davidgarnes

IMDb member since May 2005
    Lifetime Total
    10+
    IMDb Member
    16 years

Reviews

The Golden Stallion
(1949)

Great use of horses and a clever plot make this one of Roy's best
This 1949 film, just before Roy Rogers and Co. moved on to TV, has some fine color cinematography, particularly of the Iverson ranch (used in countless westerns) and great, sweeping shots of the wild horse herd that figures importantly throughout the film. It's quite lovely in that regard and captures the beauty and speed of the supposedly "untamed" steeds.

The plot is a bit more complicated here than in most RR films, with several unexpected turns, all tightly directed. Roy and Dale are engaging as always, though Pat Brady's appeal eludes. There are fewer musical numbers in this film than usual, though the Sons of the Pioneers are featured.

See it for the scenery and the beauty of the horses, and for more drama than is usually served in a Roy/Dale flick.

September Affair
(1950)

An Elegant Gem
I like both Joseph Cotton and Joan Fontaine and happened to pick up a VHS copy of this film (beautifully transferred). It is excellent on all accounts: well produced; sumptuously photographed; literate; well-acted; and moving. The story line is wildly romantic but keeps within the bounds of possibility, and Fontaine and Cotton are the perfect pair to play these mature lovers-- they're both subtle actors who manage to convey (especially Fontaine) the sub- text that lies beneath the situation in which the two find themselves. Jessica Tandy is also excellent. The location scenes filmed in Florence and Rome, while commonplace now, were not back in 1950, so it's a treat to see them here, with the cast actually roaming the streets of the two cities. Without giving the plot away, suffice it to say that the ending satisfies in a way that is believable as the story progresses. The beautiful "September Song" serves as a romantic motif throughout the film and is sung/played several times.

Il testimone dello sposo
(1997)

Wildly Romantic, Gorgeously Produced Period Piece That Strains the Imagination
This film has so much going for it--exquisite art direction, beautiful costumes, wonderful cinematography, and a loving and meticulous attention to detail in depicting a turn of the century (1900) wedding in a small Italian town--that I would rate it higher but for the somewhat implausible screenplay.

Without giving plot details away, suffice it to say that the film begins with an interesting premise as it explores the betrothal rituals of this particular time and place that reduced women to objects essentially bartered away to the highest bidder. The heroine of the story, played by the absolutely exquisite Ines Sastre, rebels on her arranged-marriage wedding day, and the plot continues from there.

Diego Abatantuono, no slouch himself in the looks department, plays a long absent stranger who, having made his fortune in America, returns to the town and ends up participating in the ceremony. Things get more complicated from there.

Both actors are outstanding in their roles, but in the end a willing suspension of disbelief is needed to accept the film's conclusion. However, the visuals are so stunning, the period detail is so layered, and the principal actors (as well as the those who play the townspeople, all given their moments) are so fascinating to watch that almost all is forgiven.

Love in the Afternoon
(1957)

Implausible Wilder Misfire That Even Hepburn Can't Save
I expected to like this film...Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn, Billy Wilder, Paris...But I was disappointed by its cynical manipulation and totally contrived ending.

The great age difference between Cooper and Hepburn, made even more so by the fact that she's supposed to be a young student in this film (making him more like her grandfather), was remarked on, I believe, in some contemporary reviews. But this is not a reason to find fault with the relationship. It's more that it is difficult to understand how an intelligent young woman, albeit one who is somewhat naive and romantic, could be infatuated by, continue to be beguiled by, and eventually fall in love with the unpleasant lecher played by Cooper. Despite the charm that Gary Cooper has shown in many of his films, here he seems...well, tired and not really acting as though he at all believes in the rancid character he's playing, and he's right.

The premise of the film is sour and cynical and the farce doesn't work. The ending injects a jarring sentimental note that only confirms the earlier implausibility of the "relationship" that the script would have you believe the two leads have. Doesn't work.

Audrey Hepburn is her usual magical self, but even she can't make me believe in her character. She is certainly worth watching, however, for the moments when she is, indeed, someone who might appeal to the Cooper character as more than a one-night stand.

Maurice Chevalier is surprisingly appealing here and doesn't lay on the French accent and mannerisms that he continued to polish over the years. But, again, he's done in by the script. In his very last scene in the film, he does a total flip-flop in point of view, again demonstrating the screen writers' (Wilder and Diamond) manipulation to ensure a romantically satisfying and totally unbelievable ending.

So...nice musical score, lovely black and white cinematography, a charming Hepburn, an appealing Chevalier...but a Wilder misfire, big-time.

The Swan
(1956)

Beautiful to look at and has its moments, but it could have been better
Molnar's play "The Swan" was dug up as a vehicle for Grace Kelly in the last year or two of her brief Hollywood career. She's teamed here with the always skillful Alec Guinness and Louis Jourdain, who could get by on his handsome looks alone but is equally fine in his role.

