M****1/2   1931


 It's noon. Concerned parents are lined up outside the schools waiting to escort their kids home for lunch. Signs along the street

 ask "Wer ist der Morder?" (Who is the murderer?) of eight children killed over the past year. Little Elsie Beckmann [Inge

 Landgut] has just become victim number nine.

 Who is the murderer? It could be anyone (the viewer knows that it is Hans Beckert [Peter Lorre]). Neighbors are turning in

 neighbors and fingering strangers in the street just for talking to a child. The police are on the job 24 hours a day, but all

 they have turned up so far is some Ariston cigarette butts, some sugar grains, and a bag that held candy. They have 

 investigated over 1,500 clues and have compiled 60 volumes of documents. Every thicket, every bush, every hole in the area

 has been combed. Every place from flop houses to underworld hangouts are being raided every night.

 In fact, the police investigation has been so thorough that the Underground is getting worried about the shakedowns.

 Underworld boss Schränker [Gustaf Gründgens] has come to the conclusion that the child killer must be found before the police

 ruin business. After a lengthy discussion with all the Underworld bosses in attendance [there is a wonderful scenario where

 the Underworld bosses discuss strategies while the police do the same, such that it hard to tell the difference between

 Gangsters and Police], they decide that the best solution is to monitor all children at all times and that the best persons to do 

 that, the only ones who can be seen on the streets without arousing suspicions, are beggars. So, every street has its beggar 

 sitting in a doorway, having a smoke on the corner, watching the children and noting anyone following or with a child.

 A break comes in the person of a blind balloon peddlar [Georg John] who hears a man whistling a tune and remembers the

 same tune being whistled by a man who purchased a balloon on the day Elsie Beckmann was murdered. He alerts his block's

 beggar, who follows the Beckert, who is leading a little girl into a candy store. When Beckert  makes the mistake of throwing

 an orange peel on the sidewalk, the beggar pretends to slip on it and, while clutching Beckert for support, he transfers onto

 the back of Beckert's shoulder a big "M" that he previously chalked on his palm. The beggars are now able to follow the man

 with the "M" on his coat.

 Meanwhile, the police have been attempting to trace the origin of a postcard sent by the child killer to the local newspaper.

 While investigating released criminals and mental patients that fit the profile of the killer (lazy, indolent, and of strong and

 pathological sexuality), the police come to Hans Beckert's apartment. Beckert isn't home, but the landlady shows them in.

 Searching Beckert's room, they find some Ariston cigarettes and a red pencil, the likes of which was used to write the postcard.

 Certain that Beckert is the killer, the police lay in wait for Beckert to return.

 But Beckert is on the make. The little girl that he is with suddenly notices the "M" on his shoulder and offers to wipe it off.

 Certain that he has been caught, Beckert runs into an office building. The beggars contact Schränker who sends a group of

 gangsters to comb the building and capture the child killer. Unfortunately, the night watchman sounds an alarm, alerting the

 police. In the minutes before the police arrive, the gangsters find Beckert, and everyone, except for burglar Franz [Friedrich

 Gnass], manages

 to get out before the police arrive.

 Fearing that he is going to face a murder rap, Franz sings. He tells how the gangsters have captured the child killer and taken

 him to an abandoned distillery to stand trial. When Beckert explains to Schränker that he is driven by a voice and an evil 

 impulse he can't control, it is voted to eliminate him so that there is no chance of him ever getting free to murder another child.

 Only Beckert's appointed defense counsel [Rudolf Blumner] argues that, since Beckert is driven by an uncontrollable impulse, he

 cannot be held responsible for his actions and should be turned over to the police so that the state can render him harmless.

 At that moment, the police enter the distillery and escort Beckert away.

 Epilogue: As Beckert's real trial progresses, the mothers of the slain children listen to the verdict. The ultimate and final

 comment comes from Frau Beckmann [Ellen Widmann] who says that none of this will bring back the children and that mothers 

 must keep a closer watch over them.

Madame Curie***1/2   1943


 Marie Sklodowska (Greer Garson) is a poor, idealistic student living in Paris and studying at the Sorbonne. She neglects her

 health and one day faints during class. Her tutor, Prof. Perot (Albert Bassermann) is sympathetic and, finding that she has no

 friends or family in Paris, invites her to a soirée his wife is throwing for a "few friends" (primarily prostitutes). Among the many

 guests is physicist Pierre Curie (Walter Pidgeon), an extremely shy and absentminded man completely devoted to his work. He

 allows Marie to share his lab and finds that she is a gifted scientist. Appalled that she plans on returning to Poland to teach

 after graduation, rather than devoting her life to further study, he takes her to visit his family in their country home. Marie

 and Pierre both tend to concentrate on science to the extent that they don't realize until the last minute they have fallen in love.

