Reviews (564)

  • Warning: Spoilers
    While a woman with a disability in peril is a concept at least as old as the 1940s with THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE, such thrillers can be pure magic with an inspired script, evocative atmosphere, and tense camerawork. SEE NO EVIL has two of these things, which keeps it in second-tier thriller territory, I'm sorry to say, but it is still a decent time-waster elevated by Mia Farrow's convincing portrayal of blindness and some well-chosen camera angles which keep the sighted viewer just as in the dark as the heroine.

    The problem is the story. The first half is promising. We get touching character moments with the vulnerable Farrow struggling to accept her disability and her family's well-meaning but awkward attempts to make the transition as easy as possible. We get glimpses of the faceless killer. The suspense is strong. The scene where Farrow goes about her routine, not knowing her family has been slaughtered, is pretty spooky stuff and very well done.

    Unfortunately, the second half is plodding, with Farrow screaming and running in the mud, and never really getting a chance to fight back against the people menacing her. In these reviews, I see a lot of comparisons to WAIT UNTIL DARK (another movie about a blind woman in peril) and BLACK CHRISTMAS (another proto-slasher), but the strongest thing those two movies have that SEE NO EVIL lacks is an active heroine. The heroines in WUD and BC are terrified and vulnerable, but they fight back and get a lot more to do than just scream and cry for help. WUD in particular allows its heroine an arc-- even though the excellent set-up of SEE NO EVIL gives the script an opportunity to allow Farrow's character to grow, she never does.

    It's a shame, because the movie has potential. While there are too many good things for me to dismiss it entirely, I can't call it a classic and would only recommend it to fans of Mia Farrow, who really is quite amazing here.
  • The 1970s was a phenomenal decade for thrillers and KLUTE is among the best of the lot! I admire the cinematography, score, and story, but it truly is Jane Fonda's movie. She is almost unrecognizable as the call girl Bree, surely one of cinema's most underrated heroines. Sympathetic, complicated, tough and yet vulnerable-- this was definitely the role of a lifetime for Fonda!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The 1930s and very early 1940s are considered a kind of nadir to Buster Keaton's career. The Columbia shorts are universally despised. The MGM talkies are either demonized or tolerated. The Educational shorts have a shoddy reputation too, but to be honest, some of them are gems, such as BLUE BLAZES.

    BLUE BLAZES has flashes of Keaton's eccentric physical comedy and a minimum of the lame "wit" which plagued many of his MGM talkies. Also, he actually gets to play a heroic character-- bumbling yes, but he does save the day through cunning and a little bit of luck, which is nice, given that the 1930s seemed to interpret his screen type as "moron" rather than "bumbling but resourceful."
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The 1967 WAIT UNTIL DARK is one of my favorite movies and as is the case with anything I enjoy, I have to go-all-in with reading about it. After falling in love with the movie, I snapped up a copy of the play and wanted to see a production. There are plenty of amateur productions on YouTube of varying quality, but this televised version with Katharine Ross and Stacy Keach intrigued me. I finally found a copy online, albeit ripped from a VHS recording.

    As far as filmed theater goes, this is solid. Sometimes there are close ups for effect, but we generally see all the action onstage. Lighting is exceptional, particularly during the climax, and the music, while not as memorable as what Mancini did in the '67 movie, is slasher-like and appropriate.

    The supporting cast is adequate, with leads Katharine Ross and Stacy Keach getting much of the best material. Ross is a tough, almost stoic Susy, very understated in her approach to the character-- the opposite of Keach. Keach is rather dynamic as Roat, going from merely uncanny to outright batty in the last scene. Some might say he's too over the top, but I think the theatricality works for a villain who is essentially, when you get down to it, an actor and director.

    To be honest, I prefer the movie to the play. The '67 movie actually changes a lot of dialogue, making it snappier, and alters so many minor details as to leave it with a rather different feel than the original play (Susy taking out the lights herself in a terrified bought of resourcefulness, for instance, rather than having Gloria there to help her). Even the casting of the delicate-looking Audrey Hepburn adds a lot to the terror value of the movie version, something I never quite got with the more stoic Ross.