The premise of the film is clever: A plot to snag a prince into marriage goes awry, and the story then hinges on which of two men--royalty or commoner--will win the hand of the innocent but gradually awakening "swan." One of the problems I had with the film is that it begins with a lot of comedy and then turns, rather abruptly, into something, if not darker, then decidedly more serious. The ending comes rather suddenly, and neither genre--comedy or drama--quite hits the mark to render the film satisfactory, let alone memorable.

Of the three major players, Grace Kelly is the least effective, doing her frequent "upper class" act, complete with irritating voice mannerisms. Here, I suppose, it's at least appropriate, and fans of Kelly won't be disappointed. Jessie Royce Landis, Estelle Winwood, and Brian Aherne are fine; Agnes Moorehead arrives like gangbusters late in the film and injects some broad comedy when that aspect of the story has already passed.

The film is beautifully shot, great to look at, with lavish sets and costumes. Just wish the director or writer or ? had figured out what they wanted the film to be. The downbeat ending doesn't work here.

Love Me or Leave Me
(1955)

Doris Day at her peak; James Cagney, magnetic. Who could ask for more?
So much has been written about this film on this site that it seems a bit superfluous at this point to add more. But I just watched it again after many years and was once more impressed by the superior acting of both leads and the glorious soundtrack of 20s-30s songs.

Although some of the biographical aspects of Ruth Etting's life and career appear to be glossed over or absent, this film, nevertheless, has so much going for it: A strong (albeit, modified) story; great acting by all; and the best soundtrack of Doris Day's career (the album was #1 on the charts for months).

The scenes between Day and Cagney are electrifying and make the tension between them and the inevitable consequences of their fraught relationship totally convincing. In addition to these two superlative performers, Cameron Mitchell is a huge surprise in a major supporting part,in the kind of role one rarely saw him in. He's strong, appealing, and just right, as are Robert Keith, Harry Bellaver, and Tom Tully in the three other significant roles.

Though Cagney more than holds his own, this is Doris Day's film. Her performance is confident and complex, and she has never sounded better, singing an enormous range of period tunes, many of them standards, as well as a couple written for the film. She is absolutely mesmerizing in several of the numbers, particularly "It All Depends on You," where the camera focuses on her face for virtually the entire song, performed with only piano accompaniment.

See this film for Doris Day's singing, for a glimpse at the career (even if skewed) of a major but nearly forgotten star of another era (Ruth Etting),and for the dynamic pairing of Day and Cagney.

The Bridges at Toko-Ri
(1954)

Gripping aerial, sea, and terrain war footage; somewhat flat otherwise
This is a beautifully photographed and edited (in the action scenes) Korean war drama that comes to life in the last half hour or so of the film. It does tackle the complex issues of war in terms of the meaning of it all and the questions of the seeming unfairness concerning those who find themselves, through circumstance and duty, in the middle of hellish situations not of their own making. William Holden is his usual engaging, capable self as the central character, a veteran who finds himself called up again into this post-WWII conflict; Frederic March is authoritative as the duty-bound but somewhat conflicted commander; and Mickey Rooney manages to tone it down--a bit--as a temperamental, funny helicopter pilot. Grace Kelly, in a smallish role, articulates her lines but, to this viewer, never makes me think she is anyone but Grace Kelly dressed in stylish Edith Head 50s clothes. Kelly fans may differ. See this for Holden and March and, especially, for the truly stunning scenes of aircraft carriers and jets in action. Those are memorable.

The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean
(1972)

A beautiful movie that, despite its messy sprawl, stays with you
Any film directed by John Huston is worth watching, and this is no exception. It's ambitious in scope and execution as it tells the story of a bizarre, eccentric character (the historical Judge Roy Bean), who, in Huston's film becomes the personification of the short-lived myth of the American West in all its violent, exaggerated, archetypal, twisted glory.

A slew of good actors, not the least of them Paul Newman as Bean, makes the film as fascinating to watch as it is frustrating to pin down in its messiness and somewhat confused tone. That said, it's definitely worth watching.

Just go with it and enjoy the beautiful cinematography; haunting soundtrack (except for the trite and misplaced Andy Williams tune that pops up in the middle); and, especially, the great cameos by any number of familiar names. Particularly good are Anthony Perkins, Tab Hunter, and in a final coda, a dreamlike sequence in which Ava Gardner rises to the challenge of matching the Lily Langtry whose presence as Bean's unobtainable object permeates the film. In more substantive roles, Ned Beatty and Victoria Principal are excellent as supports to Newman's character.

