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 Posted:   Feb 9, 2024 - 11:26 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

POOR THINGS (2023) – 8/10

One of the more unusual films of the year, POOR THINGS tells the story of the coming of age of “Bella Baxter” (Emma Stone). What’s unusual is that Bella had already been of age—had been pregnant, in fact—when in a fit of despair, she threw herself off a bridge and died. Her body was quickly retrieved by physician/mad scientist “Dr. Godwin Baxter” (Willem Dafoe) who saved her life by transplanting the brain of her child into her head and re-animating her body through electrical current. Over the succeeding years, her brain has been gradually catching up to her body, and she now has the mind of a young girl.

Dr. Baxter takes on an assistant, “Max McCandles” (Ramy Youssef), to help with and monitor Bella’s development. Over time, he grows to love her and proposes marriage. But Bella is also wooed by the sophisticate “Duncan Wedderburn” (Mark Ruffalo), who convinces her to journey around Europe with him. Their adventures take up the bulk of the film.

Since Bella is just discovering the pleasures of the flesh anew, the film has considerable sex and nudity. (Emma Stone becomes the latest in a string of high-profile actresses to bare it all in a 2023 film.) When coupled with her dialogue, which is written as a 10-year-old would express things, the film reaches some absurd heights.

This is director Yorgos Lanthimos’ first feature since 2018’s THE FAVOURITE, which also featured Emma Stone in an 18th-century tale of two women (Stone and Rachel Weisz) vying to be “the favorite” companion/lover of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). Lanthimos received an Oscar nomination for directing that film, as he has for POOR THINGS. Similar to the rehearsal process he used on THE FAVOURITE, Lanthimos had the actors rehearse for three weeks with a variety of improv games. This helped rid them of any inhibitions before getting to set.

POOR THINGS has a production design meant to generally evoke late 19th century Europe, but layered with elaborate touches that make it seem unmoored to any particular place. Most of the film was shot on soundstages. The costuming is also over the top. Both have been Oscar nominated.

For his first feature film, English pop musician Jerskin Fendrix has provided one of the most memorable scores I’ve heard in years. Full of baroque sounds, often played off-key, the music perfectly fits the film, although it would certainly make for an odd stand-alone listening experience. The score has already won the Georges Delerue Award for Best Soundtrack/Sound Design during the 50th edition of Film Fest Gent, and has received an Oscar nomination.

Among POOR THING’s 11 Oscar nominations are ones for Best Picture and for actors Stone and Ruffalo. Although it runs a tad long, and gets a bit repetitive, for lovers of the odd, this film should not be missed. The film, which cost just $35 million to produce, grossed a healthy $70 million.

 
 Posted:   Feb 11, 2024 - 2:10 AM   
 By:   MusicMad   (Member)

That Touch of Mink (1962) ... 8/10

I laughed and I laughed and ... I laughed! Is it a great movie? No. Is it an entertaining movie? Absolutely!

I'd seen the film at least twice but not for many years and in my youth, on first viewing, was a little disappointed. Despite being a fan of Cary Grant's film work, I felt this didn't compare well with Doris Day's similar films (especially Pillow Talk (1969) and Move Over, Darling (1963)) so perhaps the passage of time has helped.

A sparkling script and superb performances by the two leads plus - all importantly - the two supports: Gig Young and Audrey Meadows each of whom added so much. In his usual role John Astin was perfect and the script allowed minor characters played by John Fiedler (Smith, the newlywed) and Alan Hewitt (Doctor Gruber) to shine. Their participation demonstrates how important it is for such romcom films to have a stronger cast than two leading stars.

There is an off-the-mark scene where Roger/Gig Young belittles his secretary and the film's studio-based settings for the majority of the film's runtime are the negatives. A wonderful, appropriate, score by George Duning adds to the enjoyment.

 
 Posted:   Feb 13, 2024 - 1:52 PM   
 By:   MusicMad   (Member)

The Mummy (1959) ... 5/10

Fun and mayhem - for all the family - on the cheap, with this studio-bound telling of the oft-told story by Hammer Studios with our usual van Helsing/Dracula duo. Peter Cushing is as dependable as ever and Christopher Lee is nicely menacing though, of course, severely limited in his acting for many of his scenes.

A few regular faces (e.g. Michael Ripper) but I didn't recognise the actress Yvonne Furneaux who wins the Mummy's heart smile (which story franchise came first: this or King Kong?). The story requires a non-English man to be the baddy ... George Pastell played the role perfectly. Eddie Byrne was excellent as the police inspector, initially dismissive and then sceptical.