 Even when Pierre asks Marie to be his wife, he does so in terms of reason, logic and chemistry.

  Fascinated by a demonstration she saw as an undergraduate, of a pitchblende rock that seems to generate enough energy to

 take small photographs, Marie decides to make the rock's energy the subject of her doctoral study. The measurements she

 takes don't seem to add up, and she decides there must be a third radioactive element in the rock in addition to the two she

 knows are in there. (In the midst of discussing this, she discloses offhandedly to Pierre's family that she's pregnant.) The

 physics department at the Sorbonne refuses to fund their research without more proof of the element's existence, but allows

 them to use a dilapidated old

 shed across the courtyard from the physics building. In spite of its disadvantages, they import eight tons of pitchblende ore and

 cook it down to look for the element they call radium. In spite of inability to separate out pure radium, they know something is

 definitely there, as Marie's hands are being burned. They hit on a tedious method of crystallization to arrive at pure radium.

 Now world-famous, they go on vacation to rest after all the press conferences and the Nobel Prize. They're granted a new

 laboratory  by the university; before its dedication Marie shows off her new dress, inspiring Pierre to go get her a set of

 earrings to go with it.

 Walking home in the rain, he absentmindedly crosses the street in front of a delivery wagon and is run down and killed. Marie

 almost loses her mind, but after the concerned Prof. Perot counsels her, she rallies when she remembers Pierre's words that if

 one of them is gone, the other must go on working just the same. The film concludes with a speech she gives at the 25th

 anniversary celebration of the discovery of radium, expressing her belief that science is the path to a better world.

Magdalene Sisters, The ***1/2    2002  


 A thoroughly mind provoking film about 3 young women whom, under tragic circumstances see themselves cast away to a 

 Magdalene Asylum for young women t in 1964. One of many like institutions, the asylums are run like prisons and young girls are

 forced to do workhouse laundry and hard labor. The asylum, one of many that existed in Theocratic Catholic Ireland, is for 

 supposedly 'fallen' women. Here, young girls are imprisoned indefinitely and endure agonizing punishments and a long, harsh 

 working system which leaves them physically drained and mentally damaged. As the girls bond together, it soon becomes clear 

 that the only way out of the Magdalene convent is to escape, but with twisted Sister Bridget running the wing, any chances seem



Magnolia****   1999


 The coincidence in this movie is not apparent. Rather, I believe this movie is about choice- and the where and when this

 reality manifests itself. Throughout the film, we are introduced to characters both young and old, perhaps only sharing 

 emptiness among them. Through the variety especially in age of characters, the movie presents choice in its three forms- 

 present, past, and future-  making present choices, choices already made, and setting ourselves up to make choices in the

 future. The movie emphasizes  choices made over the other two. We witness two men, who have nothing else in common aside

 from their expected and imminent  deaths, regress painfully over wretched pasts- results of pathetic choices. Furthermore,

 the movie affirms the eminence of present  choices through a young prodigy displayed on a game show. Will he too one day

 regret his past decisions? Our prophetic cop  indirectly divulges his personal secret to making unknown future decisions- 

 morality. Written by Aaron Baum

 In the style of Ripley's Believe It Or Not, coincidence has played a part in three bizarre deaths during the past century... Jimmy

 Gator has hosted the popular quiz show "What Do Kids Know?" in Los Angeles for over 30 years. Stanley is the brightest of the

 three kids currently reigning on the show. Jimmy is estranged from his daughter, Claudia. Living in her cheap apartment,

 Claudia is hooked on cocaine. Donnie Smith had been a famous whiz kid on Jimmy's show decades ago. Since being hit by

 lightning, he does promotional work for the Solomon Bros. appliance store and dreams of getting an expensive set of braces for

 his teeth. Frank Mackey is a very successful motivational speaker. His aggressive seminar on dating, "Seduce and Destroy", is

 well attended by frustrated bachelors. Officer Kurring answers a call at a woman's apartment and finds a corpse in her closet.