The Big Trail
(1930)

A vast, thrilling depiction of the trek West
I wasn't prepared for the true grandeur of this film. I'm not sure which cinematic "version" I saw, but it was spectacular. Yes, the dialog is corny, the acting not so great, and some of the plot devices awkward...but the production is awesome. I don't think I've ever seen a depiction of the trek West portrayed with such realism and attention to detail. Some of the individual sequences are thrilling, and the scenery is always eye-popping. There is much care in many of the camera set-ups and the results are a sight to behold--crossing the river; the Indian attack; the desert scenes; descending a steep ravine; daily life on the trail; and much more.

It is fascinating to watch a clearly inexperienced but charismatic John Wayne in his first major role. So glad I discovered this treasure.

I'll Be Yours
(1947)

Deanna saves it...sort of
This film is a good example of what can happen when a sure-fire box office star's movies get stereotyped. Gradually, the formula starts to get stale, the studio doesn't do anything to improve the situation, and the films deteriorate. No wonder Durbin described this movie as "terrible" in a rare interview years after she left Hollywood. It is. Besides Durbin, a bunch of good actors--William Bendix, Adolphe Menjou, Tom Drake etc.--are saddled with an amazingly trite script that insults even those willing to suspend disbelief. Fortunately, Durbin's voice is as glorious as ever, and her musical numbers at least provide respite. William Bendix has his moments, too. See it for Durbin's songs and fast-forward through the rest of it.

Lovely to Look At
(1952)

Mixed bag of great dancing; some great, some garish art direction; and awful costumes that have to be seen to be believed
I'd forgotten how great Marge and Gower Champion were...just watched a VHS of this film I picked up at a video sale. Their dance to "I Won't Dance" is extremely well-staged in what looks like a very intricate one take, and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" has wonderful choreography as they float against a pale blue background with twinkling stars--it's beautiful. Ann Miller's knockout dance earlier in the film is memorable, too. Grayson and especially Keel have been heard to better advantage, though each is "lovely to look at." Skip the excruciating stand-up number by the Red Skelton in the party scene as well as the hideous fashion show at the end of the movie--OMG, those Fifties dresses were nightmarish. The art direction in this movie ranges from garish (the fashion show) to exquisite (cf. a stunning dawn park scene with Grayson and Keel and the aforementioned Champion number). All in all, a very mixed bag. The dancing by the Champions and Ann Miller is the best part of this film.

Now and Forever
(1934)

A rather odd mix but highly watchable for the stars
This movie is well worth viewing, if only to see Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard in relatively early roles and to see Shirley Temple in an unusual part before she really peaked in popularity (here she is an incredible SIX years old). This is not a typical Temple film, in that she sings only one song (expertly), but you do get to see her act in a thoroughly convincing way. The supporting players are excellent as well.

This is a rather odd movie that can't quite make up its mind what to be...a decidedly downbeat ending that is actually starker than it's presented in some reviews here and a series of rather improbable con jobs that are not dramatically convincing. However, it's a treat to see the incredibly talented Temple, the skillful Carole Lombard, and the totally charming Gary Cooper (who, by the way, sports a very impressive wardrobe throughout, as does Lombard).

I watched the colorized version--better than I expected--but would have preferred black and white. See this movie with a "willing suspension of disbelief" and you'll enjoy it as a blast from the long-ago past.

Viva Maria!
(1965)

Visually stunning, with a beautiful music soundtrack
Just watched this film again after seeing it many years ago. It stands up well. Moreau and Bardot are fascinating to watch, together and apart, esp. in their musical numbers. Hard to take your eyes off them when they're on screen, which is most of the time.

The many songs are catchy and the soundtrack score is absolutely beautiful--one of the best film scores I've heard in a long time. It captures both the epic quality of some of the excellent action scenes as well as the charm of a long-ago time in the slower, recurring themes-- gorgeous.

The whole movie is unlike anything I've seen in ages. Well worth a viewing.

Men in War
(1957)

Underrated, gritty, beautifully directed and acted
By good luck, I came across a VHS video (good print) of this 1950s Anthony Mann film. It was well worth watching. It is stark, unflinching, and offers an altogether convincing depiction of how soldiers behave in a harrowing, no-win situation. Robert Ryan and Aldo Ray, both truly fine actors, are excellent in their symbolically contrasting roles of two kinds of military men. Robert Keith and Vic Morrow are standouts in supporting roles. Keith is especially wonderful in an essentially non-speaking,though key, part...his face says it all. The music by Elmer Bernstein and the cinematography by the great Ernest Haller are perfect...the soundtrack creepy and other-worldly, and the cinematography capturing the "no man's land," confusing, deadly landscape in longshots, as well as the emotions of the soldiers when photographed close-up. See this film!

