
Starring Daniella Evangelista (Dakota) and Kaitlyn Bernard (Abigail).
Posted in 2013, Canada, Color, English, Sci-Fi, Short
Tagged Cliff Hokanson, Daniella Evangelista, Gabriel Napora, Kaitlyn Bernard, Patrick Kalyn, Sam Hulick
Iron Man 3 feels a lot like the end of the series, which isn’t a bad thing–Robert Downey Jr. does the hero’s journey thing quite well–but director Black handles it oddly. After spending the entire movie pairing Downey with buddies, whether love interest Gwyneth Paltrow, sidekicks Don Cheadle and Jon Favreau, his computer and even an adorable little kid, Downey finishes the movie by himself.
But he’s just learned he can’t get by without a little help from his friends.
Anyway, it’s a stumble after an incredibly entertaining couple hours. Even when the film’s being serious–and sometimes even frightening (the villains are quite good)–it’s always a lot of fun. Downey and Paltrow are wonderful together, as usual, and Black never lets it get too somber. The end credits are self-congratulatory in the best way (if playing into the series finale thing a little much).
Cheadle doesn’t have a lot to do–Iron Man 3 could be a lot longer; more movie would plug most of its plot holes (besides Downey going from experienced marksman to novice in twenty minutes)–but he’s good. Ditto for Rebecca Hall as an ex-girlfriend. She and Paltrow get nowhere near enough time together.
The big surprises are Ben Kingsley as the supervillain and Guy Pearce as a business rival. Kingsley’s excellent, but Pearce’s spellbinding. He walks off with the movie. He alone makes it worth seeing.
The only real bad spot is Brian Tyler’s crappy score.
Otherwise, it rocks.
Directed by Shane Black; screenplay by Drew Pearce and Black, based on the Marvel Comics character created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck and Jack Kirby; director of photography, John Toll; edited by Peter S. Elliot and Jeffrey Ford; music by Brian Tyler; production designer, Bill Brzeski; produced by Kevin Feige; released by Walt Disney Studios.
Starring Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Don Cheadle (Colonel James Rhodes), Guy Pearce (Aldrich Killian), Rebecca Hall (Maya Hansen), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), James Badge Dale (Savin), William Sadler (President Ellis), Ty Simpkins (Harley Keener), Miguel Ferrer (Vice President Rodriguez) and Ben Kingsley (The Mandarin).
Iron Man series:
Posted in 2013, Action, Adventure, China, Color, English, Sci-Fi, USA, Walt Disney Pictures
Tagged Ben Kingsley, Bill Brzeski, Brian Tyler, Don Cheadle, Don Heck, Drew Pearce, Guy Pearce, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jack Kirby, James Badge Dale, Jeffrey Ford, John Toll, Jon Favreau, Kevin Feige, Larry Lieber, Miguel Ferrer, Peter S. Elliot, Rebecca Hall, Robert Downey Jr., Shane Black, Stan Lee, Ty Simpkins, William Sadler