Ice Storm, The****1/2    1997

A very honest, intelligent movie that lets you right inside the souls of the characters, each one fighting
 battles that you want them to win despite all their shortcomings. A movie that asks what really is
 important, and tries to answer with a balance of great storytelling and a realistic balance of humour and


 Perceptive is the best single word I can come up with to describe The Ice Storm, Ang Lee's near-masterpiece that deconstructs

 the American family. For, although the film is provocative, entertaining, and impeccably crafted, its greatest strength is its

 ability to convey truths that lie deep beneath the surface. The Ice Storm is perceptive about people, relationships, and human

 nature, and there's not a single moment in the entire 112 minute running length that rings false.

 Back in the early '90s, the Taiwan-born Lee had a pair of art house hits, The Wedding Banquet and Eat Drink Man Woman, that

 brought him international acclaim. Then, in 1994, Lee was selected to helm Emma Thompson's adaptation of Jane Austen's

  Sense and Sensibility. The film, which was released in 1995, earned multiple Academy Award nominations and ensured that Lee

 would never again be relegated to obscurity. For his followup to Sense, Lee chose The Ice Storm, and the accomplished result

 points to a director who has matured in every way. The Ice Storm takes place during Thanksgiving week, 1973, in New Canaan,

 Connecticut. On the political front, the nation was still bathed in the aftermath of Vietnam and President Nixon's regime was

 beginning to crumble as the Watergate situation escalated. With trust in the government giving way to cynicism and

 disillusionment, it was the end of an era. It was also the beginning of a time when the stability of the family began to waver,

 with the divorce rate skyrocketing to its current level of 50% and children being forced to cope with the reality that their father

 and mother might not always be together. The Hood family, like so many others of the time, is dysfunctional, even though it

 doesn't appear to be. Paul (Tobey Maguire) is an average 16-year old off at prep school learning about Dostoevsky in the

 classroom and the difficulties of romance outside of it. His younger sister, Wendy (Christina Ricci) is a restless 14-year old,

 intensely curious about sexual matters, and willing to explore them beyond the bounds of prudence and propriety. Paul and

 Wendy's parents, Ben and Elena (Kevin Kline and Joan Allen) appear at first glance to be the perfect mother and father. But their

 perfection is a sham, and while Ben dallies with a willing neighbor (Sigourney Weaver), Elena stews in her own loneliness.

 The Ice Storm examines the unstable dynamic of the family in a constantly-changing world. It's a coming of age tale that shows

 how the discoveries and development of the parents parallel those of their children, and suggests that age doesn't always equate

 to understanding. Sexually and socially, everyone in this film is groping for answers, whether their age is fourteen or forty. In

 fact, it could be argued that the teenagers have a clearer and healthier approach to sexuality than their elders. More often than

 not, the children in The Ice Storm are open about what they want. The adults, on the other hand, feel the need to resort to

 deception and wife- swapping games to achieve the same ends. The title refers to a massive late-November ice storm that

 blankets New Canaan with a frozen glaze. Not only is the storm crucial to the film's resolution, but its vivid presentation makes

 it almost a character in its own right as it coats trees, power lines, and streets with ice and turns the world into a beautiful-but

 -deadly place. (From a technical standpoint, it's amazing to note that Lee created the winter wonderland without any help from

 Mother Nature -- as credible as everything looks, none of the ice is real.)

 Every character in this film is interesting, and it's a pleasure to spend time with each of them. No one here is perfect, and

 we're presented with finely-detailed portraits of flesh-and-blood human beings, with their strengths and weaknesses laid bare.

 All of the various relationships are likewise intricately developed: brother and sister, husbands and wives, parents and children,

 teenagers and their would-be sex partners, and men and women having affairs. It's amazing how real these characters are,

 and how profoundly engrossing such a simple story can be.

 Lee accurately captures the "feel" of the early '70s, which is ironic since, during the year when The Ice Storm transpires, he

 didn't speak English and hadn't yet set foot in America. However, for those of us who lived through that era, there are plenty of 

 familiar images and items. Some, like the bellbottoms, wide-collared shirts, and gas-guzzling cars, are expected. Others, like

 the bubble umbrella and the anti-pollution TV spot featuring a crying Native American, show that Lee was willing to take things

 to another level of detail. While it's true that The Ice Storm may not represent the reality of the '70s, it effectively fits our

 memories of the time.

 The lead performances are all terrific. Kevin Kline elicits feelings of sympathy and scorn for the loutish Ben. Joan Allen imbues

 her character with enough humanity to keep Elena from being reduced to a stereotypical martyr. Tobey Maguire is believable as

 the kind of guy that girls always see as the brotherly type. Then there's Christina Ricci, one of the best actresses of her

 generation, finally getting a chance to show what she can do in a good motion picture (some of her less-than- impressive

 previous credits include two Addams Family movies, CasperNow and Then, and That Darn Cat!). As expected, Ricci doesn't let

 us down -- her interpretation of Wendy is knowing, intense, and nuanced. I have heard complaints that the trailer for The Ice

 Storm makes the film look uninvolving. If that's true, it does this fine motion picture a great disservice. Then again, it's always

 difficult to effectively represent a drama using two minutes of clips. The Ice Storm's impact cannot be conveyed in such a short

 span -- this is a movie that needs to be seen in its entirety. The experience will be more than worth the investment in time.

 The Ice Storm is at times funny, poignant, moving, and sensitive -- but, no matter what, it's always perceptive.

© 1997 James Berardinelli 

Illegal****  1955

Illegal is a 1955 American film noir directed by Lewis Allen. It stars Edward G. RobinsonNina FochHugh Marlowe and Jayne



Many people have compared Jayne’s role in this to that of Marilyn Monroe’s role in THE ASPHALT JUNGLE. Similar type of roles and both were new and fresh

faced starlets at the time. It is interesting to note that when Jayne became very popular on Broadway, despite having already been dropped by Warner’s, her

 name starting appearing on the marquee and in movie posters for the movie.

Once again Edward G. Robinson takes a script from the trash bin and makes it into a palatable movie. A remake of TheMouthpiece, this is the story of a district attorney with

 a conscience. When he discovers that a man he's sent to the electric chair was innocent, he takes to the bottle. His assistants encourage him to get off the booze, stop

 prosecuting and, instead, become a defense attorney. He agrees but his first client is a notorious gangster who has been in business for so long because of leaks from

 Robinson's own office when he was the district attorney. Push comes to shove and soon, through multiple machinations and mishaps, Robinson becomes the defender

 of his former assistant on charges of murder.

Inherit the Wind****   1960

  Playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee wrote Inherit the Wind as a response to the threat to intellectual freedom

 presented by the anti-communist hysteria of the McCarthy era. Lawrence and Lee used the Scopes Trial, then safely a

 generation in the past, as a vehicle for exploring a climate of anxiety and anti-intellectualism that existed in 1950.

     Inherit the Wind does not purport to be a historically accurate depiction of the Scopes trial. The stage directions set the

 time as "Not long ago." Place names and names of trial participants have been changed. Lawrence and Lee created several

 fictional characters, including a fundamentalist preacher and his daughter, who in the play is the fiancé of John Scopes. Henry

 Drummond is less cynical and biting than the Darrow of Dayton that the Drummond character was based upon. Scopes, a

 relatively minor figure in the real drama at Dayton, becomes Bertram Cates, a central figure in the play, who is arrested while

 teaching class, thrown in jail, burned in effigy, and taunted by a fire-snorting preacher. William Jennings Bryan, Matthew

 Harrison Brady in the play, is portrayed as an almost comical fanatic who dramatically dies of a heart attack while attempting

 to deliver his summation in a chaotic courtroom. The townspeople of fictional Hillsboro are far more frenzied, mean-spirited,

 and ignorant than were the real denizens of Dayton. Nonetheless, Lawrence and Lee did draw heavily from the Scopes trial.

 A powerful Darrow condemnation of anti-intellectualism, an exchange between Darrow and Judge Raulston that earned Darrow

 a contempt citation, and portions of the Darrow examination of Bryan are lifted nearly verbatim from the actual trial transcript.

 Although Lawrence and Lee completed Inherit the Wind in 1950, the play did not open until January 10, 1955. The Broadway cast

 included Paul Muni as Henry Drummond, Ed Begley as Matthew Harrison Brady, and Tony Randall as E. K. Hornbeck

 (H. L. Mencken). The play received rave reviews and was a box office success.

 Nathan Douglas and Harold Smith wrote the play into a screen script in 1960. The Douglas and Smith screenplay differs from the

 stage version in several respects, most notably perhaps in its downplaying of some academic and theological points, and its

 playing up of the trial's circus atmosphere. A made-for-TV rewrite of the 1960 Stanley Kramer movie ran on NBC in 1988. In this

 Inherit the Wind adaptation, Jason Robards played Darrow, Kirk Douglas played Bryan, and Darren McGavin played Mencken. 

 The TV rewrite departed in only minor respects from the plot of the earlier Hollywood version.

In America*****   2003

 Jim Sheridan's latest In America begins with a tense border cross and a spacey ride through the Holland Tunnel that quickly sets

 up the cosmic struggle Irish émigrés Johnny and Sarah (Paddy Considine and Samantha Morton) and their two young daughters

 must embark upon once they arrive in New York. It's there that they move into a dilapidated apartment complex occupied by

 immigrants, junkies, and dying artists. Set in the early 1980s, when Steven Spielberg's simple tale of a boy and his

 unconditional love for an alien was wrenching hearts across the land, In America is not the tale of Irish perseverance-over-racism

 you might expect. Sheridan, who dedicates the film to his deceased brother Frankie, evokes a collective New York City

 suffering from a spiritual crisis. No mention is ever made of the AIDS virus directly because there's still no name for this

 mystery disease claiming the lives of the city's outsiders (or aliens, as Sheridan would lovingly like us to believe). Mateo

 (Djimon Hounsou), the artist who lives downstairs from Johnny and Sarah, appears to be dying from the disease and befriends

 their daughters (sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger, both remarkable) on Halloween, and resurrects the memory of the family's

 dead son in an unexpected pregnancy. Sheridan stages the first of two crucial spiritual transferences (Johnny and Sarah fuck

 like bunnies in one apartment, Mateo suffers from the night sweats in another) as a feverish African ritual. Sheridan's cosmic

 contexualizations can get wearisome (the Ice Cream shop Sarah works at is called Heaven and Mateo's apartment, what with

 all its dangerous-looking tribal masks and paintings, is not unlike a mini-Hell), but every image in the film is so full of love

 that he earns the right to lay on the fairy-tale gravitas thick. If Hounsou's character initially makes for a troublesome

 stereotype, a curious bit about the Irish word for "black man" beautifully explains the man's angry jungle art. If Mateo is the

 fairy tale's ogre, then Johnny and Sarah's daughter (the incredible Bolger sisters) are the damsels that slay his mean streak and

 bring him back to joy. In America is simple and unpretentious but its humanity and message of inclusiveness is evoked with

 heart-warming profundity. (It helps that Morton and Considine are so good at what they do that they can summon a legacy

 of hurt with as little as a broken smile.) In one scene, the older Christy humorously  makes a reference to America's aggression

 of foreign countries, followed in the end by a neighbor chanting "Cuando Sali De Cuba" at a party. Sheridan once again impacts

 the notion that we must all stand hand-in-hand in times of crisis.

Infamous****1/2     2006 


DDouglas McGrath's Infamous represents the second major biopic about the avant-garde belletrist Truman Capote to be released within a year. It thus tells

 roughly the same story as Bennett Miller's earlier Capote, recounting the events that belied the writer's six-year authorship of the seminal "nonfiction novel" In

 Cold Blood. The story opens with Capote (Toby Jones) visiting the site of the 1959 Clutter family homicide, on a Kansas research trip, accompanied by his

 close friend and colleague, author Harper Lee (Sandra Bullock). As Capote settles into the community, McGrath uses the preponderance of screen time to

 explore the emotional tapestry of Capote's increasingly risky emotional attachment to one of the two murderers, Perry Edward Smith (Daniel Craig), with whom

 he senses more than a few common bonds. McGrath weaves a decidedly bittersweet tale, contrasting the optimism and devil-may-care, "conquer all" attitude

 of Capote in his early years with a seemingly endless string of poor choices in the writer's later years, from addictions to drink and pills, to a failure to maintain

 healthy output as a writer, to poorly chosen romantic and sexual entanglements. Most significantly, however, McGrath reveals how the relationship with Smith

 virtually destroyed Capote as an artist and a human being, by inducing him to sell out on all levels to satisfy his lust for accomplishment and notoriety. ~ Nathan

 Southern, Rovi 

Informer, The****    1935 


 A brutish but well-meaning Irishman, Gypo Nolan (Victor McLaglen), informs on his best friend Frankie McPhillip (Wallace Ford),

 who is a member of the illegal Irish Republican Army, in order to collect the reward of £20 offered by the Irish government and sail

 to the United States with his girlfriend Katie Madden (Margot Grahame). The film traces his conscience-stricken emotional

 disintegration that eventually leads him to give himself away. 


Innocents, The****     1961

 This film is sheer perfection. It doesn't jump out at just slowly creeps up to you like a monster hidden in

 the shadows of a secluded room. Deborah Kerr is flawless. She carries out the role of a young governess who

 senses the impossible, but is total assured of her beliefs. Megs Jenkins as Mrs. Grose,  is a fascinating foil.

 She is not the stereotypical one, as she quietly accepts the seemingly mad belief that the children are

 possessed. We never know for sure if deep down she thinks the governess is insane or not. Kerr as the

 governess meticulously assesses the state of the two children, freely telling of her commendation.  Normally,

 this scenario would transpire into a story where the characters in one way or another spiral out of control, and

 transcend into fateful confusion. However this does not happen, Calmness, co-operation, and respect continue,

 and the story ends tragically, not because of poor judgement, but because of plain and simple unconstrained


 Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) applies for a job as a governess. It is to be her first position, but the wealthy bachelor interviewing her

 (Michael Redgrave) is unconcerned with her lack of experience. He values his freedom to travel and socialize and unabashedly

 confesses that he has "no room, mentally or emotionally" for his niece and nephew, who were orphaned and left in his care as

 infants, and whom he keeps at Bly, his country estate. The previous governess, Miss Jessel, died suddenly less than a year ago.

 All he cares about is that Miss Giddens accept full responsibility for the children, never troubling him with whatever problems may


 At Bly, Miss Giddens is instantly taken with Flora. She also forges a friendship with Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins), the kindly

 housekeeper. The boy, Miles, is away at boarding school, though Flora delightedly insists that her brother is coming home. Sure

 enough, Miss Giddens receives a letter saying that Miles has been expelled from school because of his bad influence on the other boys.

 Mrs. Grose says she can't imagine Miles being a bad influence, and when Miss Giddens meets the boy herself, she too thinks his teachers

 must have exaggerated. He seems charming and mature – though perhaps too mature, with flirtatious flattery toward his governess.