American Masters: No Direction Home: Bob Dylan
(2005)
Episode 7, Season 19

A fascinating film with wonderful interviews
This is an utterly fascinating film that focuses on a critical period in Dylan's early professional life (early 1960s). In addition to the wonderful footage of circa 2005 Dylan talking directly on camera, there are great comments and recollections by not only Joan Baez but also people I'd hadn't heard talk about Dylan before: Allen Ginsburg, Dave Van Ronk (both of them died before the film came out, I believe); Mike Bloomfield; and one of my favorites whom we don't see enough of, Maria Muldaur. There is also generous footage of Dylan performing, particularly during the "acoustic to electric" period, and, specifically, of performances in Britain. What is absolutely fascinating is to see and hear the very young and incredibly confident Dylan, and then the extensive comments the mature, more introspective Dylan makes about this early period in his life.

Contracorriente
(2009)

A moving story about the complexities of human relationships, set in a small Peruvian fishing village
This movie gathers impetus as it goes along, so that by the end you are completely caught up in its complex and very moving depiction of the twists and turns of the human heart. The story exists on several levels--love story; political/religious commentary; ghost story. Filmed in a seaside village in Peru, the movie has beautiful cinematography, and the music soundtrack is also evocative of a culture far removed from city life. The three principal actors are superb, especially Cristian Mercado as the tormented husband/lover. The supporting players are also outstanding, each contributing to the overall depiction of the townspeople observing the drama that unfolds. I won't give the plot away except to say that it exists on more than one level of reality. Highly recommended.

Waikiki Wedding
(1937)

A lavish and altogether pleasant Bing Crosby musical from the 30s
This is a good film to watch late at night, when you're too tired to concentrate on a heavy plot and are ready for some pretty music and comic diversion. The two songs you'll immediately recognize are "Blue Hawaii" and "Sweet Lelani" (which won the Oscar that year).

Bing Crosby is his usual agreeable self, in great voice, inhabiting the screen but not his character, really. His seemingly effortless singing is,as always,mellow and fine. Shirley Ross (she of "Thanks for the Memory" with Bob Hope) has a very appealing, intelligent and charming way with a line and a song. Bob Burns is there for comic relief, as is a young Martha Raye, who is, well, Martha Raye. You either like her or you don't...but she does manage a few laughs with her very physical antics and double-take expressions. A very lithe and boyish Anthony Quinn, playing one of his early "native" roles (here as a Polynesian), pops up in several scenes...years before his own ascendancy to super-stardom.

It's the music and the lavish Hollywood-Hawaiian sets and luau scenes that make this a very pleasant movie to watch.

Stage Beauty
(2004)

Top-notch in every way
I watched this movie recently because I like historical dramas, especially those with an English setting. What a surprise to find it so first-rate in every aspect. Why did this film disappear? Why wasn't it nominated for more awards? The plot is fascinating and based on fact (the transition in English theatrical history from men playing women to women playing women); the art direction and costumes wonderful; the cinematography outstanding; and, best of all, the acting superb. The screenplay is also outstanding and takes the film to a deeper level of the examination of identity, gender roles, and relationships between men/women and men/men. Do we act as we are? Are we as we act? Fascinating.

Billy Crudup and Claire Danes are a great team, and the scenes between the two of them are compelling and totally engrossing. Richard Griffiths, Tom Wilkinson (what a fine actor he is), Ben Chaplin are all superb, and Rupert Everett cuts quite the over-the-top figure as King Charles. The King Charles spaniels aren't bad, either.

Don't miss this superb film.

Lillian Russell
(1940)

A lavish preWWII Alice Faye musical with great stars, songs, costumes
The restored DVD version of this film is a joy to watch. The black and white contrasts are sharp and clear, doing justice to the lavish sets and absolutely gorgeous costumes (certainly would have been nominated for an award in this category, had it existed in 1940). Alice Faye's rich voice is, as always, unmistakable and haunting, and she gets a chance to sing a variety of songs, including "After the Ball" and the beautiful "My Evening Star." She was convincing in a surprisingly nuanced role...and quite moving as the film develops. It's a treat to see her, Don Ameche, Henry Fonda, Edward Arnold and a host of supporting character actors. OK, the plot is not true to Lillian Russell's life, and Alice Faye is not a soprano, as was Russell, but as a piece of nostalgic entertainment, this movie delivers...and is testimony to Alice Faye's talent and appeal.

Were the World Mine
(2008)

A first-rate and altogether engaging film.
Though it may be labeled as a gay/lesbian film, this is a witty and lovely takeoff on "A Midsummer's Night Dream." The acting by all the principals, particularly by appealing lead Tanner Cohen, Judy McKane as his mother, and Wendy Robie as the school drama teacher, is first-rate. The art direction, music and especially the cinematography help create a magical quality as the story enters the realm of Midsummer fantasy. Director Thomas Gustafson skilfully develops believable characters, manages complicated plot twists, and never loses the thread of "what if" that is essential to a retelling of Shakespeare's timeless story. Like the characters, you'll be enchanted by this small-budget but high-quality film.

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