 Affluent producer Earl Partridge is bedridden and dying of cancer. His beautiful wife Linda married him for his money... The

 quiz show kids are close to setting an all-time record; Stanley feels the pressure from his father. Jimmy has learned that he

 has cancer and only two months to live. Officer Kurring arrives at an apartment where neighbours have complained about the

 noise; Claudia opens the door. Earl asks Phil, his nurse, to contact his estranged son; the younger Partridge now uses the name

 Frank Mackey... Written by David Woodfield

Male Animal, The ****  1942 


 During homecoming weekend at Midwestern University, English professor Tommy Turner and his wife Ellen host a cocktail party

 for Dean Frederick Damon and his wife Blanche; anti-intellectual trustee Ed Keller and his wife Myrtle; and former football hero

 Joe Ferguson. Just before dinner, Damon informs Tommy and Ellen that student Michael Barnes, a boyfriend of Ellen's sister,

 Patricia Stanley, has written an editorial excoriating the trustees as fascists and pointing to Tommy as the only professor

 interested in freedom of speech. In the editorial, Michael mentions that the following Monday during class, Tommy will read a

 letter by Bartolomeo Vanzetti, an anarchist executed for murder along with his associate, Nicola Sacco, in 1927. Both Damon

 and Ellen are worried that if Tommy goes ahead with his plans, the trustees will brand him a Communist and fire him. Tommy

 does not want to be an example, but does not really understand why he should not read the letter to his class. Later Joe, a

 former boyfriend of Ellen's, arrives with flowers for Ellen's birthday, which Tommy has forgotten, and announces that he and his

 wife are divorcing. During

 cocktails, Keller learns about the Vanzetti letter and expresses his horror that Tommy would expose his students to something

 un-American. Tommy gets so angry at Keller that he decides to read the letter to spite him. Then when Joe and Ellen dance

 together to an old song, all of Tommy's old jealousy of Joe returns. After the rally, Joe offers to take Tommy and Ellen to

 dinner, but Tommy pleads illness and encourages Ellen to accept his offer. The next day, the entire campus is in an uproar over

 Michael's editorial, and Tommy, believing that Ellen is still in love with Joe, decides to drive her away for her own good.

 Although Joe does not really want to marry Ellen--he is more interested in who will win the football game--he feels obligated to

 accept her if she leaves Tommy.

 While Joe and Ellen attend the game, Tommy and Michael get drunk. In nature, Tommy says, if another male threatens to

 take away an animal's mate, he tears him apart. Tommy then points out that he is a male animal. When Ellen and Joe return

 from the game, which was won by Midwestern at the last moment, Tommy announces his intention to knock Joe out. On

 Monday morning, Tommy, having been knocked out by Joe, must face the entire university and read Vanzetti's letter. Before

 they leave, Ellen announces her plans to live with Joe, upsetting both Joe and Tommy. Keller, meanwhile, has expelled Michael

 and threatens Tommy with dismissal if he reads the letter, but to everyone's surprise, Damon defends Tommy. In front of an

 enormous crowd, Tommy gives an impassioned speech in favor of the free exchange of ideas and free speech and then reads

 Vanzetti's moving and non-political letter. Ellen is deeply impressed by her husband's behavior, as are the students. Tommy is

 given a hero's reception and is reconciled with Ellen. Free from his obligation to Ellen, Joe plans to return to his wife.

Maltese Falcon, The****    1941





 When John Huston began his push to make Dashiell Hammett’s novel, The Maltese Falcon, into his first film as a director, he

 had to be reminded that Warner Brother’s had already made THE MALTESE FALCON. Twice, in fact. In 1931, a plodding but

 faithful adaptation starred Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade, who played the detective as a leering ladies’ man. Warner’s had tried

 again in 1936, this time battering Hammett’s bleak, hard-boiled masterpiece into a combination mystery-screwball comedy,

 called SATAN MET A LADY, starring Bette Davis. The trouble, said Huston, was that previous screenwriters had kept trying to

 ‘lick the book,’ instead of filming the book. Huston, a screenwriter since 1931, set out to make The Maltese Falcon surrender

 its deeply existential essence.