 The children are friendly and polite, but Miss Giddens is disturbed by their occasional odd behaviors. They seem to be sharing

 secrets. She is upset by unexplained voices, and by several visions of a woman and man, whom Mrs. Grose identifies, from their

 descriptions, as Miss Jessel and Peter Quint – the uncle's valet until his death. Eventually, Mrs. Grose reveals that Quint was

 abusive to Miss Jessel, and that they were indiscreet, performing sexual acts in plain sight of the other servants and even, perhaps,

 the children. After Quint's death, Miss Jessel went into a deep depression and drowned herself.

 When Miles recites a poem invoking a "lost lord" to rise from the grave, Miss Giddens concludes that the ghosts of Quint and Miss

 Jessel inhabit the bodies of the children so they can continue their relationship. She is determined to rescue them from this

 possession. One night Miss Giddens finds Flora at a window, watching Miles, who is walking in the garden. When Miss Giddens

 escorts him to bed, he kisses her goodnight, in a disturbingly adult manner. The next day Miss Giddens finds Flora dancing alone

 by the lake – and again sees the figure of Miss Jessel staring at them from across the water. Convinced that the children will be

 freed from the possession if they will confess what is happening, Miss Giddens begs Flora to admit that Miss Jessel is there.

 Flora begins to scream and cry, calling Miss Giddens wicked and insane. Hours later, Flora is still hysterical, and when Mrs. Grose

 finally leaves her bedside, she says she can't imagine where Flora learned such obscenities. Miss Giddens orders her to take Flora

 away from Bly. She is certain that Miles is on the brink of confessing his ordeal to her and that she must be left alone with him.

 That night, alone with Miles, Miss Giddens presses him to talk about the ghosts, and then about why he was expelled from school.

 Initially, and as usual, Miles is glib and evasive, but he eventually admits that he frightened the other boys with violence and vulgar

 language. Miss Giddens enjoins him to say who taught him this language and behavior. Miles suddenly begins yelling obscene

 insults and laughing maniacally, and Peter Quint's face appears in the window behind him, joining in the boy's laughter. Miles then

 runs outside; Miss Giddens follows, calling that all he has to do is "say his name" and it will all be over. Quint appears on the

 hedge nearby, but Miles does not seem to see him and screams that she is insane. He finally shouts Quint's name, then the hand

 of Quint appears. Miles grows still and falls to the ground. Miss Giddens cradles him and assures him that he is free. She then

 realizes that Miles is dead. Sobbing in horror, she leans over him and kisses him on the lips.

In the Heat of the Night****    1967


The winner of the 1967 Oscar for Best Picture (as well as four other Oscars), In the Heat of the Night is set in a small Mississippi town where an unusual murder has been committed. Rod Steiger plays sheriff Bill Gillespie, a good lawman despite his racial prejudices. When Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), a well-dressed northern African-American, comes to town, Gillespie instinctively puts him under arrest as a murder suspect. Tibbs reveals himself to be a Philadelphia police detective; after he and Gillespie come to a grudging understanding of one another, Tibbs offers to help in Gillespie's investigation. As the case progresses, both Gillespie and Tibbs betray a tendency to jump to culture-dictated conclusions. Still, the case is solved thanks to the informal teamwork of the two law officers. Based on the novel by John Ball, In the Heat of the Night inspired two sequels, both starring Poiter as Virgil Tibbs. In 1987, a TV series version of In the Heat of the Night appeared, with Carroll O'Connor as Gillespie and Howard Rollins as Tibbs. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi 

Intolerance****   1916

D.W. Griffith's large-scale epic, spanning several centuries and cultures. The film is made up of four distinct stories linked 

solely by a single common thread: intolerance. Three of the stories are based on historical fact: Medieval France during 

the reign of Charles IX; the birth and crucifixion of Christ; and the fall of Babylonia. The fourth tale is a "modern" story

 of greed, cruelty and betrayal. Intolerance had its New York premiere on September 5, 1916; it was released two years

 after The Birth of a Nation, and it is widely regarded as D.W. Griffith's protest and self-defense against the charges of 

racism leveled at him for Birth's glorification of the Ku Klux Klan.

Invisible Woman, The *****    2014


Nelly (Felicity Jones), a happily-married mother and schoolteacher, is haunted by her past. Her memories, provoked by remorse and guilt, take us back in
 time to follow the story of her relationship with Charles Dickens (Ralph Fiennes) with whom she discovered an exciting but fragile complicity. Dickens - famous,
 controlling and emotionally isolated within his success - falls for Nelly, who comes from a family of actors. The theatre is a vital arena for Dickens - a brilliant
 amateur actor - a man more emotionally coherent on the page or on stage, than in life. As Nelly becomes the focus of Dickens' passion and his muse, for both
 of them secrecy is the price, and for Nelly a life of "invisibility".


I See a Dark Stranger (The Adventuress)****    1946


 See a Dark Stranger manages to be both an absorbing espionage yarn and a slyly amusing send-up of the entire genre. Deborah Kerr is terrific as Irish 

colleen Bridie Quilty, raised from childhood to despise the British and everything they stand for. Bridie's anglophobia proves useful to Nazi spy Miller (Raymond 

Huntley), who hopes to use the girl to help him steal the plans for the D-day invasion. Playing her "Mata Hari" role to the hilt, Bridie wholeheartedly throws 

herself into a world of clandestine meetings and coded messages, certain that by helping the Germans she is also helping Mother Ireland. Eventually she 

realizes the error of her ways, enabling her to turn the tables on Miller and his co-conspirators. Trevor Howard co-stars as David Baynes, with whom the 

impulsive Bridie falls in love despite his English forebears. I See a Dark Stranger was released in the U.S. as The Adventuress. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi


Island of Lost Souls****      1932


Edward Parker, the sole survivor of the S.S. Lady Vain , is rescued by Montgomery on the trading ship S.S. Covena and taken to a South Sea island.

 There, Captain Davies deposits Edward, along with his shipment of wild animals, at the experimental station of Dr. Moreau, a mad scientist involved in

 "bio-anthropological research." Moreau's island is inhabited by half-man, half-beasts, who are products of genetic engineering that is meant to alter

 the evolutionary process of animals through ions, whereby they become men. Moreau has made only one woman, Lota, from a panther, and hopes

 to mate her with Edward. When Edward discovers Moreau performing an operation on what appears to be a man in his torture chamber, the House of

 Pain, he tries to escape with Lota. As the couple fends off Moreau's beasts, Moreau strikes a gong and the beasts recite the law of the island, which

 forbids running on all fours, eating meat, or spilling blood and exonerates Moreau as their maker. Meanwhile, at the seaport of Apia, Edward's fiancée,

 Ruth Thomas, discovers him missing from the S.S. Covena . The American consul then sends her and Captain Donahue to find him. At Moreau's island,

 Edward discovers Lota's origins when he kisses her and sees that her fingers have begun degenerating into claws. Moreau then threatens Lota with the

 House of Pain, in which he previously tortured her to keep her from reverting to a panther; but Montgomery, who heretofore has assisted Moreau as

 an alternative to jail, refuses to torture Lota. Donahue and Ruth then arrive, and that night, Ouran, one of the beasts, tries to attack her. Forced to

 leave the island, Donahue braves the jungle of beasts to collect his crew and, at the orders of Moreau, is killed by Ouran. Having broken the law of

 the man-beasts that forbids the spilling of blood, Moreau is attacked by them and tortured in his own House of Pain. With the help of Montgomery,

 Ruth and Edward escape, but Lota is killed by a man-beast.

A spellbinding film. This film demonstrated what Hollywood could do in the horror genre in the early 30's.

It was all about atmosphere, as well as the ability to ingeniously balance a storyline that paralleled

a proposition of incredible fantasy...always with a degree of believability. Charles Laughton plays Dr. 

Moreau with cunning and deceptiveness, luring his characters in with evasive politeness, always clearly

on the edge of madness. We have the romance side, as always, with Richard Arlen engaged to the 

stunning Leila Hyams, who demonstrates a perfectly understated character, who exhibits great courage.

Arlen (as Parker) also falls in love with a woman who is captive on the island, but to his surprise, he

finds out that she is one of Moreau's animal transformed into a human. 

Moreau's surgical techniques include plastic surgery, blood transfusions, gland extracts, and ray baths,

as well as brainwashing and hypnotism. This gives him control of the island and it's transformed

inhabitants, but his plot gradually unravels. The settings are terrific, Moreau's modernistic mansion,

the cove of the natives, the rock high above them where Moreau cracks his giants whip, and the house

of pain where he tortures natives without anesthesia. 


 It***1/2   1927

 Spunky but poor shopgirl Betty Lou Spence (Clara Bow) has a crush on her handsome employer Cyrus Waltham Jr (Antonio

 Moreno), the manager of and heir to the "world's largest store". However they belong to different social classes, and he is

 already romantically linked to the blond socialite Adela Van Norman (Jacqueline Gadsden). Cyrus' silly friend Monty (William

 Austin) notices Betty Lou, though, and she uses him to get closer to Waltham. When she finally gets Waltham's attention,

 she convinces him to take her on a date, and she takes him to Coney Island, where he is introduced to the proletarian pleasures

 of roller coasters and hot dogs, and has a wonderful time. At the end of the evening he loses control and pounces, trying to kiss

 her. Betty Lou slaps his face, and hurries out of his car and into her tenement flat. She then peeks out her window at him as he

 is leaving, showing her pleasure on her face.

 Drama strikes, however, when Betty Lou bravely proclaims herself as an unmarried mother to protect her sickly roommate Molly

 (Priscilla Bonner) from having her baby taken away by a couple of meddling welfare workers. Cyrus finds out, and although he is

 in love with her, being the bastion of respectability that he is, offers her an 'arrangement' that includes everything but marriage.

 Betty Lou, shocked and humiliated, refuses, quits her job, and resolves to forget Cyrus. When she learns from Monty the

 presumption that led to Cyrus' proposition, she fumes, and vows to teach Cyrus a lesson. Cyrus hosts a yachting excursion and

 Betty Lou gatecrashes it with the help of Monty, masquerading as 'Miss Van Cortland'. Cyrus at first wants to remove her from

 the ship, but he can't resist Betty Lou's it; he eventually corners her and proposes marriage, but she gets him back, by telling

 him that she'd 'rather marry his office boy', which accomplishes her goal but breaks her heart. He then learns the truth about

 the baby, and leaves Monty at the helm of the yacht to go find her. Monty crashes the yacht into a fishing boat, tossing both

 Betty Lou and Cyrus' soon-to-be former fiancee, Adela, into the water. Betty Lou saves Adela from drowning, punching her in

 the face when she struggles, and ends the film embracing Cyrus on the anchor of the yacht, with the first two letters of the

 ship's name, Itola, between them. Stage actress Dorothy Tree had her first film role in a small, uncredited part. A young

 ex-stuntman named Gary Cooper was cast in a small role as a newspaper reporter, and his affair with Clara Bow on the set

 of this film became a major topic of gossip at the time.

It Happened One Night****1/2   1934

 Spoiled heiress Ellen "Ellie" Andrews (Claudette Colbert) marries fortune-hunter "King" Westley (Jameson Thomas) against the

 wishes of her extremely wealthy father (Walter Connolly). He retrieves his daughter before the marriage can be consummated,

 but then she runs away. Boarding a bus to New York City, she meets fellow passenger Peter Warne (Clark Gable), an out-of-work

 newspaper reporter. He recognizes her and gives her a choice: if she will give him an exclusive on her story he will help her

 reunite with Westley. If not he will tell her father where she is and collect the reward. Ellie agrees to the first choice.

 The famous hitch-hiking scene

 Various adventures follow. When they have to hitchhike, Peter claims to be an expert on the subject. When nothing he tries

 works, out of frustration, he eventually ends up thumbing his nose at passing cars. The sheltered Ellie then shows him how it's

 done. She stops the next car dead in its tracks by lifting up her skirt and showing off a shapely leg. One night, when they are

 nearing the end of their journey, Peter leaves to make some arrangements. The owners of the motel in which they are staying

 see that his car is gone and assume he has left without paying. They rouse Ellie out of bed and kick her out. Believing Peter has

 deserted her, Ellie calls her father, who is so relieved to get her back that he agrees to let her have her way. Ellie has fallen in

 love with Peter, but she thinks he betrayed her for the reward money, so she agrees to have a second, formal wedding with

 Westley. Meanwhile, Peter believes he is the one who has been double-crossed.

 Peter gets in touch with Ellie's father to settle up. Mr. Andrews offers him the large reward promised, but Peter will have none

 of it. He just wants to be paid $39.60 for the expenses incurred on the trip. Intrigued, the father badgers the reporter until he

 gets the truth: Peter loves Ellie (though he thinks he is out of his mind to do so). Peter leaves with the check he asked for.

 While walking his daughter down the aisle, Andrews tells her what he has found out and encourages her to run off again, telling

 her there is a car waiting for her out back; at the very last moment, when asked whether she takes this man, she escapes again.

 Her father pays Westley to have the marriage annulled, enabling Ellie to marry Peter.

It's a Date***1/2   1940

 Pamela Drake, the daughter of the famous but aging Broadway star Georgia Drake, has inherited her mother's acting ambitions.

 At the closing night party of her mother's latest production, Pam convinces director Sidney Simpson and writer Carl Ober to

 visit her summer stock school. While Georgia travels to Honolulu to prepare for Ober's new production, Ober and Sidney visit

 the school and, as a theatrical exercise, stage the second act of Ober's new play with Pamela playing the lead. Ober believes

 that Georgia is too old for the part, and when he sees Pamela's impressive performance, he offers her the role. Unaware that

 she has stolen her mother's part, Pam, overwhelmed by her unexpected opportunity, decides to seek out the greatest coach she

 knows, Georgia, and sets sail for Honolulu. Aboard the ocean liner, Pam attempts to live her prospective role of the tragically

 spurned woman, thus earning her the sympathy of pineapple king John Arlen, a man twice her age. Pam misunderstands John's

 attentions, however, and believes that he is in love with her. In Honolulu, Pam discovers that she and her mother are competing

 for the same part and decides to give up the stage to marry John. To keep her mother from receiving Sidney's phone call, in

 which he plans to tell her she has lost the role, Pam arranges to dine with Georgia and John. While Pam leaves the table to

 intercept the call, however, John becomes infatuated with Georgia. John soon finds himself pursued by Pamela but in love with

 Georgia. Escorting both women to the governor's ball, John must avoid Pam's attempts to propose to him so that he can propose

 to Georgia. John finally pops the question just as Sidney and Ober arrive. Before they can tell Georgia that Pamela has the lead,

 Georgia declines the role and announces her engagement to John, thus clearing the way for Pamela to score in the show.

