KimB-3

IMDb member since February 1999
    Lifetime Total
    10+
    IMDb Member
    22 years

Reviews

Wuthering Heights
(1992)

Outstanding score
I loved this adaptation and found it really captured the romance, violence, and power of the novel. I thought the leads were excellent, although I didn't like the fact that Juliette Binoche played both Cathy and her daughter (with blond hair). But the real star of this picture is Ryuichi Sakamoto's haunting score. I've been looking for it on CD for years, to no avail.

Quills
(2000)

Too many ideas, not enough focus
I had high hopes for this film, but ultimately found it unsatisfying. Like many pictures coming out of Hollywood today, it was too long and bloated -- it needed to be much tighter and more focused. There were many intriguing ideas in the picture -- the value of pornography, de Sade's amoral nature, madness/genius, man's struggle against his base urges -- but the film never picked one theme to focus on. As a result, I came away confused by what the film was trying to accomplish. In addition, the purported villain, Dr. Royer-Collard, never actually does anything particularly evil, and as the film winds on, he become more and more divorced from the plot. The climactic scene in which de Sade's words become reality happens largely off-camera and is upstaged by the chaos unfolding in the rest of the asylum.

Geoffrey Rush and Joaquin Phoenix turn in very good performances and I would have liked to see a more intense, tighter study of their relationship without the distraction of the many minor and irrelevant characters who pop up.

This Could Be the Night
(1957)

Charming and sexy
"This Could be the Night" is a charming fish-out-of-water story about a straight-laced girl who becomes a part-time secretary at a seedy nightclub in New York. Jean Simmons plays Anne, the self-possessed college grad who's trying to expand her horizons by taking a job where she's surrounded by "characters." The club staff quickly find out that she's a "nice girl" -- that is, a virgin -- and tacitly conspire to keep her that way. No-one takes this task more seriously than Tony, one of the owners, and a well-known lothario. Naturally he's falling for her and is determined to keep her out of every man's clutches, especially his own.

The chemistry between Simmons and Fransciosa sizzles and all the characters' tiptoeing around the word "virgin" definitely gives the movie more sexual overtones than you would expect. The club staff are a likeable bunch -- from busboy Hassan, whose father won't let him change his name until he passes algebra, to strip-dancer Patsy, who really wants to be a cook. The dialogue is snappy and intelligent and the characters stay true to the end.

That Hagen Girl
(1947)

Watchable, if formulaic
"That Hagen Girl" is a fairly formulaic condemnation of small-town values. Mary Hagen is a young woman whose questionable parentage has caused her to be the subject of gossip and discrimination by the town elite. Her teacher, Miss Lane, tries to encourage her personal growth, the rest of the town conspires to keep her in her place as a second-class citizen, and her presumed real father returns to town to complicate things.

I watched this mainly to see Shirley Temple as an adult rather than a tyke and Lois Maxwell play something other than Miss Moneypenny. Temple is surprisingly pretty and her acting is at least as good as everyone else's in the picture. I found the romantic turnarounds a bit confusing, though -- young Ken turns into a spineless mama's boy, Miss Lane and Tom Bates decide they are just "good friends", and Bates (who for most of the movie is suspected to be Mary's father) is now in love with her! That was a little creepy and not terribly convincing. It's not a movie I would recommend exactly, but it was certainly watchable and of archival interest, if nothing else.

The Fall of the Roman Empire
(1964)

Close cousin of "Gladiator"
I'm amazed I never saw any references to this movie in reviews for Ridley Scott's "Gladiator." While the latter is not a remake, the plot and characters are reprised: the murder of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the rivalry between his son Commodus and General Livius (in "Gladiator", the character Maximus), the romance between Livius and Caesar's daughter, Lucilla, the split in the Senate between the democrats and the autocrats, and Commodus's insanity. Longer and more complex than "Gladiator," "The Fall of the Roman Empire" features breathtaking cinematography, huge sets, a cast of thousands, a sweeping score by Dmitri Tiomkin, and a chariot race that rivals any contemporary car chase for thrills. There are some major plot differences -- most notably that Livius does not become a gladiator -- although the picture does culminate in a gladitorial-style duel between him and Commodus. (I can only assume that since high-profile historian Will Durant served as a consultant, this is somewhat closer to the actual events.) Ultimately, however, "Fall" is about events, not characters. Stephen Boyd's Livius seems too naive and simple-minded and his love affair with Lucilla has no fire, apparently consisting solely of tearful separations and reunions. Sophia Loren gives an adequate performance, but the costume designers have her swathed in nun-like habits that cover her from neck to toe in every scene. Christopher Plummer, however, stands out as the mad, beautiful, immature Commodus -- the only part with any meat. The fall of Rome always draws a compelling, if over simplified, parallel to the perceived disintegration of our own society.