    Regardless of my bias, this forgotten version deserves at least a wider audience, as it has its charms, and gives those deprived of the chance to see the play live an opportunity to look at a professional rendition. Unlike playwright Frederick Knott's DIAL M FOR MURDER, WAIT UNTIL DARK has not had several televised performances over the years, so this is about all we're ever likely to get in that regard.
  • I haven't seen the more famous remake, but the original silent movie is a delight.

    Richard Barthelmess was quite the prolific actor during the 1910s and 1920s. He's often remembered as kind, heroic characters, but here he plays a thoughtless, bitter WWI veteran whose injuries have left him disabled. He is transformed (inside and out) by love from and for a lonely young woman whose plain looks belie her compassion. May Macavoy plays the woman and is tender in her role.

    Both make a pair of moving screen lovers. The film is a little slow and sometimes a bit heavy on sentimentality, but charming and sweet regardless. I even teared up towards the end!
  • Now, I've yet to see A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG, but out of Chaplin's full-length talkies, I didn't find A KING IN NEW YORK terrible by any stretch. In fact-- and I might lose cinephile points for admitting it-- I'd take this over the more prestigious LIMELIGHT any day! It's less self-indulgent and self-loving, and the satire of American media culture still mostly works.

    Why does this get so much hate? Maybe it's the film's roughness. It's clearly set-bound and those sets do look cheap most of the time. But money can't buy inspiration, and I think this movie has more than enough inspiration to make up for its lesser production values. Many of the vignettes are delightful and the bittersweet edges (the subplot with Shadov's estranged queen, the character arc of the philosophical young boy) lend this film a great deal of memorability.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I saw the last few minutes of ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES when I was a kid and it's haunted me ever since.

    The entire movie is a fine gangster film with a spiritual edge. It isn't just money or glory at stake, but souls. Cagney and O'Brien have great chemistry as the two friends who ended up at opposite ends of the spectrum so to speak. Director Curtiz endows the movie with an understated style and good pacing.

    Much has been made of the last scene. While some think Rocky really did get "yellow," I think that destroys the sense of catharsis. From the look on Fr. Jerry's face, one gets the sense that he knows his friend has been redeemed. Only by giving up his own glamorous legacy does Rocky receive grace.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The first time I saw A WOMAN OF PARIS, the hype killed it. I found the direction stylish but the plot creaky. Only in re-watching it years later have I come to better appreciate just what this film does differently from other movies of the period, particularly in the realm of character psychology.

    Unlike your typical late 1910s/early 1920s Hollywood melodrama, A WOMAN OF PARIS shakes up its characters: the alleged romantic hero is a weakling, the saintly old mother has both bigotry and even blood-lust in her heart, the amoral rogue is charming and warm despite his cynicism, and the "fallen woman" protagonist has far more dimensions than one might expect. The underplaying used to bring these characters to life sells the naturalism and authenticity of these characters.

    The film is often billed as a straight drama, but Chaplin inserts several humorous scenes throughout, mainly dealing with the wild parties of the Parisian elite or the catty behavior of Marie's friends. I particularly love the scene where Marie tries to make a point to her lover Pierre by throwing his gift of pearls to her out a window. When a wandering tramp picks them up, she rushes outside to retrieve them, breaking a heel on her shoe in the process. Pierre's reaction is hilarious, the comic high point of the movie before the tragedy hits with full force in the third act to come.

    I still think parts of the story creak a little and some fleshing out could have helped, particularly in the first scenes. We never know why the young lovers' parents oppose their union-- they appear to be part of the same class and cultural background, and this is before Marie becomes "tainted goods," so it seems a bit strange that they should object. Also, Marie's leaving Jean during that fateful night seems unmotivated. Perhaps some scenes are missing, but I have not heard of this being the case.