It's a Wonderful Life*****   1946

 It's fitting that It's a Wonderful Life went from beloved Christmas staple to full-blown American institution during the Reagan

 years, when the cozily reactionary proclivities of Frank Capra's movie seemed most in synch with the ostentatious conservatism

 of the times. Yet it was also during the 1980s that the film received its most caustic analysis, in the form of a Saturday Night

 Live sketch which imagined the classic's "lost ending." When the people of Bedford Falls ditch singing "Auld Lang Syne" and

 become a torch-carrying lynch mob howling for Mr. Potter's blood ("You made two mistakes, you double-crossed and you left me

 alive," Dana Carvey's George Bailey snarls), it's not just great snark, but also a rich glimpse at the vicious darkness that has

 always dwelled under the film's benign textures.

 Without overlooking its lapses into populist bathos, it's necessary to rescue It's a Wonderful Life from its spot at the centerpiece

 of untouchable American "classics." As with The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind (surely some kind of troika of sacred

 screen monsters), uncritical reverence both inflates the film's magnitude and robs it of its most interesting elements. Despite

 the fin de siècle gentility given its small-town setting, this is decisively a postwar work, never more visible than in the balance

 of hope and despair achieved by James Stewart as George Bailey. This was his first role in five years since enlisting in the Air

 Force, and Capra introduces his character with a freeze-frame that all but summarizes the actor's gawky persona, yet the rest

 of the picture gradually introduces the underlying anxiety—the subtle hysteria of a homespun performer who's seen horrors—that 

 Anthony Mann would later bring to the fore in his great cycle of '50s westerns. Indeed, Stewart's George is something of a cowboy,

 or at least a wanderer. He dreams of leaving home and traveling the world, and in the early scenes he's full of piss and vinegar.

 Inexorably, the picture proceeds to tame the roamer in him, draining out his youthful vigor through a series of domesticating

 events. When George's father dies, it falls to him to rescue the family's savings and loan association from being swallowed by

 desiccated plutocrat Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore), Bedford Falls's own Mr. Burns. The hero's settling down is a rigid standby

 of classical American cinema, but what's striking in It's a Wonderful Life is how ambiguously the movement toward the stability

 of family life is rendered. Few scenes have expressed the suppressions and compromises upon which domesticity is erected

 as beautifully as the close-up of George, anguished in a mix of regret and acceptance, admitting his place by the side of

 childhood sweetheart Mary (Donna Reed). George's subsequent achievements as a family man and community representative

 are scarcely negligible, yet his resentment never quite dissipates, it merely stays welled in him until something, like Uncle Billy

 (Thomas Mitchell) misplacing the company deposit, causes it to spill over.

 How can a movie so full of pain and frustration be venerated as simply, glowingly jolly? Mainly adduced from Dickens, Capra's

 structure is also reminiscent of Bible stories, with George, like several of Capra's other protagonists, undergoing what Andrew

 Sarris described as a "melodramatic parable of near crucifixion." It's no coincidence that H.B. Warner, Cecil B. DeMille's original

 Jesus, has a prominent role in the large cast, but George's faith-testing pileup of misfortunes brings him closer to Job than to

 Christ: Distraught at a bar, his prayers are answered by a sock to the jaw. He has been heard, however, and divine help comes

 as "second class" angel Clarence (Henry Travers) literally drops from above to save him from the edge of the abyss. The

 appearance of a cloying angel in the midst of so much desolation is an element that, like Spielberg's final movement in A.I.

 Artificial Intelligence, can either make or break a film. Yet Clarence is essential here to usher in the film's great shadow

 sequence, a Dantean descent in which George is given a vision of how things would have been if he had never existed. Bedford

 Falls becomes Pottersville, crime and sleaze run bare-assed, the people he loved are either dead or wicked—a world fit for a

 Christmas postcard is suddenly full of tropes from horror and film noir.

 It's typical of the film's populism that the loss of a single person is portrayed as a cosmic imbalance, enough to turn an idyll into

 an inferno. Although Bedford Falls and Pottersville are offered as the safely separated yin and yang of a community, both are

 equally believable as views of a society where order is suddenly revealed as precarious at best, just as George and Mr. Potter

 have more in common than it first appears. "You once called me a warped, frustrated old man...Now, you're a warped, frustrated

 young man," the ogre tells the hero, and the film can't refute him. After such troubling discoveries, the famous climactic

 affirmation comes off like an escape hatch: It's a wonderful life, the message goes, and be content with it because it can

 always get worse. Still, there's no denying the last passage's cathartic power, charged by Stewart's tremendous depth of feeling.

 It's Stewart's emotional force that dries up the material's potential schmaltz, modulating from the romantic who offers to lasso

 the moon for his beloved to the disgruntled wreck who later asks her, "Why did we have to have so many children?" Capra views

 the two facets with the same intensity, and films accordingly. Maybe it takes a filmmaker so fascinated with the American

 Dream to see how close it can be to a nightmare.


Jagged Edge, The***1/2   1985

 In this hit thriller, a prosecuting attorney-turned-defense lawyer falls in love with a rich, charming client who's been accused of

 murdering his wife and her maid with a hunting knife. When an unknown assailant gruesomely slays San Francisco newspaper

 heiress Paige Forrester (Maria Mayenzet), her husband and business partner, Jack Forrester (Jeff Bridges), turns to corporate

 attorney Teddy Barnes (Glenn Close) for counsel. Teddy, who quit her job with the district attorney's office four years earlier

 over an ethical dilemma, has reservations about returning to criminal work; nevertheless, she accepts the assignment,

 convinced of Jack's innocence and eager to face off in court against her old boss, DA Thomas Krasny (Peter Coyote), who's

 about run for attorney general. With the help of investigator Sam Ransom (Robert Loggia), the recently divorced Teddy builds

 a strong defense for her client, though the work -- and her incipient romance with Jack -- cause strain in her relationship with

 her children. When Jack's innocence and his romantic intentions come into question, Teddy feels her life slipping back into a

 moral quagmire until a series of courtroom  denouements set the stage for even bigger surprises. Big-name screenwriter Joe

 Eszterhas' follow-up to Flashdance, Jagged Edge was directed by Richard Marquand, who had previously lensed Return of the

 Jedi. Parts of Jagged Edge were shot on-location in San Francisco, whose City Hall provides the film's courtroom exteriors.

 ~ Brian J. Dillard, All Movie Guide

Juno***1/2   2007

 A naked Nicole Kidman was once famously described as "pure theatrical Viagra"; in this thoroughly delightful teen comedy, the fully clothed Ellen Page is pure cinematic Prozac. With its smart dialogue by newcomer Diablo Cody and a miraculously effective and evocative lo-fi soundtrack, the film has the ephemeral charm of a great pop song. 

 Page plays Juno MacGuff, a hyper-articulate 16-year-old who has cultivated sarky irony to insulate her against the pain 

 and awfulness of being a teenager. In a spirit of experiment she has had sex for the first time with Paulie (Michael Cera),

 with whom she was once in a band. Paulie was also surrendering his virginity, or as Juno puts it, "going live". As ill

 fortune would have it, Juno gets pregnant the first time out, and is catapulted in a world of genuine grown-up experience

 to match and exceed her super-cool mannerisms. Unable to express his deeply hurt and confused feelings, Paulie

 shrugs and lets Juno do what she wants, and she decides to keep the baby and find a couple for adoption. This turns

 out to be the uptight yuppies Mark (Jason Bateman) and Vanessa (Jennifer Garner). Mark is a cool composer with a

 guitar collection, secretly unreconciled to fatherhood; inevitably he begins a dangerous flirtation with Juno, whose baby

 threatens to destroy the marriage it was intended to complete, and to undermine Juno's own future in ways she had not

 begun to imagine. It may be that like Judd Apatow's comedy Knocked Up, Juno will be criticised for neglecting to endorse

 abortion, or to reflect that this is the option that is the most tenable in real life. In this paper, Hadley Freeman recently

 wrote an insightful article, noting that Juno is not the product of an anti-abortion culture, but one which has taken

 abortion for granted. Absolutely right. But this needn't mean abortion rights are being slighted; it would be a relief to see

 a culture in which, say, evolution was taken for granted.

 Juno is a fiction with irresistible charm and wit and Page carries everything before her, creating a character with a

 powerful sense of right and wrong, an overwhelming belief in monogamy, and a nascent talent for leadership.

 The film owes its power to Ellen Page's lovely performance and to Cody's funny script, which treats the subject of status

 with shrewdness and compassion. If women all too often find status only in the dangerous and expendable commodity of

 sexual attractiveness, then in getting pregnant, Juno would seem to have catastrophically abandoned this one tiny

 prerogative, and looked stupid into the bargain. Yet she finds that, as a pregnant woman, she is the centre of attention,

 and in offering her child for adoption, she has dizzying power over rich adults. It is a power that gives her insight and

 clarity, and humbles her elders. Like I said: this film is a happy pill.


Kid, The     1921****


                                                                                                       One of those most famous film stills of all time....

I dare you not to shed a tear! This classic Chaplin film has been made famous by its brilliant depiction of an

orphaned boy, who through mishap, has been parented by a pitiful but loving tramp. Jackie Coogan makes

every scene a masterpiece of pathos, without any frills or unnecessary sentiment.  It is a known fact that

pathos is most effective when interjected with comedy, and this film hits the mark every time. the comic

scenes are are a fitting portrayal of slum life. The three scenes, although there are many, that stand out are the 

window repair scene, where we are informed that the tramp reverts to misdemeanors with the help of his 

five year old assistant. While repairing a window he encounters the flirtatious wife of a policeman, and chaos

ensues, while his little helper also has to dodge the law. The fighting scene, with the bully, perfectly played by 

Charles Reisner (a larger than life figure, literally!) demonstrates the opposition the tramp faces in his current

environment and also shows his rather pathetic determination to stand up for himself and protect the boy.  

Another scene, the dream scene, which I am not sure was a necessary insertion, sends once again, the

message that even if he is in heaven, his peril is inescapable. 

Jackie Coogan and Charlie Chaplin  create one of the most touching relationships in cinema history.

An unwed woman (Edna Purviance) leaves a charity hospital carrying her newborn son. An artist (Carl Miller), the apparent father,

 is shown with the woman's photograph. When it falls into the fireplace, he first picks it up, then throws it back in to burn up.

 The woman decides to leave her child in the back seat of an expensive automobile with a handwritten note imploring the finder to

 care for and love the baby. However, the car is stolen. When the two thieves discover the child, they leave him on the street. The

 Little Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) finds the baby. Unwilling at first to take on the responsibility, he eventually softens and names the

 boy John. Five years pass, and the child becomes the Tramp's partner in minor crime, throwing stones to break windows that the

 Tramp can then repair. Meanwhile, the woman becomes a wealthy star. She does charity work among the poor to fill the void of her

 missing child. By chance, mother and child meet, but do not recognize each other.

When the boy becomes sick, a doctor comes to see him. He discovers that the Tramp is not the boy's father. The Tramp shows

 him the note left by the mother, but the doctor merely takes it and notifies the authorities. Two men come to take the boy to an

 orphanage, but after a fight and a chase, the Tramp regains his boy. When the woman comes back to see how the boy is doing,

 the doctor tells her what has happened, then shows her the note, which she recognizes.

The fugitives spend the night in a flophouse, but the manager (an uncredited Henry Bergman), having read of the $1000 reward

 offered for the child, takes him to the police station to be united with his ecstatic mother. When the Tramp wakes up, he searches

 frantically for the missing boy, then returns to doze beside the now-locked doorway to their humble home. In his sleep, he enters

 "Dreamland", with angels in residence and devilish interlopers. He is awakened by a policeman, who places the Tramp in a car and

 rides with him to a house. When the door opens, the woman and John emerge, reuniting the elated adoptive father and son. The

 policeman, happy for the family, shakes the Tramp's hand and leaves, before the woman welcomes the Tramp into her home.

Killers, The****1/2    1946

 A film noire clearly ahead of its time. This was the beginning of a more mature cops and robbers style

 genre. Other films that were a part of this miovement were The Big Heat (1953) and an even grittier

 The Asphalt Jungle (1950), the famous White Heat (1949) and possibly the grand-daddy of them all, the

 earlier Double Indemnity (1944), which is a crime drama that emphasizes its elements as a psychological

 thriller-romance. Like Double Indemnity, the character solving the crime is an insurance representative

 rather tha a police detective which gives the crime-solving process a little more elasticity. The

 criminal is played by Burt Lancaster whose acting style is also being introduced to the viewer. William

 Conrad is extremely sinister as the gangster, and Ava Gardner is excellent in one of her very early


 Two hit men, Max and Al (William Conrad and Charles McGraw), arrive at a small-town diner, assigned to find and kill a man, Ole

 Anderson, aka "the Swede" (Burt Lancaster). They track him to a boarding house where, resigned to his fate, he puts up no


 The Swede had life insurance, so Investigator Jim Reardon (Edmond O'Brien) is assigned to look into the murder for his

 company. Interviewing people from his past, Reardon develops a theory that The Swede's murder stemmed from an unsolved

 payroll robbery of years earlier masterminded by Big Jim Colfax (Albert Dekker) and involving Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner), a

 mysterious woman the Swede loved.

 Working with a police detective (Sam Levene) who was a boyhood friend of the dead man, Reardon sets a plan in motion to

 trap the hired killers and the man who hired them.

Killing, The****1/2         1956

 Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) is a veteran criminal planning one last heist before settling down and marrying Fay (Coleen

 Gray). He plans to rob two million dollars from the money counting room of a racetrack during a featured race. He

 assembles a team consisting of a corrupt cop (Ted de Corsia), a betting window teller (Elisha Cook Jr.) to give access to

 the backroom, a sharpshooter (Timothy Carey) to shoot the favorite horse during the race to distract the crowd, a wrestler

 (Kola Kwariani) to provide another distraction by provoking a fight at the track bar and a track bartender (Joe Sawyer).

 The betting window teller George Peatty, tells his wife Sherry (Marie Windsor), about the impending robbery. Sherry is bitter

 at George for not delivering on the promises of wealth he made her at the time of their marriage and George hopes that

 telling her about the robbery will placate and impress her. Sherry does not believe him at first but after learning that the

 robbery is real, she enlists her lover, Val Cannon (Vince Edwards) to steal the money from George and his associates.

 The heist is successful although the sharpshooter, Nikki is shot and killed by the police. The conspirators rendezvous at the

 apartment where they are to meet Johnny and divide the money. Before Johnny arrives, Val appears and holds them up. A

 shootout ensues and a badly wounded George is the sole survivor. He goes home and shoots Sherry before dying.

 Johnny, while on his way to the apartment, sees George staggering in the street and knows that something is wrong. He

 buys the biggest suitcase he can find to put the money in (and struggles to lock it properly), and he and Fay go to the

 airport. At the airport however, they are told that they aren't allowed to take the suitcase along as hand luggage because of

 its size, and instead have to check it in as regular luggage. Johnny reluctantly complies. While waiting to board their plane,

 they watch as the suitcase falls off a cart, breaks open and the loose  banknotes are swept away by the wind. They leave

 the airport but are unsuccessful at finding a cab. Fay urges Johnny to flee but he refuses, stating that there is no use trying

 to escape. The film ends with two officers coming to arrest him.