 What appealed to Huston in The Maltese Falcon was the complex predicament of its protagonist, detective Sam Spade. Like

 other readers, he had noticed a stunningly allegorical passage in the book, told in Spade’s voice, about a fugitive he had once

 had to search for, a strange little man named "Flitcraft." Flitcraft had been walking by a construction site when a heavy beam

 had fallen near him, almost killing him, but leaving him unscathed. The casualness of human existence had been demonstrated

 forcefully to Flitcraft: "somebody had taken the lid off life and let him look at the works. . . Life could be ended for him at 

 random by a falling beam; he would change his life at random by simply going away. . ." Heretofore a respectable family man,

 Flitcraft changed his identity, moved to another city, and married another woman, all with apparent ease: "He adjusted

 himself to beams falling, and then no more of them fell, and he adjusted himself to them not falling." The mystery of life was

 in its very living, not in the loot, Spade recognized in his talk with Flitcraft, and so apparently did Huston, for, ever after,

 Huston’s films would begin with a grandiose scheme and end with empty hands.

posterTHE MALTESE FALCON’s famous epitaph -- "the stuff that dreams are made of" -- is meant as

 Spade’s weary pronouncement on the glorious futility of ever really finding what it was that

 the Falcon had come to embody to its pursuers. The line was Huston’s own invention, and it

 might well have served as his epitaph as a director for the next 45 years.

 Huston seized on the sheer fabulousness of the gilded bird of the title, a virtual throwaway in the book. He made its journeys

 through centuries and across continents a wild offscreen picaresque, a spider’s web of intrigue from out of the near as well as

 the distant past that always threatens to snare Spade just as it has snared the three demented conspirators. These three

 -- "Gutman" (Sidney Greenstreet) "Miss Wonderly/O’Shaughnessy" (Mary Astor) and "Joel Cairo" (Peter Lorre) became,

 in Huston’s hands, lovable gargoyles, creatures as improbable as the Falcon, and each as corroded with greed as the once

 -shimmering Falcon is coated with cheap enamel.

 The studio’s boss, Jack L. Warner, was, to be charitable, a literalist, and the tale of the Falcon’s passage from Malta to San

 Francisco quickly lost him. He insisted that Huston invent additional dialogue for Gutman, and write an introductory title crawl,

 both of which would "clarify" the Falcon’s lineage. Huston gleefully obliged. The result was the film’s wacky "Tinker-to-Evers-to-

 Chance" backstory of the Falcon’s progress; the only thing this new material "clarifies" is Huston’s love of a good story at any

 cost. In Bogart’s unique portrayal of Sam Spade, Huston artfully constructed a tough, sexy, smart and self-assured man who is

 confronted with a plot whose intricacies tax even his powers of reason, as well as his bravery, a caper whose villains would lie

 him into bed, into the grave, or both. Yet his adversaries’ maniacal obsession with the "dingus" makes Spade even more

 determined to puzzle out its whereabouts. The result is a conflict as biting and real as it is witty and exasperating, and the

 ‘Huston touch,’ so deft that most film scholars have overlooked it, was born. It would remain intact until Huston’s passing in

 l987 and his last, deathbed words to his daughter Angelica: "Give ‘em hell."

 As he reengineered the source material for THE MALTESE FALCON, Huston pared away unnecessary characters and limited

 action to a few locations: Sam’s office, Miss O’Shaughnessy’s hotel room, Gutman’s suite, Sam’s apartment, a few others.

 The idea was to make Sam’s world a rat’s maze; constricted, frustrating, exhausting. . . In the process, Huston went about

 inventing what we now call film noir, showing other directors that in the urban crime drama, tight, claustrophobic spaces are

 as psychologically significant and as thematically profound as spacious outdoor vistas are to the Western. Again, Warner

 intervened, this time with less happy results. It was he who added the abrupt exterior shot of Miles Archer’s shooting, with the

 identity of the shooter coyly withheld by subjective camerawork. It’s a cheap, "detective movie" trick, unworthy of Huston,

 the only moment of ventilation in a film that otherwise feels like it has purposely locked itself up in a hothouse. One of Huston’s

 competitors on the Warner’s lot, director Jean Negulesco, later claimed that he had "prepared" THE MALTESE FALCON, and

 that, when he had been furloughed from the project to do a government short, Huston had been given the plum assignment.