    Nevertheless, this is an exquisite movie. The direction is assured, the treatment of morality far more nuanced than most Hollywood movies would feature in the years to come.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    If you want to know how weird THE FROZEN NORTH is, just know Buster Keaton plays a villain in this who thieves, murders, bullies, and possibly even commits rape-- wow. A spoof on William S. Hart and Erich von Stroheim, THE FROZEN NORTH stands unique among Keaton's films. While he was no stranger to surreal flourishes and dark comedy, this one pushes it past his usual limits. While some knowledge of the films he's parodying would enrich one's enjoyment of this short, Keaton's dreamlike narrative and stark visuals more than make up for any confusion.
  • The story is pretty weak and yeah, there are definitely some non-PC things in here that might bother most modern viewers, but the sole reason to watch FREEBIE AND THE BEAN is the chemistry between Alan Arkin and James Caan. The two play a mismatched, violent, incompetent pair of cops whose incessant arguing is nevertheless tempered by strong affection. They are so much fun to watch, even in scenes where they're doing nothing-- which isn't often in this borderline slapstick comedy of a film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    As someone who likes but has never really loved Tarantino's style, I was blown away by this movie. It's more than a nostalgic trip back to 1960s Hollywood; it's a weird statement on movies and escapism themselves. It is every bit the fairy tale the title ONCE UPON A TIME... IN HOLLYWOOD implies, with its second chances and bizarre happy ending, though even these are tempered with little reminders of painful realities.

    Those looking for hard plot will be disappointed. This is a very laid back movie, just following the daily lives of a handful of characters in 1969 LA. Cinephiles and those fond of the 1960s will likely get the most out of it-- if you walk in not having some familiarity with the Tate murders or the Manson family, you might get a bit lost.

    The lack of plot hardly matters, as the characters are fun to watch. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are both hilarious and touching in their roles. Margot Robbie was a fabulous Sharon Tate and I'm honestly a bit bummed her role wasn't larger. That scene with her in the movie theater was just classic.

    The long run-time initially daunted me-- part of my problem with so many mainstream Hollywood movies these days is that they're often too long (especially superhero movies), but the three hours here flew right by. I was enjoying myself so much that I was loathe to leave these characters once the credits rolled at last.
  • My expectations weren't high for SHAZAM! but it turned out to be a cute, heartfelt, and funny movie. I've enjoyed it enough to see it three times and each time, I appreciate the performances more, as well as little touches (like the villain basically being an overgrown, over-educated bully, illustrated by that one scene where he slams Freddy against lockers; the difference between Billy's memories of the day he was separated by his mom and the mom's version of events; etc.).

    My only problem is that the movie is WAY too long. They could have shaved off at least twenty minutes and the film would be all the tighter for it. Still, this was very enjoyable, enough to give me hope for future DC movies.
  • No one would deny the first twenty minutes of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS is pure classic horror material: perfectly edited, shot, and acted, genuinely terrifying. Unfortunately, that film meanders after that, taking the viewer through dull, muddled material until we get to a good finale that still cannot top the opening. So, it's no shock to discover WHEN A STRANGER CALLS was an expansion of the director's earlier short film, THE SITTER.

    THE SITTER is just about the same as the opening of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS, right down to the dialogue and the weird use of freeze frame. It's a brilliant short, only flawed by a somewhat wooden lead actress who's no match for Carol Kane in the later version. But still, this is good stuff and worth seeking out.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    De Palma's direction has virtuoso flair, no doubt about that, but DRESSED TO KILL is such a disappointing pastiche. Its story is a series of imaginatively shot thriller sequences-- and that's really all. Unlike Hitchcock's PSYCHO (the film De Palma is most aping considering the story's twist and protagonist switch), the characters are all one-note caricatures. While Angie Dickinson and Keith Gordon lend credibility to their rather wan characters, Michael Caine is slumming it and Nancy Allen is actively irritating.