Kind of Loving, A***1/2     1962 


 Vic Brown, a draftsman in a Lancashire factory, becomes strongly attracted to one of the firm's typists, Ingrid Rothwell. After several dates, Ingrid

 allows Vic to spend the night at her home while her widowed mother is out of town. Vic now realizes that what he feels for Ingrid is almost purely

 physical, but Ingrid has become more deeply involved and tries to seek assurance that she is still loved. Vic allows the affair to drop, but at a company

 dance Ingrid reveals that she is pregnant, and he reluctantly offers to marry her. After a brief honeymoon, they move in with Ingrid's mother, a

 narrow-minded and possessive woman deeply resentful of Vic. The life of the young couple becomes increasingly tense. Ingrid eventually has a

 miscarriage, and Vic is suddenly struck with the realization that their wedding was not necessary. Henceforth, Ingrid refuses to have sex with him.

 Following a drunken spree and a scene with his mother-in-law, Vic storms out of the house and turns to his happily-married sister for comfort. Instead

 she rebukes him for not living up to his responsibilities, and he returns to Ingrid. Now willing to look at his life in a more mature manner, he persuades

 her to leave her interfering mother and help him find a home of their own. Perhaps with cooperation and compromise, they will be able to attain

 "a kind of loving." 

King Kong***1/2   1933


 Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) agrees to star in a film directed by Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong). The two set sail on the S.S. Venture

 for filming on a mysterious island in the Indian Ocean. During the course of the voyage, Ann falls in love with First Mate

  Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot). The island is reached but the natives kidnap Ann and prepare her as a sacrifice to Kong, a huge

 gorilla-like creature who dwells on the island. Kong discovers Ann tied to a native altar and carries her to his jungle lair.

 Driscoll, Denham, and the crew set out to rescue Ann. They are menaced by dinosaurs along the jungle trail, first by a

 Stegosaurus, and then a Brontosaurus, and many crew members are killed. Driscoll finds and snatches Ann from Kong's lair but

 the two are pursued by Kong as they race through the jungle to safety. Kong destroys the native village in his search for Ann.

 He is finally subdued by hand-tossed gas bombs. Denham returns to civilization with Kong in tow. When Kong is exhibited on

 the New York stage, he breaks his chains, retakes Ann, and climbs to the top of the Empire State Building. He gets into a battle

 with a squadron of military airplanes and despite taking one of them down is wounded by gunfire and falls to his death. Ann is

 reunited with Driscoll. Below on the street, Denham makes his way through the gathered crowd to look upon the fallen Kong.

 A police lieutenant says to him, "Well Denham, the airplanes got him." The film ends with Carl Denham's reply, "No, it wasn't the

 airplanes... It was Beauty killed the Beast."

Kings Row****1/2     1942 


 A seemingly quiet Midwestern town is the hiding place for a number of sordid secrets in this melodrama based on Henry Bellamann's

 best-selling novel. Parris Mitchell (Scotty Beckett) is a young boy growing up in the town of King's Row, where he becomes close friends with

 Cassandra (Mary Thomas), a quiet girl who isn't popular with the other children. Parris is also friends with Louise (Joan Duvalle), a rich girl

 who looks down on others; Drake (Douglas Croft), a good-natured but self-centered type; and Randy (Ann Todd), a girl with a wild tomboy

 streak. It's a testimony to Parris' character when Cassandra and Louise both invite him to parties on the same day and he decides to go to

 Cassandra's, because he's not sure who else might be there for her. However, his friendship with her begins to fade after her father, local

 psychiatrist Dr. Tower (Claude Rains), decides to withdraw her from public school and tutor her at home instead. Years later, Parris (now

played by Robert Cummings) is a promising medical student studying psychiatry with Dr. Tower, and while he's stayed in contact with

 Cassandra (now played by Betty Field), she remains at a curious emotional distance from those around her. Randy (now played by Ann

 Sheridan) romances Drake (now played by Ronald Reagan), who has inherited a fortune and is living the high life to the fullest. However,

 Drake is also involved with Louise (Nancy Coleman), who is not allowed much of a social life by her father, Dr. Gordon (Charles Coburn), and

 she fears that the more outgoing Randy will steal Drake away from her. When Parris decides to travel to Europe to further his studies,

 Cassandra asks if she can join him; he's not keen on the idea, but he considers it. He is then shocked to learn that Cassandra has been

 killed by her father after he learned that she was with child, shortly before taking his own life. Drake, meanwhile, loses his money through a

 series of unfortunate circumstances and is forced to take a job with the railroad; when he is injured at work, he's taken to Dr. Gordon for

 treatment. However, the doctor never approved of Drake's romance with Louise and was even more upset when he decided to leave her for

 Randy; in retaliation, Dr. Gordon amputates Drake's legs, even though his condition in no way justified it. Meanwhile, Parris comes back from

 Europe and makes the acquaintance of a local resident, Dr. Sandor (Erwin Kalser), while becoming infatuated with his daughter, Elise

 (Kaaren Verne). He also learns of Dr. Gordon's shocking mutilation of Drake, who is determined to somehow live a normal life despite it all,

 with Randy by his side. Kings Row was nominated for three Academy Awards (including Best Picture of 1943), and is generally conceded to

 feature the best performance of Ronald Reagan's Hollywood career; he titled his autobiography Where's the Rest of Me?, after the key line of 

 his most memorable (and challenging) scene in the picture. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi 

Kinky Boots****     2005


A small child on the pier is waiting for his father; while waiting the child puts on red dance shoes with bows on them and starts to dance around the 

pier. The child, revealed to be a boy, is seen by his father and rushes back and changes shoes quickly, hiding them in a bag before his father comes 

out disapproving. During the same time in a shoe factory another little boy is being taught of their family livelihood as shoemakers and the value of shoes. The boy is 


The film cuts to present day, where Charlie Price, the young boy now adult from the shoe factory, is trying to save the family business. His father has died, leaving the 

sinking company in his hands. While firing people since the factory is losing funds he fires Lauren who, before storming out the door, gives him the idea of looking for 

something to save the factory.

Charlie travels to London for ideas, where he sees someone who he thought was a woman getting harassed by drunken hoodlums. While trying to interrupt the harassment, 

Charlie is knocked out and wakes up in a back stage dressing room. In that chance encounter he meets sassy drag queen performer Lola, the alter ego of Simon, the boy 

seen dancing earlier. Charlie is intrigued by Lola, who points out that drag queens' shoes are made for women and not for men which is why the heel keeps snapping. 

Charlie rehires Lauren and they promise to make Lola boots that support a man's weight. While making the boots Charlie sees the possible market of shoes for male 

transvestites. With the styling eye of Lola, Charlie leads the traditional factory to design and produce shoes for the catwalk in Milan, Italy. However, things go awry as 

Charlie's girlfriend wants him to sell the company, male employees are unsupportive of the idea, and Charlie is overworking the employees. Still Lola is not afraid to 

save the day.

Kiss of Death***1/2     1947 


 Nick Bianco is a small-time hoodlum and thief who is shot and arrested after he and three others hold up an exclusive jewelry store.

 The District Attorney, Louis D'Angelo offers to go easy on him if he'll implicate his fellow thieves but Bianco wont cooperate. After 

 spending about three years in prison, he learns that his wife has committed suicide and that his two little girls are in an orphanage.

 He seeks out the DA and makes an arrangement to get evidence on a vicious killer, Tommy Udo. When Udo is found not guilty at

 his trial, Bianco, who has re-married and is now an upstanding citizen, is sure he will come after him. Written by garykmcd 

Kiss Me Deadly****1/2   1955


 Ralph Meeker plays Mike Hammer, a tough Los Angeles private eye who is almost as brutal and corrupt as the crooks he chases.

 Mike, and his assistant/secretary/lover, Velda (Maxine Cooper), usually work on "penny-ante divorce cases".

 One evening on a lonely country road, Hammer gives a ride to Christina (Cloris Leachman), an attractive hitchhiker wearing

 nothing but a trench coat. She has escaped from a nearby mental institution. Thugs waylay them and Hammer awakens in some

 unknown location where he hears Christina screaming and being tortured to death. The thugs then push Hammer's car off a

 cliff with Christina's body and an unconscious Hammer inside. Hammer next awakens in a hospital with Velda by his bedside.

 He decides to pursue the case, both for vengeance and because, "She (Christina) must be connected with something big" behind

 it all.


 Ralph Meeker and Cloris Leachman.

 The twisting plot takes Hammer to the apartment of Lily Carver (Gaby Rodgers), a sexy, waif-like blond who is posing as

 Christina's ex-room mate. Lily tells Hammer she has gone into hiding and asks Hammer to protect her. It turns out that she is

 after a mysterious box that, she believes, has contents worth a fortune. "The great whatsit", as Velda calls it, at the center of 

 Hammer's quest is a small, mysterious valise that is hot to the touch and contains a dangerous, glowing substance. It comes to

 represent the 1950s Cold War fear and nuclear paranoia about the atomic bomb that permeated American culture.

 Later, at an isolated beach house, Hammer finds Lily with her evil boss, Dr. Soberin (Albert Dekker). Velda is their hostage, tied

 up in a bedroom. Soberin and Lily are vying for the contents of the box. Lily shoots Soberin, believing that she can keep the

 mysterious contents for herself. As she slyly opens the case, it is ultimately revealed to be stolen radionuclide material, which

 in the final scene apparently reaches explosive criticality when the box ("Pandora's Box") is fully opened. Horrifying sounds are

 emitted from the nuclear material as Lily bursts into flames.


Ladies of the Big House****    1931 

No Video avail.

 Ernest Booth, who writes about prisoners from behind prison bars, is the author of "Ladies of the Big House," and it is probably to

 him that the film owes the reality of its prison scenes. For the normal citizen the routine lives of the men and women, with

 numbers instead of names, have a cold and rather terrible fascination. The new film manages to convey this terror with a fair

 measure of success. An atmosphere of shadows and desolation clings even to those scenes in which love is most plainly seen to be

 finding a way.

 Having been written from the inside, the story is not kind to officialdom. The assistant to the district attorney takes his orders from

 the underworld. The press is a monster that is not so much interested in justice and truth as in a good story—with pictures. In a

 scene that is grotesque and honestly moving, a condemned prisoner is brought out of his cell to make a Roman holiday for the


 Sylvia Sidney and Gene Raymond are the principal figures of the story. On their wedding day a shadow out of the young woman's

 past comes to commit murder and lodge them in prison for the deed. It is circumstantial evidence, but it is convincing. The

 solution of the tale is good melodrama of its type, fast and exciting. Both Miss Sidney and Mr. Raymond give good, honest

 performances and their support, for the most part, is competent. Frank Sheridan is excellent as the kindly warden.

Lady Eve, The ****   1941


 Jean Harrington (Barbara Stanwyck) is a beautiful con artist. Along with her equally larcenous father, "Colonel" Harrington

 (Charles Coburn) and his partner Gerald (Melville Cooper), she is out to fleece rich, naive Charles Pike (Henry Fonda), the heir

 to the Pike Ale fortune ("The Ale That Won for Yale"). Pike is a woman-shy snake expert just returning from a year-long

 expedition up the Amazon.

 But even the best laid plans can go astray. First, Jean falls hard for Pike and shields him from her card sharp father. Then, when

 Pike's suspicious minder/valet Muggsy (William Demarest) discovers the truth about her and her father, Pike dumps her. Furious

 at being scorned, she re-enters his life masquerading as the posh "Lady Eve Sidwich", niece of Sir Alfred McGlennan Keith

 (Eric Blore), another con man who's been swindling the rich folk of Connecticut. Jean is determined to torment Pike mercilessly

 – as she explains, "I've got some unfinished business with him — I need him like the axe needs the turkey" – and it doesn't hurt

 that Pike's wealthy businessman father (Eugene Pallette) is impressed by English nobility and eager to promote a marriage

 between his son and her ladyship. Soon her hapless victim is so confused and bothered he doesn't know which way is up, but, in

 the end, after all the twists and turns, deceptions and lies, true love wins out.

Lady In the Lake***1/2     1943

 In Los Angeles, private detective Philip Marlowe recalls the day he became involved in the infamous "lady in the lake" murder case:

 Frustrated over the low pay of detective work, Marlowe writes a short crime story which he submits to Kingsby Publications. While

 meeting with magazine editor Adrienne Fromsett to discuss the publication of his story, Marlowe learns that she has summoned him

 to the Kingsby offices under false pretenses. Adrienne is not interested in Marlowe's story, and instead asks him to help her find

 Chrystal Kingsby, the estranged wife of Derace Kingsby, the magazine's publisher. When Adrienne tells Marlowe that Kingsby's wife

 is a liar and a cheat and that Kingsby wants a divorce, Marlowe accuses Adrienne of trying to break up Kingsby's marriage so that

 she can marry him herself. Marlowe is intrigued by Adrienne's desperation, and because he is also attracted to her, he agrees to

 work for her. After learning that Chrystal was last seen with a playboy named Chris Lavery, Marlowe begins his investigation with a

 visit to Lavery's home in Bay City. Lavery invites Marlowe into his home, and calmly answers his questions before abruptly knocking

 the detective unconscious. Hours later, Marlowe regains consciousness in a jail cell and is taken to see Bay City police detectives

 Lieutenant DeGarmot and Captain Fergus K. Kane. Kane warns Marlowe not to start trouble in his district and then releases him.

 Marlowe later reports to Adrienne, who advises him to take his investigation to Little Fawn Lake, where the Kingsbys have a resort

 home and where Chrystal was last seen. Before Marlowe leaves Adrienne's office for the lake, a reporter arrives with news that Bill

 Chess, the caretaker at Kingsby's resort, has been arrested for the murder of his wife Muriel, whose body was found in the lake.

 Adrienne tells Marlowe that she fears that Chrystal may actually be the murderer as she hated Muriel and insists Marlowe go to

 Little Fawn Lake. Upon returning from the resort, Marlowe tells Adrienne that the body found in the lake had been there for nearly a

 month and that he also discovered that Muriel used the name "Mildred Havelend," and that she married the caretaker because she

 was being pursued by someone and needed a place to hide. Marlowe also reports that Muriel and Chrystal had a fight over a man

 and that he, Marlowe, had found an anklet inscribed with the words, "to Mildred from Chris." Suspecting that Lavery is tied to the

 disappearance of both Muriel and Chrystal, Marlowe pays another visit to Lavery's house. There he finds the door unlocked and

 meets a confused woman wielding a pistol, who introduces herself as Mrs. Falbrook, Lavery's landlady. Mrs. Falbrook says Lavery is

 not in the house and that she found the gun on the landing and gives it to Marlowe before departing. The detective then investigates

 upstairs and in the bedroom discovers a handkerchief with the initials "A. F." on it and in the bathroom he finds Lavery's

 bullet-ridden body in the shower. Believing that either Adrienne or Kingsby is responsible for Lavery's murder, Marlowe interrupts

 a Christmas party at Kingsby's office and shows Adrienne the gun, but she appears genuinely stunned over Lavery's death. When

 Marlowe brings Kingsby up to date on his activities, the publisher expresses shock that Adrienne has been trying to sabotage his

 marriage and tells her she misunderstood his interest in her. Though she confesses that she was after Kingsby's money, Adrienne

 denies Marlowe's accusation that she murdered for it or that she was involved with Lavery. Adrienne then angrily fires Marlowe, but

 Kingsby immediately hires him to find Chrystal and help him protect her from false murder charges. Marlowe goes back to Bay City

 to return the gun to Lavery's and finds Kane and DeGarmot there. When left alone with DeGarmot, Marlowe suggests the policeman

 knows Muriel well and that he could be the man from whom she was hiding. DeGarmot scuffles with Marlowe and the police try

 unsuccessfully to have the detective charged with Lavery's murder. Later, Marlowe gets information from a newspaper editor

contact that Muriel, a nurse, was mixed up in the mysterious death of Florence Elmore, the wife of the doctor for whom she worked

 in Bay City. After questioning Florence's frightened parents and learning a policeman is involved, Marlowe begins to suspect that it

 is Chrystal, not Muriel, whose body was found in the lake and that Muriel is the murderer and DeGarmot is covering up for her.