The film is somewhat tedious in the first half as we see a long drawn-out sequence which tells the story's background and the cheapness of the production is emphasised when the opening scenes are repeated almost verbatim half-way through, merely extended to show the Mummy being resurrected.

I enjoyed the score by Franz Reizenstein which merged semi-religious choral sounds with typical Hammer music ... I have only the Opening credits on a compilation disc.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 13, 2024 - 2:24 PM   
 By:   Prince Damian   (Member)



I enjoyed the score by Franz Reizenstein which merged semi-religious choral sounds with typical Hammer music ... I have only the Opening credits on a compilation disc.



I insist you get the full cd!

 
 Posted:   Feb 13, 2024 - 2:29 PM   
 By:   MusicMad   (Member)



I enjoyed the score by Franz Reizenstein which merged semi-religious choral sounds with typical Hammer music ... I have only the Opening credits on a compilation disc.



I insist you get the full cd!


I'll add it to the list ...
Thank you for the recommendation.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 15, 2024 - 9:50 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

DUNE: Part One (2021) – 7/10

I’m a DUNE novice. I’ve never read the 1965 Frank Herbert novel; after nearly 40 years, I haven’t sought out David Lynch’s film to view; I didn’t watch the 3-part television adaptation on the Sci-Fi Channel in 2000; and I missed Part One of Denis Villeneuve’s version when it came out in late 2021 because I hadn’t yet resumed movie-going after Covid. So, I decided to avail myself of the opportunity to see the latter on its limited theatrical re-release in advance of Villeneuve’s DUNE: Part Two being released on March 1st.

The story is simple, yet the motivations of its characters are sometimes obscure. The tale of betrayal and (presumably) revenge in Part Two is clear enough, but to follow the story we need to learn a whole galaxy of new planets (Caladan, Giedi Prime, and Arrakis), rulers (Duke Leto Atreides, Emperor Shaddam IV, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen), and groups (Fremen, the Bene Gesserit, the Sardaukar, the Padishah). Maybe I’m getting too old for this kind of stuff, but back in the day it seemed easier to comprehend planets like Alderaan and Tatooine, characters like Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and groups like the Jedi and the Rebel Alliance. Oh, well.

So, the Emperor removes Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) from his long-held position of mining “spice” on planet Arrakis, and substitutes Atreides (Oscar Isaac) in his place, either conspiring in advance for Harkonnen to attack Atreides, or at least knowing that he would (I was never sure), in order for the Emperor to rid himself of Atreides—although it was not clear why he wanted to do so.

Meanwhile, the Bene Gesserit, an exclusive sisterhood led by Reverend Mother Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling), whose members possess advanced physical and mental abilities, had instructed Atreides’ consort, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), to bear a daughter whose son would become a messianic superbeing. Why they want this, and who they are in the vast scheme of things, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll find out more in Part Two.

Instead, Lady Jessica had a son, Paul (Timothée Chalamet), who inherits what’s left of the House of Atreides after Harkonnen’s attack. Now, after a bit of betrayal and sacrifice by loyalists and those thought to be loyal, Paul is stuck in the dunes of Arrakis, and must rely on the Fremen and their leader Stilgar (Javier Bardem) for survival. And so ends Part One.

The look of the film varies from industrial gray to monotone brown. The special effects are OK by modern standards, but nothing unique, and there is a lot more talk than action in Part One. The money saved on special effects resulted in the film costing just $165 million, about $40 million less than the average Marvel superhero pic. Despite a Covid-reduced audience in the U.S., where the film was a loser at just $109 million, it cleaned up in the rest of the world, for a total worldwide gross of $404 million. Hans Zimmer provided a non-annoying score.

An extended preview of Part Two, shown after the screening of Part One, suggests that it will contain more action. In that preview, Villeneuve and Chalamet seemed excited to show us the celebrated “worm riding” scene. I can hardly wait.

 
 Posted:   Feb 17, 2024 - 2:47 PM   
 By:   MusicMad   (Member)

Bandido! (1956) ... 5/10

I have no recollection of knowing of this film ... let alone having seen it ... despite my diet of western films as a youngster. A modern western, set in 1916, with adventurers from north of the border seeking their fortunes aiding one side or the other - or both - during the Mexican revolution.

Robert Mitchum (presumably the titular character) is, as always, watchable and by the film's end the viewer is left wondering how he survives (and no, I don't mean by avoiding the hail of bullets which fly during the 90 minutes of screen time). Good support from Gilbert Roland but the female lead, Ursula Theiss, unknown to me, seemed too uninvolved (had the character's background been described, this may have helped) and was far too aloof given the events.