 Out of gratitude, said Negulesco, Huston later gave him a copy of Eric Ambler’s espionage thriller A Coffin for Dimitrios,

 which Negulesco subsequently made into a creepy, perverse film called THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS, about a man as mysterious

 and dangerous as the Falcon, a film very much in the Huston vein. Later, Huston wrote the script of the sardonic THREE

 STRANGERS for Negulesco,   another variation on the FALCON’s "three conspirators" motif, a group that included both Sidney

 Greenstreet and Peter Lorre. But THE MALTESE FALCON was all Huston. It is, with CITIZEN KANE, the most significant first

 film in Hollywood history, a rare example of an instantly mature cinematic style. Huston’s debts to his own brilliant debut film

 remained clear throughout his working life. In films such as THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, THE ASPHALT JUNGLE,

 BEAT THE DEVIL, and THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, Huston retained his affection for hopeless little conspiracies, often

 undertaken by groups of three, echoing Gutman, Miss O’Shaughnessy, and Joel Cairo in THE MALTESE FALCON. Because of his

 microscopic attention to the mechanics of heists and scams and the structures of  the gangs that pulled them, as well as his

 disinterest in moralizing on the place of the criminal in his society, no less a critic than James Agee called Huston "the

 Eisenstein of the thriller." Huston never shared the poverty of ethics of the three crazed Falcon hunters. Instead, after finishing

 THE MALTESE FALCON, he was to see first-hand a world in flames, a suddenly absurd and deadly world that seemed to push

 everyone with a brain and a conscience into the same tight corners and closed rooms as Sam Spade. Huston’s horrific wartime

 documentaries THE BATTLE OF SAN PIETRO and LET THERE BE LIGHT, with their rare combination of exquisite sarcasm and

 deep humanity, made it seem as if in Sam Spade, Huston had been quietly inventing an epic hero perfectly designed for his

 own time.

Manchurian Candidate, The****1/2   1962


 During the Korean War, members of a U. S. Army patrol are captured and taken to Manchuria by Chinese Communists who

 brainwash them into believing that Raymond Shaw, a mother-dominated sergeant, has led a successful action against the

 Communists. Back in the United States, Raymond is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on the strength of his comrades'

 testimony. Actually he is now a puppet of the Communists; at the sight of a Queen of Diamonds, his mind is triggered into

 obeying any instruction, retaining no knowledge of his subsequent actions. Meanwhile, another member of the patrol,

 Bennett Marco, begins having nightmares in which he vaguely recalls what happened in Korea. Suspicious, he starts an

 investigation and discovers Raymond's strange reaction to the playing card. Unknown to Raymond, the key Communist behind

 the U. S. operation is his mother, a politically ambitious woman who plans to have her son shoot the presidential nominee

 during a rally at Madison Square Garden, thus paving the way for her husband, Senator Iselin, the vice-presidential nominee,

 to take control of the government. As part of the Communist master plan, she uses the cards to force Raymond into killing both

 his wife, Jocie, and his father-in-law, Senator Jordan, a crusading liberal and his mother's chief political enemy. On the night

 of the rally, Marco confronts Raymond with a handful of the cards and tries to convince him that he no longer has control of his

 own mind, but Raymond follows his mother's instructions and takes a rifle to a deserted projection booth. At the last moment,

 however, the hypnotic spell breaks and he kills his mother and stepfather and then takes his own life.

Manhattan Melodrama****     1934




Manhattan Melodrama is a 1934 crime melodrama film, produced by MGMdirected byW. S. Van Dyke, and starring Clark GableWilliam Powell,

 and Myrna Loy. The movie also provided one of the earliest film roles for Mickey Rooney, who played Gable's character as a child, and introduced the

 Rogers and Hart song "Blue Moon", with an entirely different set of lyrics by Lorenz Hart.

Filmed relatively quickly and with a modest budget, Manhattan Melodrama was expected to return a profit, but not to capture the imagination of the

 public. The picture's smash hit success surprised the studio and made major stars of screen veterans Myrna Loy andWilliam Powell in the first of

 their fourteen screen pairings, and also solidified the success of MGM's most popular male lead, Clark Gable.

A very familiar tune is introduced in the film with utterly unfamiliar lyrics. The movie presents a nightclub scene featuring Shirley Ross singing an

 extraordinarily dark song called "The Bad in Every Man." After the film's release, the lyrics were rewritten by Lorenz Hart as the more famous "Blue


The movie entered the lexicon of history as being the last motion picture seen by the notorious gangster John Dillinger, who was shot to death by

 federal agents on July 22, 1934, after leaving Chicago's Biograph Theater where the film was playing.[1] Myrna Loy was among those who expressed

 distaste at the studio's willingness to exploit this event for the financial benefit of the film. Scenes from Manhattan Melodrama, in addition to Dillinger's

 death, are depicted in the 2009 film Public Enemies based on Dillinger.