    In the end, the movie is all surfaces. Judging from the amount of voyeuristic scenes and sadism, I'm assuming this movie is trying to comment on the concept of "the gaze" and whatnot, but when the story around this lip service is incoherent and superficial, what do I care?
  • I was introduced to the work of Stanley Kubrick at a college screening of 2001, a film I appreciated but did not love. Years later, a chance viewing of BARRY LYNDON on TCM, motivated by my interest in the 18th century, reintroduced me to Kubrick and got me totally obsessed with the man's films. I have seen all Kubrick's movies and out of all his features, I only love A CLOCKWORK ORANGE more than BARRY LYNDON, which, on an objective level, might be his most perfect movie.

    That BARRY LYNDON is gorgeous, no one will contest, not even the film's fiercest detractors. However, for me, the film's story, with its sense of irony and dark humor, make it a classic. And despite the claims that Kubrick movies are all cold, there are a few moments that really hit you in the gut. I even confess that one scene in particular made me weep and continues to make me weep every time I revisit this masterpiece.
  • I saw ALGIERS before seeing this fine French original. Let me tell you, the remake does not even compare. Its best virtues-- such as the cinematography and scene composition-- are all ripped directly from PEPE LE MOKO. And ALGIERS also lacks Jean Gabin, who is a much more convincing criminal than the suave but toothless Charles Boyer in the remake.

    Comparisons aside, PEPE LE MOKO is a great romantic tragedy, never overselling the melodrama. Absolutely riveting from the first frame to the last.
  • Compared to most silent films of this period, early talkies were clumsy affairs, both in the acting and the filmmaking. LIGHTS OF NEW YORK is a good example of this, being touted as the first all-talking picture (contrary to popular belief THE JAZZ SINGER is just a silent movie with musical numbers). The story is simplistic, the cinematography a collection of awkwardly framed establishing shots and uninspired two-shots or three-shots. However, the poor acting and clunky dialogue make it perfect MST3K material for classic cinema buffs.
  • I read the book before seeing the movie and assumed there was no way you could translate the style of the book to film. I figured I would agree with the film's many detractors. Instead, I ended up loving this film very much! It definitely isn't a mere translation of the book to cinema-- but it GETS Heller's message and nails the almost cartoonish insanity of the novel's events and characterizations.

    Beautifully shot. Perfect casting and performances. The editing is brilliant too. Just, I do not get the hate at all.
  • I watched this one relatively often as a kid and remembered enjoying it, but as an adult, it's much easier to appreciate how great a movie this is. It's very funny, yes, but also quite suspenseful. The "scratchy" animation style and the backgrounds are well-paired. The dogs and their owners are sympathetic characters, but it's Cruella who dominates the movie. She is pretty freaking scary and designed to perfection.
  • Unlike others, I wouldn't call this movie a film noir, despite the emphasis on crime and Henry Mancini's very noir-inspired score. It's more a suspense-thriller that rolls over into horror at times.

    With that out of the way, this is a delightful gem of a film. EXPERIMENT IN TERROR is a stylish thriller with a great cast and stark visuals. While it's a little bit overlong, it is never boring and the final half hour will keep you on the edge of your seat for sure!

    Director Blake Edwards is mostly known for the PINK PANTHER movies and BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, but he dabbled in dramatic work as well. This film is a shining example of his versatile talent.
  • Definitely an example of a movie that knocks its source material out of the park. Olivia de Havilland gives her best performance as the shy, awkward Catherine Sloper. She is absolutely believable and riveting, knocking all the other fine performers right off the screen. The ending scene remains one of my favorites in any movie ever, one for the ages. As always, William Wyler's direction is assured, never going overboard with style to the detriment of the story! A must see for classic movie geeks!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    As far as needless remakes go, you can do much worse than the 1999 version of THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, I guess. There's nothing in it that made me cringe. The performances are pretty good and the production values are nice, However, it feels like such a generic romantic crime thriller in comparison to the older one.