Superb cinematography and a lovely widescreen print (albeit poor sound) helped overcome the melodramatic, boys' own storyline but the mass killings and constant noise - just how much shooting and shouting do we need to hear? - made the film a challenge. Far from Mitchum's best ... but without him I'm not sure I would have bothered. The film appeared to be a template for the European ("spaghetti") western to follow.

Max Steiner's score added to the noise but was occasionally melodic.

 
 Posted:   Feb 17, 2024 - 3:39 PM   
 By:   Bill Carson, Earl of Poncey   (Member)

I caught the end of this and I've been waiting for a rescreening to record it. I knew of the film and that it was Mitchum and Gilbert Roland but can't recall seeing it.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 18, 2024 - 4:11 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

ASH WEDNESDAY (1973) – 6/10

The opening of ASH WEDNESDAY features graphic surgical footage that many reviewers remarked was likely to upset audiences, and which led to the film's [R] rating. But after years of watching “ER,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and countless other medical shows, the 50-year-old footage looks rather tame. What we are watching is some plastic surgery, in which a matronly Detroit woman goes under the knife, and comes out looking like…Elizabeth Taylor.

Taylor plays “Barbara Sawyer,” the wife of 30 years of successful lawyer “Mark Sawyer” (Henry Fonda). At a private Swiss medical clinic, Barbara has had surgery to smooth out her puffy, wrinkled features and restore her trim figure. Mark is unaware of this, having been told by Barbara that she is taking a rest cure at a spa. During the long recovery period, Barbara grows friendly with fellow patient “David Carrington” (Keith Baxter), a fashion photographer who admits that he has had numerous procedures over the years to maintain the ageless appearance necessary in his field.

After her recovery, Barabara goes to a ski resort at Cortina, Italy, where she anxiously awaits Mark’s arrival. But when the workaholic Mark is delayed, Barbara succumbs to the flirtations of “Erich” (Helmut Berger), a failed competitive skier. After a brief visit by Barbara’s daughter “Kate” (Margaret Blye), Mark finally arrives, and we are immersed in the couple’s marital situation. (The film is called ASH WEDNESDAY because it ends on the day after the couple attend an end-of-Mardi Gras celebration.)

With the help of some soft-focus photography, the 41-year-old Taylor is still luminous in this film. Edith Head's costume's constantly frame her flawless face with scarves and fur caps. But the script barely rises to the level of soap opera. The film needed a little more passion. Taylor provides brief flashes of it, but neither Berger nor Fonda responds in kind, and Fonda’s take on Mark is particularly sour.

Elizabeth Taylor in ASH WEDNESDAY



ASH WEDNESDAY was directed by Larry Peerce. Peerce was born in 1930 in Bronx, New York, to the later Metropolitan Opera tenor Jan Peerce and his wife, Alice. Peerce's directorial career stretched from 1964 to 2001, embraced different genres and generated different results. In the 1960s it seemed as if Peerce would become a major filmmaker. His first film, ONE POTATO, TWO POTATO (1964), was a sensitively told story about an interracial marriage, which garnered some festival awards and Academy nominations. While toiling on series TV in the mid-'60s, helming the westerns "Branded" (1965) and "The Wild Wild West" (1965), Peerce made a successful rock-and-roll concert film, THE BIG T.N.T. SHOW (1966), which showcased a lot of talent, including The Ronettes and producer Phil Spector. He next made the interesting THE INCIDENT (1967), a film based on a true story about a pair of teenage toughs terrorizing the riders on a subway car. The film marked the screen debut of both Martin Sheen and Tony Musante and was Beau Bridges' introduction to adult roles. Peerce seemed poised for a breakthrough to the "big time" with his film version of Philip Roth's novel, GOODBYE, COLUMBUS (1969), which was a critical and box-office success. He won a nomination for Best Director-Motion Pictures from the Directors Guild of America for the movie. However, with the change in decades, his talents seemingly floundered. THE SPORTING CLUB (1971) was a flop with critics and audiences, and his ambitious adaptation of John Knowles' coming-of-age novel A SEPARATE PEACE (1972) drifted away without making any impact. Then came ASH WEDNESDAY.

The film was scripted by Jean-Claude Tramont, a Belgian writing his first screenplay. The film marked the last of three films produced by Dominick Dunne, the older brother of screenwriter John Gregory Dunne. (The other two films were THE PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK (1971) and PLAY IT AS IT LAYS (1972)).