Arthur Caesar won an Academy Award for Best Story for this film.


Man In the Iron Mask, The****   1938




 The 1939 adaptation alters history significantly by making Fouquet (Joseph Schildkraut) a thoroughly evil, scheming mastermind.

 He, d'Artagnan (Warren William) and the musketeers are the only ones who know of the existence of a twin brother, and

 Fouquet uses his influence to keep everyone silent. The main story was changed by portraying Louis XIV as selfish, cruel, and

 incompetent, and Philippe the kind-hearted brother who is raised by d'Artagnan and the musketeers and does not even know

 that he has an identical twin.

 When the truth is discovered, Louis XIV has Philippe imprisoned with an iron mask placed on his head, hoping that Philippe's

 beard will grow inside the mask and eventually strangle him. Philippe is rescued by the musketeers, who break into the sleeping

 Louis's chamber and imprison him in the mask. The guards drag off Louis and lock him in the Bastille, mistaking him for the

 escaped Philippe.

 When Louis manages to get a message to Fouquet, he is freed, and a chase by coach ensues to stop Philippe from cementing an

 alliance with Spain by marrying Princess Maria Theresa (Joan Bennett), whom he loves, and taking Louis' place on the throne.

 The coach is waylaid by the musketeers, who all die heroically, but Fouquet and the real Louis XIV are also killed when the

 driverless coach plunges off a cliff. The mortally wounded d'Artagnan survives long enough to exclaim "God Save the King!" at

 Philippe's wedding, and then falls dead in the throne room. Philippe finally assumes the throne.

Man in the Moon, The****   1991


 The story, set in 1950s Louisiana, tells of a 14-year-old girl named Dani (Reese Witherspoon) who falls in love with a boy three

 years older than she is, a senior named Court Foster (Jason London). Just as Court begins to reciprocate Dani's feelings, even

 giving her her first kiss, and their relationship begins to develop, he meets and becomes more attracted to Dani's older sister,

 Maureen (Emily Warfield). Unbeknownst to Dani, Maureen and Court begin to see each other and fall in love. However Court still

 cares for Dani, and Maureen loves her  sister and neither can bring themselves to reveal the relationship. One day Maureen visits

 Court in his family's fields and the two make love. Upon returning home Dani sees Maureen and understands that her sister and

 Court had been together behind her back. Meanwhile, when Court's mother brings him lunch, she sees the tractor running without

 anyone on it. While attempting to reach his hat (which he'd put on a branch after Maureen's arrival), Court fell off the tractor and

 was run over. Horrified, his mother rushes to his aid just as a furious Dani appears on the property. Upon seeing Court's bloody

 body and his wailing mother Dani runs back home and crying begs her father to save Court. Later her father returns and informs

 the family that Court is dead. Both sisters are consumed with grief. While Dani lashes out at Maureen and blames her for her pain,

 Maureen suffers silently and tries to earn her sister's forgiveness. After a talk with her father, Dani realizes she is not the only one

 in pain and goes to Court's grave where she witnesses Maureen sobbing. She goes over to Maureen and holds her and the two

 sisters go on to grieve together over the death of the boy they both loved. The sisters begin to learn invaluable life lessons that

 help to show how important family is to them.

Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The****   1962


 Like Pontius Pilate, director John Ford asks "What is truth?" in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance--but unlike Pilate, Ford waits

 for an answer. The film opens in 1910, with distinguished and influential U.S. senator Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) and

 his wife Hallie (Vera Miles) returning to the dusty little frontier town where they met and married twenty-five years earlier.

 They have come back to attend the funeral of impoverished "nobody" Tom Doniphon (John Wayne). When a reporter asks why,

 Stoddard relates a film-long flashback. He recalls how, as a greenhorn lawyer, he had run afoul of notorious gunman Liberty

 Valance (Lee Marvin), who worked for a powerful cartel which had the territory in its clutches. Time and again, "pilgrim"