 Before he can investigate further he is attacked, but before passing out, he phones Adrienne for help and wakes up in her 

apartment. Adrienne admits she has fallen in love with Marlowe and they spend the day together. Later, Kingsby arrives, looking for

 Marlowe to tell him that he has received a telegram from Chrystal, indicating that she is in Bay City and in need of money. Marlowe

 suspects a trap and volunteers to deliver the money to her himself. After leaving a trail for the police to follow, Marlowe discovers

 that the woman who is trying to collect money from Kingsby is the same woman who introduced herself to him as Mrs. Falbrook.

 Marlowe realizes that Mrs. Falbrook is really Muriel and that his suspicion that she killed Chrystal and Lavery to cover up her murder

 of Florence is correct. When Muriel threatens Marlowe with a gun, DeGarmot arrives unexpectedly and threatens to kill both of

 them and frame them for all the murders. DeGarmot reveals he has been covering up for Muriel who professed romantic interest

 in him to get him to cover up Florence's murder. Furious at her deceit, Degarmot shoots Muriel, but as he is about to kill Marlowe,

 he is shot dead by Kane. With the murder case solved, Marlowe resumes his romance with Adrienne.

Lady Killer***1/2     1933 


We first lay eyes on Jimmy Cagney in Lady Killer while he's working as a movie theater usher. This job lasts just long enough for

 Jimmy to be swindled in a "badger game" orchestrated by hard-boiled Mae Clarke and a gang of crooks headed by Douglass

 Dumbrille. Knowing a good thing when he sees it, Cagney joins the mob, and soon is calling the shots. But though he's got larceny

 in his soul, Cagney draws the line at murder, and when gang member Raymond Hatton is bumped off, Cagney and Clarke board

 the Super Chief and head to California. With the cops laying for Cagney in LA, he's suspicious of everyone. A shifty-looking mug

 (William B. Davidson) takes after Cagney on the street; catching up to the winded Cagney, the mug explains that he's a movie

 director, and that Cagney is a perfect "type" for an upcoming prison picture. After several months as a bit player, Cagney befriends

 good-natured movie-star Margaret Lindsay, who encourages Cagney to seek out bigger parts. The enterprising Cagney engineers

 a phony fan-mail campaign encouraging the studio to give him starring roles. Though now a slick, pomaded romantic lead in picture

s, Cagney is still Cagney; when a snooty critic pans Lindsay's most recent performance, Cagney forces the reviewer to literally eat

 his words! It must needs be that Cagney's old gang shows up in Hollywood, planning to use Cagney's influence to gain entree into

 movie stars' mansions, then steal their valuables. Cagney says ixnay to this, so the mob schemes to take him for a ride. Tipped off

 by Clarke, Cagney is able to rout the crooks, save the day, and claim Lindsay for his bride. Lady Killer is vintage Cagney, throwing

 virtually every one of his star-making attributes (including one cute reference to his legendary "grapefruit scene" in 1931's Public

 Enemy) into one entertaining 76-minute stew. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi 

Lady on a Train***1/2   1945


  Arriving in New York City for a Christmas visit with her aunt, Nicki Collins sees through her train window the murder of shipping
 magnate Joseah Waring. Because of her known addiction to mystery novels, the debutante is unable to convince the police that
 she witnessed a crime, and decides to begin her own investigation. After viewing a newsreel in which Waring is reported to
 have died accidentally while decorating a Christmas tree at his Long Island estate, Nicki sneaks onto the property, only to be
 discovered by Arnold Waring, Joseah's nephew. Arnold, however, mistakes Nicki for Margo Martin, a nightclub singer and
 Joseah's fiancée. Posing as Margo, Nicki is then   allowed to witness the reading of Joseah's will, in which the tycoon disinherits
 his family and leaves the bulk of his estate to Margo. Later, while searching Joseah's room, Nicki finds the bloody slippers the
 tycoon was wearing when he was killed, but Mr. Saunders, Waring's personal secretary, sends Danny, a chauffeur, to Nicki's
 hotel room to recover the incriminating evidence. Nicki then goes to The Circus Club to see Margo, but when Arnold shows up,
 Nicki is forced to lock the singer in her dressing room and perform in her place. Nicki is later waylaid by Saunders and Danny,
 but she is soon rescued by mystery writer Wayne Morgan, at the cost of his engagement to long-time fiancée, Joyce Williams.
 Saunders is then killed, allowing Nicki and Wayne to sneak out of the nightclub with the slippers. The two are arrested the
 next morning for the nightclub murder, and evidence of their innocence is destroyed when Maxwell, Wayne's valet, cleans
 Joseah's bloody slippers. Nicki is later bailed out of jail by Arnold, but she runs away as she suspects him of the murders.
 She then mistakenly seeks the protection of Jonathan Waring, Arnold's older brother, unaware that he is the psychopathic killer.
 Nicki suddenly realizes the truth when she discovers that she is in the same room in which Joseah was killed. Jonathan tells
 Nicki that he plans to kill her, then frame his brother for the murder. 
  Arnold manages to rescue Nicki, only to have Wayne arrive, mistake him for the killer and give Jonathan back his gun.
 Wayne is followed to the Waring warehouse by the police, however, and Jonathan is finally arrested. Later, Nicki and Wayne
 marry, and the writer is forced to tell his new bride the ending of his latest book in order to begin their honeymoon.

Lady Vanishes, The ****   1938


 In Alfred Hitchcock’s most quick-witted and devilish comic thriller, the beautiful Margaret Lockwood, traveling across Europe

 by train, meets Dame May Whitty’s charming old spinster, who seemingly disappears into thin air. The young woman then turns

 investigator and finds herself drawn into a complex web of mystery and high adventure. The Lady Vanishes remains one of the

 master filmmaker’s purest delights.

Laila*****   1929


Not avail.

 One of the glories of Scandinavian silent cinema, setting it apart from the rest of fledgling European production, was its use

 of natural landscape settings – some of the most spectacular in the world – which, coupled with a literary tradition based on the

 Nordic sagas, lent itself to epic filmmaking of the purest kind. Norwegian cinema more or less bowed out of the silent period

 in 1929 with Laila, a splendidly sprawling adventure of the frozen Far North, replete with reindeer, wolves, Lapps and

 ice-melting passions. Ranged across several generations, the story begins with a wealthy merchant, Lind, and his wife

 travelling in the coldest depths of winter to christen their baby daughter. Attacked by wolves, they lose the baby, which is

 found by the Lapp Jaampa (a dominating performance by Tryggve Larssen) and subsequently raised by a rich reindeer herder,

 Aslag Laagje. Thus the saga begins… George Schnéevoigt, a noted Danish-German cinematographer who had shot four of Carl 

 Dreyer’s films, was hired to direct his own script, on the strength of his camerawork a year earlier on Ragnar Westfelt’s

 Viddenes folk (People of the Tundra), a similar tale. A successful director of talkies, he helmed a sound remake of Laila

 in 1937. The re-emergence of the silent Laila, for decades treated risibly through being shown at the wrong speed, is the

 result of expert restoration work by the Norwegian Film Institute at the Norwegian National Library, producing a speed-adjusted

 print to give the film a long and flexible new life. —bfi

Last Picture Show, The****   1971



 Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges) are high-school seniors, co-captains of Anarene High's

 football team and share a rooming house home and a battered old pickup truck. Duane is good-looking, amusing, and popular,

 and is dating Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd), the prettiest (and wealthiest) girl in town. Sonny is sensitive and caring, with a

 dumpy, unpleasant girlfriend, Charlene Duggs (Sharon Taggart), whom he does not love; she shares his indifference, and they

 decide to call it quits.

 At Christmastime, Sonny stumbles into an affair with Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman), the depressed middle-aged wife of hi

 high-school basketball coach, Coach Popper (Bill Thurman). At the sad little town Christmas dance, Jacy is invited by unsavory

 Lester Marlow (Randy Quaid) to a naked indoor pool party at the home of Bobby Sheen (Gary Brockette), a boy with wealthy

 parents, who seems to offer better prospects than Duane. The trouble is that Bobby isn't interested in her as long as she is a

  virgin, so she has to get someone to deflower her first. Duane and Sonny go on a road trip to Mexico — which happens entirely

 off-screen — and return to discover that Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson), their mentor and father-figure in town, has died, leaving

 a will that bequeaths the town's movie theater to the woman who ran the concession stand, the cafe to its waitress, Genevieve

 (Eileen Brennan), and the pool hall to Sonny.

 Jacy invites Duane to a motel for what he imagines is some lovemaking, but he is unable to perform; it takes a second attempt

 to alter her virginity status. Having got what she wants from Duane, she breaks up with him by phone, and he eventually joins

 the Army. When Bobby elopes with another girl, Jacy is alone again, and out of boredom has sex with Abilene (Clu Gulager), her

 mother's lover. When Jacy hears of Sonny's affair with Ruth, she sets her sights on him and Ruth gets cut out right quick. Sonny

 gets the bad end of a broken bottle from Duane, who still considers Jacy "his" girl. Jacy pretends to be impressed that Sonny

 would fight over her and suggests they elope. On their way to their honeymoon, they're stopped by Oklahoma state troopers

 — turns out, Jacy left a note telling her parents all about their plan. The couple is fetched back to Anarene by her father and

 mother (Ellen Burstyn) — in separate automobiles. On the trip back, Lois Farrow admits to Sonny she was Sam the Lion's

 erstwhile paramour and tells him he was much better off with Ruth Popper than with Jacy.

 Duane returns to town for a visit before shipping out for Korea. He and Sonny are among the meager group attending the final

 screening at Sam's old moviehouse, which can no longer make a go of it. The next morning, after Sonny sees Duane off on the

 Trailways bus, young Billy (Sam Bottoms), another of the town's innocents protected over the years by Sam the Lion, is run over

 and killed as he sweeps the street. Sonny flees back to Ruth, whom he ignored since Jacy stole him away months before. Her

 first reaction is to show her hurt and anger, then the two slip into a haunting, beatific calm in her familiar kitchen. She tells

 him, "Never you mind, honey, never you mind."

Last Seduction, The****     1994 


 Director John Dahl's The Last Seduction is an updated film noir centering around a seductive, cheerfully lethal femme fatale. Bridget Gregory (Linda Fiorentino)

 talks her gullible, easily manipulated, doctor-husband Clay (Bill Pullman) into pulling off a $700,000 drug deal to pay off his gambling debts. But while Clay is

 in the shower, Bridget quietly leaves with the money. She ends up in a bar in a small town where she meets Mike (Peter Berg) and uses him to further her 

 scheme to keep the money and get rid of her inconvenient husband. Linda Fiorentino was championed by many critics for a Best Actress Academy Award

 nomination, but neither she nor the movie could be nominated since the film had made its debut on cable television. ~ Linda Rasmussen, Rovi 

Laugh, Clown, Laugh****1/2     1928,_Clown,_Laugh

Tito, a clown, adopts a girl whom he names Simonetta. The girl matures into an attractive woman, desired by Luigi, a wealthy nobleman. On the

 eve of her marriage, Simonetta learns that Tito loves her, and she responds, presumably, to avoid hurting him, by declaring that she returns his

 love. That night, disbelieving her, Tito falls while practicing a familiar trick--sliding down a tightwire--thus freeing Simonetta to marry the count.

 In an alternative (happy) ending, Tito survives his fall, Simonetta marries Luigi, and they all remain close friends.


League of Their Own, A***1/2   1992


 A League of Their Own is a warm nostalgic film that portrays a time in America when all able-bodied men were overseas fighting

 World War II. The women at home replaced the men in the factories, on the farm, on the assembly lines, and even on the

 ball-playing fields.

 The film opens in the present when Dotty, now a grandmother, journeys to the Cooperstown Baseball Museum for a reunion and

 induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. As she arrives she's overwhelmed with memories and the scene flashes back to the

 early 1940's when she and her sister, Kit, earned their living working on a farm and in their off hours played on an amateur

 women's softball team. A scout for a women's pro team sees Dotty play and offers her seventy-five dollars a week to join the

 team. That's twice what she's making on the farm, so she agrees to go if they'll also hire her sister, Kit. Reluctantly, the scout

 assigns Kit as a pitcher.

 When they arrive at the training camp they must compete with over 1,000 other women for 64 openings available on 4 teams.

 Along with the athletic skills they must also go through a charm and beauty course and adhere to strict rules regarding their

 personal behavior. The sisters finally make the team, which is managed by Jimmy Dugan, a former major league star who is

 4-F because an accident has left him with a permanently injured knee and a limp. Jimmy has a severe drinking problem and has

 contempt for the women. He feels working with them is beneath him and that the only reason he was hired was because his

 name still draws a crowd to their games. He's drunk and sleeps through most of their practice and early games. However, he

 gradually awakens to their potential and the excitement of the women's games.

 There are various sub plots involving the other women on the team, winning public interest and support for the women's team,

 and the inevitable confrontation in the rivalry between the two sisters. The story is wonderfully told and the performances are

 first rate.

 Animal action is minimal. In early scenes on the farm there are free roaming geese, chickens and cows. There is a scene that

 takes place in a barn between the baseball scout and the two women while the women are milking the cows. As the scout leaves

 and walks through the yard he kicks at a chicken. The actor merely made the kicking motion and did not come close to the

 chicken. The action served to portray his character as a gruff guy with a get-out-of-my-way attitude. A white cat is seen briefly,

 primarily as atmosphere. While their bus is stopped along a country highway, a horse can be seen in a nearby field. The

 production company did not notify American humane about the use of animals in their film. However, after viewing the film and

 because of the mildness of the animal action.

Leave Her To Heaven***1/2       1945

 The film starts by showing us the novelist Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) who has been released and is traveling home after two

 years in prison. In a flashback (which runs for almost the whole duration of the film) we see how Richard meets beautiful

 socialite Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) on a train. Ellen falls in love with him, mainly because he so closely resembles her recently

 deceased father, to whom she was obsessively attached.