    I think the single biggest reason I prefer the original movie to this one is the difference between the two endings. The original movie ends with Steve McQueen and Fay Dunaway unable to get together in the end. He chooses the empty thrill over her. The last few shots, with Dunaway looking up to the sky relieved and broken-hearted all at once, and McQueen listlessly staring out the window of his getaway plane, have stayed with me.

    The happy ending here just rings so hollow and is far less believable. The 1968 original is made the classic it is by its sad ending-- it's not the style, which is dated to the late 1960s, nor even the heists themselves. It's the fact that McQueen's character can never have what he's really looking for, despite all his power and money.

    But here? Nope! You can have it all. And that's a far more predictable finish than the haunting original.
  • I deleted my former review of this movie, which was way more critical and nitpicky. A second viewing really left a much better impression on me when my disappointment regarding its leaving out the harsher satirical elements of the book gave way to appreciation of the film's strengths, which are definitely the acting, cinematography, and warm humanity. It's a quiet, deliberate movie, one of the best of its era and still relevant now in our socially turbulent times.

    No one gives a bad performance here. No one. Sondra Locke is about the best I've ever seen a 20-something play a teenager. Her gangly looks make you believe she's still in high school. And she nails the awkward, selfish elements of being a teenager as well. Percy Rodrigues's Dr. Copeland nails the dignity and anger of his character, torn by love for his family and rage at the injustices he faces as a black man in a racist world. He is not always nice, but he remains sympathetic and real, and the scenes he shares with the equally powerful Cicely Tyson are some of the most heartwrenching in the whole movie. Stacey Keach is good with the far too few minutes he gets as the drunk, lost Jake Blount.

    But Alan Arkin leaves the biggest impression as the lonely John Singer, a man who gives so much to others and receives so little in return. It's rare to see an able-bodied actor play a disabled character without going for cheap histrionics or Oscar-catnip gimmicks, but he excels, remembering this character is a human being above all else. It's a shame that after the early 1970s, his career as a leading man kinda just fizzled out. He really is one of the best.

    The story is moved from the 1930s to the 1960s, but the emotional heart is still intact and indeed, many of the racial issues in the American South are unchanged between the two periods, so that's no big deal. The evocation of a southern small town is perfect, lacking corny tricks and accents.

    Parts of this adaptation are still a little too sentimental. The treatment of Singer's mentally-challenged friend Spiros lacks the irony that makes it so significant in the book (ie Singer idolizes his friend as a serene, wise god-surrogate the way the other characters idolize him). My other big problem is it's a bit too rushed: Jake Blount barely exists as a character to the point where he may as well have not been there at all (I guess keeping him an overt communist like in the original book wouldn't fly so well in the 1960s?).

    However, none of this kills the movie. It's gorgeously shot and directed, with its heart on its sleeve. Yes, a more faithful adaptation could be made, but it would be very hard to top this cast or the filmmaking craft on display.
  • I was blown away by this movie. I'm not often one for romantic movies, but this one is just exceptional. Despite the cold color palette and understated drama, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara have excellent, warm chemistry between one another.

    A lot of other viewers have complained about the deliberate pacing, but I thought it suited the movie's almost-dreamlike tone. The pacing, themes, and visuals reminded me a lot of Douglas Sirk movies. In fact, he movie is very similar to the director's earlier FAR FROM HEAVEN, a more direct homage to Sirk with its depiction of suffocating suburbia and forbidden love; however, I found CAROL much more involving and less on the nose with its social commentary. I have little doubt this will become a classic in the years to come.
  • The plot is pretty uneven in terms of structure and some of the supporting performances are a touch on the hammy side, but BACK TO GOD'S COUNTRY is too much fun to dismiss. Nell Shipman plays a nature-loving woman who is as far from the damsel-in-distress cliche as you can get. (Yes, there were strong female characters before the 21st century!) She's no fool, able to hold her own when pursued by villains. In fact, her husband's more of a distressed damsel (or in this case, distressed dude, I suppose) than she!
An error has occured. Please try again.