ASH WEDNESDAY was shot on location in the Italian Alps, Cortina, and Rome. Taylor’s husband Richard Burton thought that the film was incredibly vulgar, and he was bothered by the love scenes Helmut Berger shared with Taylor. Richard Burton was sure that Berger and Taylor were having an affair off screen as well, even though Helmut Berger was open about his homosexuality. According to producer Dominick Dunne, the behind-the-scenes drama happening during the making of the film was more interesting than anything going on in front of the cameras. Elizabeth Taylor was chronically late to the set, prompting Paramount Studio head Robert Evans to fly off the handle, and the fights that occurred between Taylor and Burton were explosive enough to frighten the rest of the cast and crew.

Maurice Jarre’s lush score relies on two romantic themes. Although the score was never released, Paramount Records issued a 45rpm recording of the main theme, sung by Robert Goulet. The theme, entitled “Summer Green, Autumn Gold” had lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, and also appeared (sans vocal) on a British LP of movie themes conducted by Roger Webb. The theme was never sung in the film however.

The film was roundly panned by the critics, but despite the critical pummeling, Taylor received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama (Marsha Mason won for CINDERELLA LIBERTY). Although the film was broadcast on ABC in 1978, it wasn’t until 20 years later, in 1998, that Paramount finally issued ASH WEDNESDAY on video, in the waning days of VHS. That tape quickly went out of print, and today has high asking prices on the secondary market, since there has never been a digital physical release. However, the film is available on YouTube.

ASH WEDNESDAY had average U.S. grosses of $4.9 million. Director Larry Peerce turned to made-for-TV movies. He had a success with the adoption drama “The Stranger Who Looks Like Me” (1974), then had two winners at the box office with THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN (1975) and its sequel. He next directed a popular disaster movie about a psychotic sniper loose in a football stadium, TWO-MINUTE WARNING (1976), one of the bloodiest movies made up to that time, which was both severely edited and expanded with additional material when it ran on TV. Peerce failed when attempting a return to adaptations of memorable novels, with his take on Sylvia Plath's THE BELL JAR (1979). He continued to work in TV movies during the 1980s, but at the end of the decade had a major flop with his big-screen adaptation of Bob Woodward's John Belushi biography WIRED (1989), though it did introduce actor Michael Chiklis. In the 1990s he stuck to TV movies, retiring in 2001 after helming “Second Honeymoon” (2001). Peerce is still with us at 93 years old.

Screenwriter Jean-Claude Tramont would write and direct the 1977 French film FOCAL POINT. He made his American directorial debut with the Barbra Streisand – Gene Hackman film ALL NIGHT LONG (1981). He would direct just one more film, for television, before leaving the business. He died in 1996 at age 62.

 
 Posted:   Feb 18, 2024 - 6:01 PM   
 By:   Solium   (Member)

The Island: 2.5-5

Half dystopian sci-fi, half action thriller. This had all of Bay's directing hallmarks, over saturated visuals, sun glares, frantic editing. Started out promising (if not a bit familiar) but became rather directionless and dull once the protagonists got above ground and were on the run.

 
 Posted:   Feb 18, 2024 - 7:39 PM   
 By:   Solium   (Member)

Sin City: 2.5-5

First time viewing. I knew a little about the premise, like it was in black and white with some color enhancements and filmed like a live action graphic novel. It was interesting in the beginning but after an hour or so it was just the same thing over and over again. Basically a horror style film noir gore fest that focused on depravity.

I question the decision to have the film mostly in black and white. I thought the only accent color for enhancements was going to be red. Which makes sense from a contrast point of view. But then other colors started to show up, blue, yellow, green. Those colors did not add to the visual presentation and if that was the case they should have either done the whole film in black and white or color.

To bad the script wasn't more interesting. It had an amazing cast, it looked interesting and there was some legitimately funny moments sprinkled in among the violence.

Classic case of style over substance.

 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2024 - 2:13 AM   
 By:   MusicMad   (Member)

The Tamarind Seed (1974) ... 9/10

Despite not having seen the film for 9+ years (I bought the BluRay in Feb 15 ... first viewing) I know it very well: I saw it on release, watched at least two TV broadcasts and viewed the DVD a couple of times, at least (one of which was to rip the music score). With this BluRay copy, the superb clear widescreen image helped me enjoy the film more than ever.

I've read the novel a couple of times and the film is very faithful. I find all performances to be perfect with Sylvia Syms and Anthony Quayle almost - not quite - stealing the limelight from the two stars. IMDb states that Oscar Homolka took his part when Jack Hawkins had to be replaced. I can't imagine the late actor could have improved on the wonderful OH ... the part was surely written for him!