 Ellen is already engaged to another man (Vincent Price), but she jilts him and rapidly marries Richard, who at first is fascinated

 not only with Ellen's beauty, but with her exotic and intense manner. It gradually becomes apparent however that Ellen is

 pathologically jealous towards any other person and any other activity that her husband cares about.

 Two tragedies strike Richard: the "accidental" drowning death of his younger disabled brother, whom he dearly loved, and the

 "accidental" death of Richard's unborn son when Ellen "trips" and falls down a flight of stairs. The husband starts to suspect that

 his wife is directly responsible for these two deaths. When Ellen confesses to him what she did and why she did it, he leaves her.

 She then decides to kill herself with poison, making sure that in doing so she frames (for the apparent crime of murder), her

 foster sister Ruth (Jeanne Crain), a sweet and wholesome woman whom Richard is very fond of. Ellen's ex-fiance is the

 prosecutor for Ruth's trial. The trial is going very badly for Ruth, who under pressure has admitted that she does in fact love

 Richard, a fact she had previously kept hidden. Then Richard testifies about Ellen's insane jealousy and her confessions to him.

 Ruth is acquitted, and Richard is sentenced to 2 years in prison for his part in the two murders (he had become an accessory t

 the crimes by virtue of withholding knowledge of Ellen's actions).The flashback ends, and we see Richard being welcomed home

 with a loving embrace from Ruth.

Legend of Lizzie Borden, The***1/2   1975


 The film, although based on fact, is a stylish retelling of the events of August 4, 1892 when the parents of New England spinster

 Lizzie Andrew Borden were found brutally murdered in their Fall River, Massachusetts home. The subsequent incarceration of

 the prime suspect (Lizzie herself) as well as the coroner's inquest and trial are largely faithfully depicted, using actual testimony.

 The film departs from historical fact in multiple speculative flashback sequences, showing possible motives for the Bordens'

 murders as well as the murders themselves. The film portrays Lizzie as the killer, acting out of frustration for her father's

 psychological cruelty, and depicts her as stripping naked, committing each murder, then washing the blood away in the cellar,

 thus explaining why no n Lizzie's clothing immediately after the murders.

Legend of 1900, The ***1/2   1999

 An orphan is born on a cruise ship in 1900, and left in a lemon crate in the ballroom. The baby is raised by a machinist on the ship,

 Danny Boodman, who hides him in the great ship's belly. The boy becomes known simply as 1900. Knowing nothing of the world

 beyond the coal room and his porthole view of the sea, 1900 is devastated when his 'adopted father' is fatally wounded in a terrible

 ship accident. Following Danny's death, 1900 evades the captain's attempts to send him ashore to an orphanage. 1900 saves

 himself when he wanders into first class and finds a shipboard piano -- discovering he is a prodigy who can naturally play glorious,

 soulful music. He begins playing for the passengers, both rich upstairs and poor below decks. When he grows up, 1900 falls for a

 New York girl, but has never been on land in his life, and so is too fearful to follow her. His life is lived entirely on board the ship -- 

 eventually, 1900 fades into obscurity -- only a rare recording proves his existence.

The Lemp Family Series

     Four Daughters****   1938

 Music professor Adam Lemp has four daughters, Thea, Emma, Kay and Ann. Thea feels that love is an overrated reason for

 marriage and plans to marry Ben Crowley for money. Emma is loved by shy, awkward Ernest, whom the family assumes she will

 marry. Kay, the only one of the four to have real musical amibition, is a singer. The youngest, at eighteen, is irrepressible Ann,

 who pledges with Emma that neither will marry, but will live together forever. This changes with the arrival of handsome Felix

 Deitz, a composer who has come to town to compete for a music prize. Adam invites Felix to live at the house, and all the girls

 immediately develop crushes on him. Mickey Bordon, a piano player, arrives to assist Felix in writing his compositions. Mickey

 has a glum attitude that offends most people. Only Ann and the girl's aunt Etta see through his moroseness to the lonely person

 underneath and befriend him. During a family excursion to the country, Felix proposes to Ann. When they announce their

 engagement, Mickey, who also loves Ann, is shattered and the other sisters are taken aback. Kay declares that she is leaving

 for Philadelphia to study singing. Thea, in turn, tells the family that she and Ben will also marry soon. Emma is the most upset,

 but she hides her feelings from Ann. Shortly before her wedding, Ann encounters Mickey, who confesses his love and informs her

 that Emma is in love with Felix. Ann is shocked. Then, thinking she can make both Mickey and Emma happy, she elopes with

 Mickey, leaving Felix for her beloved sister. Emma and Felix do not marry, and shortly afterward, he leaves for Seattle. In New

 York, where they settle, Mickey and Ann face constant disappointments. Hoping to lift Mickey's spirits, the couple returns to the

 Lemps' at Christmas time. Everyone is home except Kay, who is singing that evening on the radio. Even Felix is visiting for the

 holidays. Emma tells Ann that she is engaged to Ernest, having fallen in love with him when he took care of the family after the

 elopement. Mickey notices that Ann and Felix are still in love, although they do their best to hide it. He offers to drive Felix to

 the train station and agrees to drop Ben along the way. On the way home, Mickey drives the car into a tree. When news of the

 accident reaches the Lemp home, Thea believes that Ben is the one who was injured and realizes that she loves him. The whole

 family races to the hospital, where they learn that Mickey is dying. He and Ann say their goodbyes. In the spring, Felix returns

 to the Lemps' to renew his proposal to Ann.

     Four Wives   1940 

 Michael Curtiz directs with his usual flair and the Epsteins, Julius and Philip, wrote the screen play, which is based on a novel by

 Fanny Hurst. We are taken to the Lemp household. It's a happy home of some extraordinary musicians and educators, led by the

 patriarch Adam Lemp, who has the good fortune of having Aunt Etta overseeing everything. At the beginning, we see the four Lemp

 sisters as they go to accompany Emma to the doctor. It's expected she is pregnant, but no, the big surprise is that Ann is, but the

 problem is that Mickey Borden, the father, has died recently. Ann has been seeing Felix, a kind man who, as a conductor, was

 associated to Burden. What to do?
 Well, the comedy is a delight. We see all the four Lemp sisters supporting one another in their difficult times. Emma can't conceive

 and they all rally to her side. Thea and Ben decide to adopt. Kay falls in love with the young Dr. Forrest and finally Ann has the

 baby prematurely. By the magic of the movies, we get to see the little angel who, surprise, surprise, appears to have conquered the

 problems she had at birth thanks to the transfusion of Felix's blood and in a matter of days looks as though she was carried full term!

But, never mind, this comedy will charm anyone because the amazing performances Mr. Curtiz got out of the cast. Best of all,

 Priscilla Lane, who is absolutely marvelous in the film. Rosemary Lane is perfect as Kay, the girl in love with the doctor. Lola Lane,

 as Thea is good and Gale Page is the fourth Lemp sister, Emma. Claude Rains doesn't have much to do. Eddie Albert as the

 young doctor is fine, but best of all is Jeffrey Lynn, who as Felix makes it clear he is the man for Ann. May Robson also is fun as

 Aunt Etta. Frank McHugh and Dick Foran complete the quartet of husbands. John Garfield is seen briefly in a dream-like sequence.

 "Four Wives" will warm anyone's heart. 

    Four Mothers  1941 

 Adam Lemp and his four daughters (Ann, Thea, Kay, and Emma) find themselves in financial and emotional crises. Thea's husband

 Ben has promoted a Florida housing development to everyone in town, and when a hurricane wipes out the investments of all their

 friends, the Lemps decide to pay back the losses, even if it costs them their own home. Kay's husband Clint is so devoted to his

 medical research that he risks losing Kay. And Ann's husband Felix, encountering Kay during an out-of-town trip, finds his 

 loneliness putting his marriage at risk. Meanwhile, as a result of the antipathy of the townspeople due to the investment disaster,

 Adam loses his beloved position with the musical society.Written by Jim Beaver <> 


     Daughters Courageous****     1939 

 Following Four Daughters, was 1939's Daughters Courageous, also directed by Michael Curtiz and co-starring Claude Rains and

 John Garfield, though it is a story about a different family. Freewheeling Jim Masters returns home after a 20-year absence, during

 which he was declared dead, to find that his wife, Nancy, is about to marry Sam Sloane, a stable local man in Carmel, California.

 She must now choose between her ex-husband and her new fiancee. The Masters daughters are also upset that their irresponsible

 father has re-entered their lives after so long an absence. Meanwhile, the youngest daughter, Buff, is drawn to tough-guy Gabriel

 Lopez, a man that reminds Jim Masters of himself. 

Lenny****    1974 


 Interview-style biography of controversial and pioneering stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce. The film traces Bruce from his beginnings
as a Catskills comic to his later underground popularity based on his anti-establishment politics and his scatological humor.


Letter, The ***** 1940

 Leslie Crosbie, the wife of a British rubber planter in Malay, shoots and kills Jeff Hammond, and claims that she was defending

 her honor. To defend Leslie, her husband Robert sends for family friend and attorney Howard Joyce, who questions Leslie's story.

 Howard's suspicions seem justified when Ong Chi Seng, his clerk, offers to sell the attorney a letter that Leslie wrote Hammond

 on the day of his death, asking him to visit her. Howard confronts Leslie with the damning evidence, forcing her to confess to

 Hammond's cold-blooded killing, but Leslie cleverly manipulates the attorney into agreeing to buy back the letter. The document

 is in the possession of Hammond's widow, who demands that Leslie personally deliver $10,000 for the letter. The transaction is

 completed and, without the evidence of the letter, Leslie is acquitted of her crime. It is only after she is freed and Robert plans

 to draw $10,000 out of his savings account in order to buy a rubber plantation in Sumatra, that he learns of the high cost of the

 letter and of his wife's duplicity. Confronted with the truth, Leslie confesses her guilt and her love for Hammond, and although

 her husband forgives her, Mrs. Hammond cannot and stabs Leslie, making her pay for Hammond's life with her own.

Letter From an Unknown Woman****1/2     1948


On a rainy night in turn-of-the-century Vienna, Stefan Brand's friends drive him home and tell him they will return to collect him for his duel at dawn.

Stefan informs his mute butler John that he has no intention of keeping this appointment, and instructs him to have a carriage ready in an hour. He 

then finds a letter waiting for him and is astonished by the first line: "By the time you read this letter I may be dead." The letter goes on to describe 

the writer's memories of first seeing Stefan: Young Lisa Berndle watches in fascination as the beautiful possessions of Stefan, a handsome concert 

pianist, are moved into the building where she lives. Although she is too shy to speak to him, Lisa quickly falls in love with her new neighbor, who 

comes to dominate her every thought. When Lisa's widowed mother remarries, the family moves to Linz, and Lisa eventually begins keeping 

company with Lt. Leopold von Kaltnegger. One afternoon, Leopold begins to speak of the future, and Lisa tells him she is secretly engaged to a 

musician in Vienna. Her mother and stepfather are shocked, and Lisa returns to Vienna and takes a job in an exclusive dress shop. One night, 

Stefan notices her standing on the street near his apartment, and is charmed and flattered by her devotion. After dining with her in an elegant 

restaurant, Stefan gives Lisa a single white rose, then takes her to an amusement park, where they dance until late in the night. They then return 

to Stefan's apartment and fall into a passionate embrace. The next day, Stefan visits Lisa at the dress shop and cancels their date for that evening, 

explaining that he must go to Milan for two weeks. He asks her to see him off at the train station, and bids her a warm farewell before joining 

another woman on the train. Stefan does not call Lisa again, however, and she later gives birth to a son, Stefan, Jr. Back in the present, Stefan 

looks with pleasure at the enclosed photos of the son he never knew he had. Lisa's letter continues that when the boy was nine, she married the 

wealthy Johann Stauffer: One night, Lisa and Johann, who treats Stefan's child like his own, go to the opera, and Lisa is stunned to see Stefan, 

whose musical career has not lived up to his early potential. Greatly agitated, Lisa tells Johann she has a headache and is about to go home when 

Stefan, who has been watching her from his seat, intercepts her and asks to see her again. Lisa hurries to her carriage, where she finds Johann 

waiting for her. As they ride home, Johann asks Lisa what she is going to do, and Lisa confesses that she feels powerless before Stefan and 

believes he needs her. The next day, Lisa puts her son on a train back to school, but they are asked to move after accidentally being seated in a 

compartment that has been quarantined. As Lisa walks away, bystanders comment that a case of typhus has been discovered on the train. Lisa 

then buys a bouquet of white roses and goes to see Stefan, as Johann observes her from his carriage. Stefan welcomes her amorously, but when 

she realizes that he truly has no idea who she is, Lisa leaves in tears. After wandering the streets of Vienna for hours, Lisa goes to see her son, 

only to learn that he died of typhus during the night. Now very ill herself, Lisa writes that she loves Stefan as much as she always has. The letter 

suddenly ends, and Stefan finds a note from a nun at the hospital saying that Lisa has died. With tears in his eyes, Stefan remembers the moments 

he shared with Lisa. Johann and his seconds arrive, and Stefan, ennobled by his sorrow, goes to fight a duel he knows he cannot win, pausing only 

to pluck a rose from the bouquet Lisa left behind.


Letter to Three Wives, A***1/2   1949

 Joseph Mankiewicz’ wittily scripted, innovatively structured survey of distaff marital life at the brink of the Eisenhower era pits

 three middle class wives against an impossible feminine ideal. Addie Ross, the omniscient, goddess-like narrator who opens the

 film with withering remarks about the lives of the desperate housewives she calls friends, is as much of a structuring absence

 as Citizen Kane’s Rosebud. She’s never seen, only talked about as some otherworldly feminine ideal who inspires men and

 terrorizes women. It’s her letter to the three wives, announcing that she’s run off with one of their husbands, that sets off a

 chain of collective flashback introspection; the wives are so awestruck that their response is to ruminate in their domestic
 failures rather than kick some adulterous ass. She’s a gimmick, but one
 that aptly grounds Mankiewicz’s suburban landscape

 as a projection screen of insecurities. Even domestic sounds like a ferry horn or a dripping faucet set loose vexing thoughts

 about infidelity and emptiness among the three wives. Though they share the same anxiety of being unfit to hold a good man,

 the three wives each represent a different slice of the upwardly mobile post-WWII woman. Jeanne Crain is a pretty, stay-at-

 home type of modest background, grateful and anxious about landing the picket fence package. Ann Sothern is the career girl

 both proud and worried that she makes more than her man, while on the brink of compromising her values for a paycheck. Linda

 Darnell is the unrepentant maneater who plays the sexist cards she’s dealt with masterfully, but can’t get over the golddigger

 persona she feels saddled with. Mankiewicz delights in poking and celebrating the pride and pretensions of each type, succeeding

 especially with Sothern and Darnell. Some may see their outcomes as regressing into conservative notions of marital

 subservience, irreconcilable with the self-sufficient superfigure of Addie Ross. But it’s worth putting it out there that feminist

 ideals can bully women as much as galvanize them. The film, which neither completely skewers nor validates the domestic

 American dream, hit a nerve with viewers back in 1949; 60 years later, its visually expressive, vocally incisive inquiry into a

 woman’s place in this world isn’t as obsolete as one might think.