Land of the Pharaohs
(1955)

Great for its genre
It's hard to know how to rate movies like this because the genre is so inherently cheesy. In the grand scheme of all cinema, it probably should only get a 6 out of 10, but within the "swords and sandals" genre, it surely rates a 10! There are many classic themes here: an aging man's wish to be remembered through a great monument, a slave's desire to win freedom for his people, an ambitious woman's lust for power at any cost. Of course, everything is overacted and obvious as hell, but the plot stays focused, unrolling inexorably to it's horror-movie ending. This is Saturday afternoon escapism at its best.

Land of the Pharaohs
(1955)

Great for its genre
It's hard to know how to rate movies like this because the genre is so inherently cheesy. In the grand scheme of all cinema, it probably should only get a 6 out of 10, but within the "swords and sandals" genre, it surely rates a 10! There are many classic themes here: an aging man's wish to be remembered through a great monument, a slave's desire to win freedom for his people, an ambitious woman's lust for power at any cost. Of course, everything is overacted and obvious as hell, but the plot stays focused, unrolling inexorably to it's horror-movie ending. This is Saturday afternoon escapism at its best.

Road House
(1989)

Saturday afternoon fun
I have to agree with those who find this film trashy fun. It's one of those movies that I'll always stop to watch on a Saturday afternoon if I'm flipping channels. Patrick Swayze holds all the cards and opens up cans of whoop-ass on various low-lifes and bad guys while living the modest life of Buddha. Sam Elliot's part is way too brief -- he's so cool, you could watch him all day. This one's another guilty pleasure.

A Day of Fury
(1956)

An inspiration for "High Plains Drifter"?
Despite the wooden acting of its stars, this film's intriguing themes and well-written dialog elevate it to something out of the ordinary. "A Day of Fury" is about the end of the Old West, embodied by the gunfighter, and its replacement by "decent folk" and their values. However, one gunfighter returns to town and exposes the hypocrisy and small-mindedness that lies beneath the veneer of civilization. This film is a must-see for those who love Clint Eastwood's "High Plains Drifter" as it seems to have inspired that film to a large degree. (One character remarks that if Jagade is allowed to stay, "He'll turn this town into hell.") Despite the emotionless acting of its leads and the irritating, strangely pronounced name of the main character, I enjoyed this film a great deal for its cynical view of the human character and its exposure of human weakness and fear.

The Black Shield of Falworth
(1954)

Campy fun in the middle ages
How could you not love Tony Curtis in a knights and armor picture? He's wonderfully miscast in this middle ages romp about a "boy" (Curtis looks in his mid-twenties) searching for his father's identity. Valiantly suppressing his New York twang, Curtis climbs vines to be with his illicit love, Lady Anne, dodges blows from jealous fellow-squire, Walter Blunt, and throws down the gauntlet to satisfy his honor against the evil Earl of Alban. This is Tony Curtis at his campy best, his manliness untainted by the dark implications of his later work (to wit, the "Oysters and Snails" scene in "Spartacus"). The middle ages never looked so clean.

The Command
(1954)

Surprisingly fun western
This surprisingly fun western stars Guy Madison as a Doctor Robert MacClaw who finds himself in charge of his cavalry troup as a result of his commanding officer's dying order. Needless to say, the men aren't thrilled, but he wins them over with his unorthodox, yet effective, tactics against the bands of hostile Indians who stand between them and safety. Along the way his command grows to include a wagon train of settlers and two units of inexperienced infantry. Naturally, there's a romantic subplot involving one of the settlers, and a breakout of smallpox that calls upon his medical skills. The romance seems tepid and formulaic, but MacClaw's relationship with his senior officer, Sgt Elliott, is believable and strong. Despite a disturbingly high body count of Indians, the good doctor doesn't show much remorse about the slaughter. Ironically, he seems much more worried that they'll be decimated by smallpox contracted from the wagon train. Don't look for any kind of message here, however, it's just good clean fun (if you can overlook the dead Indians), with an exciting high-speed wagon chase at the end!

Brute Force
(1947)

Powerful, dark drama. Great performance by Cronyn.
BRUTE FORCE This intense, powerful drama stars Burt Lancaster as Collins, a prisoner who's got to find a way out, and Hume Cronyn as the sadistic Captain Munsey, who delights in torturing the inmates. Cronyn is masterful -- cast wonderfully out of character, his slick, soft delivery takes on a skin-crawling menace. Lancaster is appropriately hard and driven, but the fact that he's breaking out to be by his dying girlfriend's side seems facile. The weakest elements of this film are the flashbacks to how his cellmates got locked up. (It seems obvious these scenes are contrived to introduce women into an otherwise all-male cast.) It turns out none of them are really bad guys except Lancaster, who appears to be some kind of gangster. We aren't given much insight into his character; we know he's smart and a leader, but he's clearly got a tendency toward violence. Ultimately, however, it's not about how they got there, but who they are when they get there. It's about what pushes a man past his breaking point and what happens after that. Weaknesses aside, this is a worthwhile, thought-provoking film with excellent performances all around.

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