Scenery, great use of the widescreen image, and a music score which is unbelievably good with romanticism and dramatic tension added wherever required. The storyline which sets a few twists of the spy genre against the romantic drama is never too complicated and nicely told.

The question I ask is why I don't rate it higher as, for me, it is perfect entertainment. Two minor issues: until the end we never feel that Sverdlov/Sharif is in much danger; and the script failed to include the novel's final line when Mrs. Farrow/Andrews tells Loder/Quayle I've never liked you, Mr. Loder, but I've never taken you for a fool. smile

I doubt I'll wait another decade before watching it again.

 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2024 - 4:16 AM   
 By:   Bill Carson, Earl of Poncey   (Member)

Mitch 9 out of 10 for Tamarind Seed??!!
It's OK film but even 8 is generous.
I suspect you are rating the score not the film lol.

Defo seen a pattern where your Barry-Scored films get dodgily extra marks!

 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2024 - 6:56 AM   
 By:   Solium   (Member)

The Monster That Challenged the World: 2.5-5

Serviceable "B" monster flick. No standout performances nor was it very engaging. It had an annoying little kid in it.
The practical effects of the full size monster prop was very impressive though.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2024 - 7:14 AM   
 By:   Indy1981   (Member)

The Monster That Challenged the World: 2.5-5

Serviceable "B" monster flick. No standout performances nor was it very engaging. It had an annoying little kid in it.
The practical effects of the full size monster prop was very impressive though.


You could be describing any Steven Spielberg film from the last 20 years!

 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2024 - 7:34 AM   
 By:   Solium   (Member)

The Monster That Challenged the World: 2.5-5

Serviceable "B" monster flick. No standout performances nor was it very engaging. It had an annoying little kid in it.
The practical effects of the full size monster prop was very impressive though.


You could be describing any Steven Spielberg film from the last 20 years!


Indeed!

 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2024 - 3:09 PM   
 By:   MusicMad   (Member)

Mitch 9 out of 10 for Tamarind Seed??!!
It's OK film but even 8 is generous.
I suspect you are rating the score not the film lol.

Defo seen a pattern where your Barry-Scored films get dodgily extra marks!


Ah, Bill ... you do wrong me smile I found that my IMDb rating had been 8 but the picture quality of this BluRay, removing the grain I had been used to, drew me into the story more than ever.

Yes, the score - almost always an important element for me - helps and since I find Barry's scores invariably top-notch it's unsurprising these aid my enjoyment. But the existence of a JB score doesn't always garner the film top marks: for example, his iconic and fabulous score to The Knack... and How to Get It (1965) helped but didn't make the film a winner.

I'm watching a modern film recorded a week or so ago: Midsommar (2019) which has glorious cinematography, beautiful settings and high definition images. But I can watch it in 20-30 minutes sections only because it's tedious, has uninteresting characters and a non-sensical narrative. In comparison, The Tamarind Seed (1974) is pure entertainment which I can happily watch time and again. Each and every scene is interesting, relevant to the story. Barry's score is an added bonus ... had Blake Edwards' go-to composer, Henry Mancini, provided the score it might have been good but I doubt it would have been as effective.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2024 - 3:24 PM   
 By:   Indy1981   (Member)

Jaws (1975

7.5/10

I hadn't seen the film in about 20 years, but I thought I knew it well enough to give it a perfect 10. Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw were outstanding as were the rest of the cast...

...except for Richard Dreyfuss.

In the first half of the film, when he is the expert on sharks, he is excellent. It is in the second half of the film when he is along for the shark hunt, his performance becomes hammy, distracting, and downright silly at times. So what happened? Was he "coked up" like he seemed to be in his irritating, Oscar-winning performance in The Goodbye Girl?

I always thought that Richard Dreyfuss was the on-screen surrogate for Spielberg himself, and when I saw the Temple of Doom behind-the-scenes footage of El Spielbergo prancing about like a fool for Kate Capshaw, I thought that Dreyfuss served as Spielberg's onscreen persona.

 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2024 - 3:29 PM   
 By:   Bill Carson, Earl of Poncey   (Member)

Funnily enough I got recommended midsommer, mitch, they said it was part vikings, part logans run, part Wicker man?

 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2024 - 10:54 PM   
 By:   MusicMad   (Member)

Funnily enough I got recommended midsommer, mitch, they said it was part vikings, part logans run, part Wicker man?

As far as I've got (about half-way): that's a fair synopsis!

 
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