Liberation of L. B. Jones, The ****     1963


LORD BYRON JONES is the richest black man in Somerset, Tenn. He drives an air-conditioned Cadillac and has a wife, Emma, who, at 22, is young enough to be his daughter. His undertaking establishment, which offers the popular priced, Ellipsed in Christ service, and his deferential attitude toward the white community, have provided L. B. Jones with something resembling the Good (black) Life.

That is, it's a good life until Emma, who lolls around her all-white bedroom all day reading Movieland, takes up with a young redneck Somerset policeman. Lord Byron Jones's subsequent suit for divorce wins him irrevocable liberation—and it marks the beginning of what looks very much like revolution.

When William Wyler ("Roman Holiday." "The Collector," "Funny Girl") makes such a vivid, melodramatic rationale for the collapse of race relations that the movie comes close to celebrating it, You had better believe that something is happening in this land. Political polarization has, at last, become the kind of reality in which Hollywood can invest several million dollars as a source for popular entertainment.

Wyler's "The Liberation of L. B. Jones," which opened yesterday at the Loew's State II and Pacific East theaters, is a post-Potier, post-"In the Heat of the Night" sort of movie. Gone is the essentially cheerful, separate-but-equal, we'll-work-this-out-together camaraderie that has always looked a little too easy in Sidney Poitier movies, because Poitier, after all, is a huge movie star (and thus a man of reason). "The Liberation of L. B. Jones" seems some more valid but only becase it is more bleak.

I'm sure that Wyler and his screenwriters, Stirling Silliphant (who adapted "In the Heat of the Night") and Jesse Ford Hill, were out to make a suspense movie that would also work as contemporary social commentary. In the interests of melodrama, they have simplified the characters from Hill's novel to such a degree that they seem more stereotyped than may have been absolutely necessary—a problem that is aggravated by some of the casting.

Lee J. Cobb is ponderously predictable in what should be the film's most complex character, the Southern white lawyer of compromised sensibility who, without letting himself be aware of it, is responsible for the manner of L. B. Jones's eventual liberation. The juvenile leads, Lee Majors and Barbara Hershey, who could be the prototypes of all young studio contract players, are the film's mouth-pieces for moderation and liberalism, and they are so bland that those causes are doomed from the movie's start.

The film, however, is not without interesting performances. Anthony Zerbe, a young man who parts his long hair in the middle and looks as if he drank too much beer, is excellent as the dull-witted redneck; Roscoe Lee Browne is properly prissy as the unfortunate L. B. Jones, and Lola Falana, who acts like an all-black Jean Harlow, is an admirable, not entirely conventional slut. More or less supervising them all is the impacable presence of Yaphet Kotto, who plays a young black man whose final act of violence seems to sanctify all violence.

Wyler concludes this latter scene, in which Kotto pushes a farmer into his own baler with a long, impassive closeup of Kotto as he watches the man being transformed into fodder. It may be one of the coldest moments ever put on film.

Mostly, in fact, Wyler's direction is notable only for the coldness and for an impatience to get on with the story at the expense of any feeling of real involvment. With "The Liberation of L. B. Jones," Wyler, who is 68 this year, seems to be trying to keep up with the times. (On a technical level, he now uses the zoom lens instead of his old deep-focus technique.) I must say I wasn't bored by it, just depressed.


Life As a House****    2001

 George Monroe, a fabricator of architectural models, is fired from the job he has held for twenty years when he refuses to fall

 into step with his co-workers and use the computer technology available to them. As he exits the building, he collapses on the

 pavement and is rushed to the hospital, where it is revealed he has cancer of such an advanced stage that the doctor feels any

 treatment would be futile. Liberated from a job he hated and funded by his severance package as well as a cashed-in life

 insurance policy, George decides the time has come to demolish the ramshackle home left to him by his father and replace it

 with a house more in keeping with the ambiance of his upscale neighborhood. He decides to enlist the aid of his son,

 angst-ridden and self-loathing Sam, a rebellious, pill-popping, glue-sniffing teenager with blue hair, heavy makeup, and a

 number of piercings in his ears and under his mouth. The young man is a slacker who has alienated his stepfather Peter and

 caused untold grief for his mother Robin, who increasingly finds herself unable to cope with the boy's moods. Very much against

 his will, Sam must spend the summer with George, who has opted not to reveal his condition, and help him with what will be the

 final project of his life.

 As time passes, George slowly reconnects with Sam, who gradually sheds his anti-establishment facade as he and his father

 become closer. Robin decides to assist as well, and she begins to find herself rediscovering the man she once loved. Also

 joining in the construction are Alyssa, Sam's classmate who lives in the house next door with her mother Colleen; local

 policeman Kurt Walker, George's childhood friend; Sam's young half-brothers Adam and Ryan; various neighbors; and eventually

 Peter, even after separating from Robin when it becomes apparent she has renewed feelings for her ex-husband. Complications

 arise when cantankerous neighbor David Dokos tries to halt construction because the building's height exceeds the allowable

 limit by six inches. George confides in Sam about his difficult relationship with his own father, an abusive man who squandered

 the family's fortune and killed his wife and seriously injured a young girl in a collision he caused while driving drunk. Upon

 completion of the house following his father's death, Sam gives it to the young girl, who is now older and has two kids, certain

 his father would have approved of his decision to do so.

Life Begins****    1932

At a maternity hospital, future fathers pace the corridors while their wives wait for their babies either anxiously or happily. Efficient and compassionate

 nurse Miss Bowers keeps the ward running smoothly. Things liven up when Grace Sutton is transferred from the prison where she is being held for

 murder. Most agree that the man she killed deserved to die, and Nurse Bowers sympathetically allows Grace's concerned husband Jed unlimited time

 with his wife. On the ward, the women have varied feelings about motherhood. Mrs. West, mother of six children, thinks babies are what give meaning

 to women's lives. In contrast, Florette, a showgirl, just wants to get rid of her twins as soon as possible. Miss Layton has decided opinions about child

 rearing and has no intention of being a doting mother. While the women debate their various theories, a woman who wants a baby so much that she

 has become demented wanders in from another ward. An Italian woman quietly sobs when she learns that her newborn has died. After a touching

 farewell with Jed, Grace, whose health has suffered from prison conditions, is taken into the labor room. While Jed waits anxiously, Florette is appalled

 by the plans that the prospective adoptive mother of her twins has concocted. She cradles one baby herself and discovers mother love. Miss Layto

 has also given up on her progressive plans for her baby. Down the hall, things are going badly for Grace. When the doctors ask Jed to choose between

 saving Grace or the baby, he chooses Grace, but she herself insists that the doctors operate and save the baby. After she dies, Jed refuses to see the

 baby girl, but wise Nurse Bowers places the child in his arms, and as with the mothers, he cannot resist her charms.

Like Dandelion Dust****    2009 


Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino and Barry Pepper star in My Date with Drew director Jon Gunn's heart-wrenching tale of a recently released ex-con who

 uses a legal loophole to locate his son, who was adopted by an upper-crust family shortly after his father was incarcerated. When Rip Porter (Pepper) went to

 prison, his wife, Wendy (Sorvino), couldn't handle the responsibilities of being a single parent. Wanting the best for her newborn son, Joey, she put the boy up

 for adoption. Adopted by Jack (Cole Hauser) and Molly Campbell (Kate Levering), Joey now enjoys an idyllic life with his new parents in a small town just

 outside of West Palm Beach, FL. Then, one day, Jack and Molly receive a troubling phone call from the social worker who assisted with the adoption: Rip has

 just been released from prison, and he's eager to start a new life with his wife Wendy and son Joey (Maxwell Perry Cotton). A judge has just issued a ruling

 stating that the Campbells have no choice but to return Joey to his biological parents -- but what if Jack and Molly were simply to disappear with Joey, like

 dandelion dust, never to be seen again? The film is adapted from the best-selling novel by Karen Kingsbury. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi 

Little Caesar***1/2   1930



  The rise of Al Capone to the head of America's criminal class inspired this Edward G. Robinson vehicle. Appearing just as talking

 pictures were finding their feet, Robinson's gravelly snarl and sociopathic disdain for human conventions became the template

 for countless future gangster anti-heroes. In fact, virtually every aspect of Little Caesar, from the seedy settings and

 rough-hewn slang to the pinstriped suits and ever-present Tommy Gun, became part of the language of the genre. Little

 Caesar sprints by in a brisk 77 minutes, powering through the rapid rise and inevitable descent of its flawed and ambitious

 protagonist as if a getaway car were waiting outside. The film insightfully plays on the Horatio Alger ideal of the all-American

 self-made man to examine this impulse's darker, anti-social implications, while offering a tragic arc of Greek proportions. The

 story's violence is discernibly in your face, and the performances are about as subtle as the gangster's suits. Ironically, the film,

 which purportedly aimed to expose the dark underbelly of the gangster life, was so riveting that it wound up glamorizing its

 targets, a fact not lost on movie censors of the time. Little Caesar was followed quickly by Public Enemy (1931) and Scarface

 (1932); the three films ushered in a legion of imitators to follow, but they were also, at least for a time, the last "true"

 gangster movies, as their ambiguous representation of glamorous criminals brought down the much stricter 1934 content

 restrictions of Joe Breen's Production Code Administration. ~ Dan Jardine, All Movie Guide

Little Children****   2006

 A beautufully acted film by Kate Winslett, with a  fascinating interweaving of the main plot,

 an affair between Sarah and Brad, and the societal reaction the the imposition of a sex

 offender to the community. The two lovers meet almost on a daily basis at the local swimming

 pool while their spouses go to work unaware. Their two respective small children (a boy and

 girl) play innocently with each other, developing a friendship. There is an effective use of

 characater separation, with the two protagonists viewing the rest of the world as spectators,

 and the added touch of dramatic narration. 

 Oscar nominated filmmaker Todd Field teams with novelist Tom Perrotta to adapt Perrotta's acclaimed novel concerning the

 suburban malaise experienced by a handful of small-town individuals whose intersecting lives converge in a variety of surprising,

 and sometimes ominous, ways. Kate WinsletJennifer Connelly, and Patrick Wilson star in a cinematic adaptation that doesn't

 aim so much to simply reproduce the book for the screen as it does to re-imagine the written word by exploring new possibilities

 for the characters and situations originally presented in Perrotta's 2004 best-seller. Sarah (Winslet) is a suburban outsider who,

 unlike the other playground moms, isn't afraid to approach the dreamy but long-absent father whom smitten housewives have

 taken to calling the "Prom King." Long days at the local community pool with their respective children soon find Sarah becoming

 acquainted with local husband and father Brad (Patrick Wilson) -- who seems to share in her seething discontentment with life

 in their quaint commuter town. An English literature major who never envisioned a fate as a soccer mom, Sarah has a growing

 dissatisfaction with her successful husband (Gregg Edelman) that parallels Brad's increasing frustration with his inability to pass

 the bar and connect with his wife, Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), a successful documentary filmmaker. It's not long before the

 dejected pair is meeting for a series of illicit afternoon trysts as their unsuspecting spouses work and their children lie quietly

 napping. Meanwhile, after the community is riled by the return of a convicted sex offender (Jackie Earle Haley) who leaves the

 concerned parents scrambling to protect their young ones, an attempt made by Sarah and Brad to legitimize their clandestine

 relationship by dining together with their respective spouses begins to awaken Kathy's suspicions about the fidelity of her

 husband. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi 

Little Foxes, The***1/2     1941

 The focus is on Southern aristocrat Regina Hubbard Giddens, who struggles for wealth and freedom within the confines of an

 early 20th century society where a father considered only sons as legal heirs. As a result, her avaricious brothers Benjamin and

 Oscar are independently wealthy, while she must rely upon her sickly husband Horace for financial support. Having married his

 much-maligned, alcoholic wife Birdie solely to acquire her family's plantation and its cotton fields, Oscar now wants to join

 forces with Benjamin to construct a cotton mill. They approach their sister with their need for an additional $75,000 to invest

 in the project. Oscar initially proposes a marriage between his son Leo and Regina's daughter Alexandra - first cousins - as a

 means of getting Horace's money, but Horace and Alexandra are repulsed by the suggestion. When Regina asks Horace outright

 for the money, he refuses, so Leo is pressured into stealing Horace's railroad bonds from the family business. In order to acquire

 a larger share in the mill, Regina threatens to report the theft to the police. In retaliation, Horace says he will claim he gave 

 Leo the bonds as a loan, thereby cutting Regina out of the deal completely. When he suffers a heart attack, she makes no effort

 to give him his medicine, and he dies without anyone knowing his plan, thus enabling Regina to blackmail her brothers. The

 price she ultimately pays for her innate evil is the loss of Alexandra who, finally understanding the true nature of her mother,

 elopes with newspaperman David Hewitt. Having let her husband die, alienated her brothers, and driven away her daughter,

 Regina is left wealthy but completely alone.

Little Women, 3 Versions

     Little Women****   1933

 Set in Concord, Massachusetts during and after the American Civil War, the film is a series of vignettes focusing on the

 struggles and adventures of the four March sisters and their mother, affectionately known as Marmee (Spring Byington), as

 they await the return of their father, who is fighting with the Union Army. Spirited tomboy Jo (Katharine Hepburn), who caters

 to the whims of their well-to-do Aunt March (Edna May Oliver), dreams of becoming a famous author and writes plays for her

 sisters to perform for the local children. Amy (Joan Bennett) is pretty but selfish, Meg (Frances Dee) works as a seamstress,

 and sensitive Beth (Jean Parker) practices on her clavichord, an aging instrument sorely in need of tuning.

 The girls meet Laurie (Douglass Montgomery), who has come to live with his grandfather Mr. Laurence (Henry Stephenson), the

 Marches' wealthy next-door neighbor. The Laurences invite them to a lavish party, where Meg meets Laurie's tutor, John Brooke

 (John Lodge). During the course of the next several months, Meg is courted by John, Jo has her first short story published, and

 Beth frequently takes advantage of Mr. Laurence's offer and practices on his piano.

 Marmee learns her husband has been wounded and is recuperating in a Washington, DC hospital, so she leaves home to care for

 him. During her absence, Beth contracts scarlet fever from a neighbor's baby. She recovers but is left in a weakened state. Her

 parents return, and Meg marries John. Laurie confesses his love to Jo, who rejects him. When he snubs her in return, Jo moves

 to a New York City boarding house to pursue her writing career. There she meets Professor Bhaer (Paul Lukas), an impoverished

  German linguist. With his help and encouragement, Jo improves her writing and resolves her confused feelings about Laurie.

 A debilitated Beth nears death, and Jo returns to Concord. After her sister dies, Jo learns that Amy, who accompanied Aunt

 March to Europe, has fallen in love with Laurie. Jo then accepts the proposal of marriage offered by the professor, and Amy and

 Laurie eventually wed as well.

     Little Women***1/2    1948

 In the small town of Concord, Massachusetts during the Civil War, the March sisters--Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth--live with their

 mother in a state of genteel poverty, their father having lost the family's fortune to an unscrupulous businessman several years

 earlier. While Mr. March serves in the Union Army, Mrs. March, affectionately referred to as "Marmee" by her daughters, holds

 the family together and teaches the girls the importance of giving to those less fortunate than themselves, especially during the

 upcoming Christmas season. Though the spoiled and vain Amy often bemoans the family's lack of material wealth and social

 status, Jo, an aspiring writer, keeps everyone entertained with her stories and plays, while the youngest March, the shy and

 sensitive Beth, accompanies Jo's productions on an out-of-tune piano. The spirited Jo, a tomboy in search of male

 companionship, strikes up a friendship with Theodore "Laurie" Laurence, the grandson of the March's wealthy, but cantankerous

 neighbor, James Laurence. Later that winter, Jo so impresses Mr. Laurence with her forthrightness and her beneficial effect on

 the brooding Laurie, that he invites the March sisters to a fancy dress ball at his sumptuous home. At the ball, Meg is courted

 by John Brooke, Laurie's tutor, and Jo consents to dance with Laurie while Amy and Beth breathlessly view the scene from their

 perch atop the staircase. Mr. Laurence's gruff demeanor is softened upon meeting Beth, who reminds him of the beloved

 granddaughter he lost, and when he learns of her musical talent, he offers her the use of his grand piano. The beautiful evening

 ends on a sour note, however, when Amy and Beth overhear the snobbish Mrs. Gardiner and her daughter gossiping about

 Marmee. As the weeks pass, Laurie's affection for Jo grows, but Jo rebuffs him as a suitor, claiming that although she loves him

 as a friend, she will never marry. Meanwhile, Jo attempts to discourage Meg's deepening feelings for Mr. Brooke, fearing that 

 a marriage will break the bond between the sisters. Spring arrives, and Marmee receives word that Mr. March has been wounded

 and sent to an Army hospital in Washington, D.C. Jo asks her wealthy Aunt March for Marmee's train fare, but the two have a

 heated argument when the impatient Jo refuses to address Aunt March with the decorum the proud woman demands. As usual,

 Aunt March comes through for the family, but not before Jo has had her beautiful chestnut locks cut off and sold in order to pay

 for Marmee's trip. While carrying out Marmee's work for the poor in her absence, Beth contracts scarlet fever, and the

 distressed and frightened sisters realize how much they depend upon Marmee. Just as Marmee returns, however, Beth's fever

 breaks, and the entire family is reunited when Laurie arranges for the surprise return of Mr. March. A few months later, Meg

 marries Mr. Brooke and Laurie asks Jo to marry him, but she turns him down, explaining that she is uncomfortable in high 

 society and wishes to devote her life to writing. Greatly disappointed, Laurie leaves for Europe, and Jo, saddened by the

 seeming loss of both Meg and Laurie, who she considers to be her best friend, moves to New York to pursue her career. While

 boarding at the home of the Kirke family, Jo meets Prof. Bhaer, the Kirke children's German tutor, who introduces her to art 

 museums and the opera. Prof. Bhaer agrees to read Jo's stories, but Jo is devastated when he later criticizes her work,

 dismissing it as sensationalistic. Bursting into tears, Jo reveals that she feels abandoned by Laurie and hurt that Aunt March,

 who had long promised her a trip to Europe, has taken Amy instead. After consoling Jo, with whom he has fallen in love, Prof.

 Bhaer advises her to write from her heart, and Jo decides to return home where she is needed, for Beth is again very ill. Upon

 her return to the now nearly empty March household, Jo learns that her beloved Beth is dying and spends the next few weeks

 caring for the courageous girl, who bears her suffering without complaint. After Beth's death, Jo assuages her grief by writing

 a novel entitled My Beth , which she sends to Prof. Bhaer for his opinion. Later, Meg, now the mother of twins, gently informs

 Jo that Laurie and Amy have fallen in love in Europe and are to be married. Although Jo is happy for the couple, she realizes for

 the first time how lonely she is and how much she wishes to be loved. A few weeks later, Laurie and Amy return as husband and

 wife, and the Marchs's joyfully celebrate the family's reunion. The festivities are interrupted when Prof. Bhaer arrives with Jo's

 novel, which he has had published. However, when Laurie answers the door, Prof. Bhaer mistakenly assumes that Jo has married

 her friend and politely declines Laurie's invitation to join the party. After Jo catches up to her departing suitor, the two

 embrace and Prof. Bhaer proposes marriage. Jo happily accepts, then leads her future husband back to the warmth of the

 house, where her family awaits them.


     Little Women***1/2    1994

 "I think the title [of Little Women] has been so off-putting for men over the generations. They feel this is a terribly 'girly' story.

 But it's actually a wonderful epic tale about family where men's roles are just as important and deeply involved in the story...

 It is... full of heartfelt emotion and such memorable characters whose lively appeal transcends the years." 

- Gillian Armstrong, director of Little Women

 This third, and most recent, film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic 1868 novel about family and crossing the barrier

 between girlhood and womanhood, is a treatment for today's audiences. As faithful to the original story as a two-hour

 production is likely to be, Little Women is in ways similar and dissimilar to its two cinematic predecessors (released in 1933

 and 1949). This tale of four independent sisters of differing temperaments is undeniably melodramatic, but it's very good

 melodrama, with an accumulation of vitality and charm that elevates the movie to an unexpectedly high level. The basic plot

 of Little Women isn't terribly original or invigorating; it's the effective realization of several memorable characters that gives

 this film its strength.

 For those not familiar with the novel, it centers around the March demesne of Orchard House in Concord, Mass. With her

 husband away fighting in the Civil War, Marmee (Susan Sarandon) is left alone to care for her four daughters: the volatile and

 imaginative Jo (Winona Ryder), the sophisticated Meg (Trini Alvarado), the compassionate Beth (Claire Danes), and the

 romantic Amy (Kirsten Dunst as a child and Samantha Mathis as an adult). The girls share a bond that no outsider can penetrate,

 although there are some willing to make the attempt -- most of whom are men. There's Laurie (Christian Bale), a neighbor with

 a passion for the piano who becomes a friend to all the Marches; John Brooke (Eric Stoltz), a poor tutor who is smitten with

 Meg; and Professor Bhaer (Gabriel Byrne), a German immigrant who develops a friendship with Jo.

 With rich, colorful cinematography (the Autumn scenes are especially vibrant) and a fine score by Thomas Newman, Little

 Women is technically accomplished. It's the performances, however, that make this movie special. Winona Ryder fashions a

 near-perfect Jo, Alcott's headstrong alter-ego in the fictional autobiography. Had it been demanded of her, the actress

 undoubtedly could have carried the entire film. However, this version allows the other sisters some development independent

 of Jo, and all the actresses hold their own. The only hiccup comes as a result of the change in the aging Amy from the energetic

 and charismatic Kirsten Dunst to the more sedate Samantha Mathis.

 Christian Bale, after a couple of extremely weak performances (in Newsies and Swing Kids), finally displays some recognizable

 talent. In fact, Bale is so solid as Laurie that it's hard to credit this actor as the same one who joined Robert Sean Leonard in

 the streets of Nazi Germany. Perhaps the greatest fault -- and some may not see it as such -- is that even the best-developed

 characters in Little Women display an alarming lack of character flaws. Everyone is almost always good, kind, sweet, and

 pleasant. Rare are the moments when someone says something nasty or does something unsavory. So much niceness

 occasionally makes Little Women seem too sugary and scripted. Nevertheless, the tale is engrossing enough, and the film put

 together with such obvious affection, that it's not hard to dismiss those things as necessary elements of a beloved period piece.

Lodger:  A Story of the London Fog, The****   1927

   A fascinating early Hitchcock suspense film. And suspense is clearly the right word. He does not use action, or pretend

 mystery. He simply toys with your mind. The scenes switch from those of frivolity, with a jazz soundtrack, to those

 of dark shadows and lurking bodies, accompanied by classical sounds of dementia. We are flooded with information

 immediately, by the use of newspaper headlines and a collection of shocked faces, about the serial murders. We are

 also introduced to a lodger in a large family home who looks and acts suspicious. It seems so obvious that  one questions

 what the story has left to tell. We are then shown an array of symbolic objects and events that lead to the lodgers

 apparent guilt. He inhabits a room that is decorated with manytive. pictures of young ladies, all of whom are blonde,

 which corresponds to the victims of the serial murders. Not only that, but the lodger rejects these portraits.

  The daughter of the landlords, is a pretty and accommodating young girl. She is involved with a young policeman, Joe,

 but soon finds herself fascinated by the lodger. When they are portrayed playing chess, the lodgers eyes are illustrated

 as menacing, as the camera pans the pokers beside the fireplace. As they play, he states, "I'll get you yet". Other

 symbols are such things as the play being performed on Tuesday nights, the same nights that the killer attacks, called

 Golden Curls. The murderer always leaves a triangle sketched on paper on his victims, and we immediately think of the

 love triangle, and the young girl, Daisy, and her role in the love triangle and her changing from one corner to the other.

  When one of the murders in the sequence is shown, we suspect the lodger as he is seen shortly before leaving the

 house with his face partially scarfed. Interestingly though when the victim is attacked we only see a shadow, which

 insinuates that maybe we should be questioning the identity of the killer. This is when the film takes on dimension.

 The acting does not stand out particularly, though effective. If I had to single out anyone in particular, it would be the

 slightly comic landlords (Daisy's mother and father) plays by Marie Ault and Arthur Chesney. Daisy is a model and is

 somewhat refined, not quite a flapper, not quite a princess. This role is played by June Tripp who is simply credited

 a June. 

 A serial killer known as “The Avenger” is on the loose in London, murdering blonde women. A mysterious man arrives at the

 house of Mr. and Mrs. Bunting looking for a room to rent. The Bunting’s daughter is a blonde model and is seeing one of the

 detectives assigned to the case. The detective becomes jealous of the lodger and begins to suspect he may be the avenger. 


Long Day's Journey Into Night*****   1962

 On a warm day in 1912, the Tyrone family gathers at their summer home in New London, Connecticut. James, the father, is an

 aging popular actor whose early privations have led him to devote his career to a second-rate but commercially successful play.

 Mary, his convent-bred, Irish Catholic wife, has just returned from a sanitarium after supposedly being cured of drug addiction.

 Jamie, the eldest son, has made a half-hearted attempt to follow his father's profession but now is reduced to a life of

 alcoholism and cynicism. The youngest son, Edmund, a 23-year-old would-be writer, comes home penniless and ill after working

 as a merchant seaman. In the course of the day, Mary's fear that Edmund has tuberculosis causes her again to use morphine;

 and when the illness is confirmed, the family's repressed anguish, pride, and insecurity surface in bitter quarreling fueled by

 alcohol. The day ends as the three men sit and listen in silence as Mary lapses into her own private hell. They know that

 tomorrow it will all begin again.

Longest Yard, The***1/2       1974


Paul "Wrecking" Crewe (Burt Reynolds), a former star pro football quarterback, walks out on his wealthy girlfriend Melissa (Anitra Ford) in Palm Beach, Florida. He takes her car 

without permission and gets drunk. Crewe is caught and sentenced to 18 months in Citrus State Prison.

The convicts despise Crewe because he was dismissed from the National Football League for point shaving. A sadistic, power-hungry warden, Rudolph 

Hazen (Eddie Albert), is an American football fanatic who manages a semi-pro team made up of Guards. He wants Crewe to help coach the team and 

clinch a championship.

Responding to pressure from the guards' leader and coach, Captain Wilhelm Knauer (Ed Lauter), Crewe refuses. Crewe eventually relents and agrees to 

form a prisoner team to play the guards' team in an exhibition "tune-up" game. Few inmates have football experience, so they pose little threat to the 

guards. Adding to Crewe's problems, the black inmates refuse to play.

Crewe , promising they can inflict injuries on their opponents, forms a team that includes the most dangerous and violent prisoners. Among the most 

impressive are Samson (Richard Kiel), a 7-foot-tall (2.1 m) former professional weightlifter, and Connie Shokner (Robert Tessier), a fearsome serial killer 

and martial arts expert.

With the help of the clever Caretaker (James Hampton), former professional player Nate Scarborough (Michael Conrad) and the first black inmate 

willing to play, "Granny" Granville (Harry Caesar), plus long-term prisoner Pop (John Steadman) — and with an assist from the warden's amorous secretary, 

Miss Toot (Bernadette Peters) -- Crewe molds a team nicknamed the "Mean Machine". He agrees to play quarterback himself. After witnessing "Granny" 

being harassed by some of the prison guards without breaking, the black inmates decide to volunteer their services and join the team. . However, Caretaker 

is killed instead when he enters Crewe's cell to retrieve some papers. Crewe's teammates are given a stern lecture from Hazen about the consequences of 

any attempted escape after the game. Afterward, Crewe re-energizes the team with a surprise - presenting them with professional uniforms (stolen from the 

guards by Caretaker before he was killed). They charge onto the field, to the shock of the guards and Hazen, in their new uniforms.


Lonliness of the Long Distance Runner, The ****1/2   1962 


 One of the key "angry young man" films which helped define the British "Kitchen Sink Drama" style of the late

 1950's and early 60's, this story centers on Colin Smith (Tom Courtenay), a bitter young man from a

 working-class family. Uninterested in school and determined not to follow his father into factory work, Colin and

 his friend Mike (James Bolam) make their pocket money through petty crime, until they're arrested after the

 robbery of a baker's shop and sentenced to Borstal (British reform school). The Governor of the school

 (Michael Redgrave) takes a keen interest in Colin, but he cares less for his rehabilitation than his gifts as a

 broken-field runner; Colin finds himself torn between the need to please his captors and his determination not to

 play along with what he sees as a corrupt system. The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner was the first film

 for Courtenay, whose performance earned him the "Most Promising Newcomer" prize at the 1962 British Film

 Academy awards.

Lost In America***1/2   1985

 A successful, yuppie couple decide to leave the rat race and take off on a soul searching journey across America.

Love Field, The ****   1992

 In 1963Dallas housewife Lurene Hallett (Michelle Pfeiffer) is obsessed with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Knowing that

 President John F. Kennedy and his wife will be visiting Dallas, she goes to try and catch a glimpse of the couple. Driving away a

 few hours later, she notices a quiet chaos developing, and discovers that the President has been assassinated. Ignoring her

 overbearing husband Ray (Brian Kerwin), she travels by bus to attend the funeral in Washington. During her journey, she

 befriends Jonell (Stephanie McFadden), the young black daughter of Paul Cater (Dennis Haysbert). Sensing something is wrong,

 her well-intentioned interference leads them on an increasingly difficult road trip across America with both the police and Ray

 in pursuit.


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