 Stoddard had his hide saved by the much-feared but essentially decent Doniphon. It wasn't that Doniphon was particularly fond

 of Stoddard; it was simply that Hallie was in love with Stoddard, and Doniphon was in love with Hallie and would do anything to

 assure her happiness, even if it meant giving her up to a greenhorn. When Liberty Valance challenged Stoddard to a showdown,

 everyone in town was certain that the greenhorn didn't stand a chance. Still, when the smoke cleared, Stoddard was still

 standing, and Liberty Valance lay dead. On the strength of his reputation as the man who shot Valance, Stoddard was railroaded

 into a political career, in the hope that he'd rid the territory of corruption. Stoddard balked at the notion of winning an election

 simply because he killed a man-until Doniphon, in strictest confidence, told Stoddard the truth: It was Doniphon, not Stoddard,

 who shot down Valance. Stoddard was about to reveal this to the world, but Doniphon told him not to. It was far more important

 in Doniphon's eyes that a decent, honest man like Stoddard become a major political figure; Stoddard represented the "new"

 civilized west, while Doniphon knew that he and the West he represented were already anachronisms. Thus Stoddard went on to

 a spectacular political career, bringing extensive reforms to the state, while Doniphon faded into the woodwork. His story

 finished, the aged Stoddard asks the reporter if he plans to print the truth. The reporter responds by tearing up his notes. "This

 is the West, sir, " the reporter explains quietly. "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." Dismissed as just another

 cowboy opus at the time of its release, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance has since taken its proper place as one of the great

 Western classics. It questions the role of myth in forging the legends of the West, while setting this theme in the elegiac

 atmosphere of the West itself, set off by the aging Stewart and Wayne. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Man With the Golden Arm, The ****     1955


 Frankie Machine (Frank Sinatra) is released from prison with a set of drums and a new outlook on life. A heroin addict, Frankie

 became clean in prison. On the outside, he greets friends and acquaintances. Sparrow (Arnold Stang), who runs a con selling

 homeless dogs, clings to him like a young brother, but Schwiefka (Robert Strauss), whom Frankie used to deal for in his illegal

 card game, has more sinister reasons for welcoming him back, as does Louis (Darren McGavin), Machine's former heroin dealer.

 Frankie sees his wife Zosh (Eleanor Parker), who is wheelchair-bound after a car crash some years ago. Zosh smothers her

 husband and hinders his attempt to make something of himself. He thinks he has what it takes to play drums for a big band.

 While calling to make an appointment, he bumps into an old flame, Molly (Kim Novak).

 Frankie soon gets himself a tryout and asks Sparrow to get him a new suit, but the suit is a stolen one and he ends up back in a

 cell Schwiefka offers to pay the bail. Frankie refuses, but soon changes his mind when the sight of a drug addict on the edge

 becomes too much for him. Now, to repay the debt, he must deal for Schwiefka again. Louis is trying to hook him on heroin

 again, and with no job and Zosh to please, pressure is building from all directions.

 Soon Frankie succumbs and is back on drugs and dealing marathon, all-night, card games for Schwiefka. He gets a tryout as a

 drummer, but spends 24 hours straight dealing a poker game. Desperately needing a fix, Frankie follows Louis home, attacks

 him, and steals enough heroin to calm his nerves. At the audition however, Frankie gets the jitters and ruins his chance. When

 Louis goes to see Zosh to try to find him, Louis discovers that Zosh has been faking her paralysis and can walk. Zosh, scared of

 being found out, accidentally pushes him over the railing of the stairwell to his death, but things backfire when Frankie is

 sought for murder.

 Frankie has no other option but to turn to Molly, who says that he must go cold turkey if he is to stand a chance with the police.

 Frankie agrees and is locked in Molly's apartment where he goes through a grueling ordeal to clear the drugs from his body.

 Finally clean again, he tells Zosh he is going to leave her, start anew and stand trial. In her desperation, Zosh once again gives

 herself away, standing up in front of Frankie and the police. She runs, but can get no further than the outside balcony. Trapped,

 she throws herself to her death. Frankie walks away with Molly.

Maria Full of Grace****2005



 17-year-old Colombian girl María Álvarez (Catalina Sandino Moreno) works in sweat shop-like conditions at a flower plantation.

 Her income helps support her family, including an unemployed sister who is a single mother.

 María becomes pregnant by a man she does not love. After unjust treatment from her boss she quits work despite her family's

 vehement disapproval. On her way to Bogotá to find a new job, she is offered a position as a drug mule. Desperate, she accepts

 the risky offer, and swallows 62 wrapped pellets of cocaine and flies to New York City with her immature friend Blanca.

 María is almost caught by US customs who are suspicious of her movements. She avoids being X-rayed due to her pregnancy,

 and they ultimately believe her story that the father of her child paid for her air ticket. The traffickers collect María and several

 other mules. The mules are sequestered in a motel room until they pass all the drug pelletts. Fellow mule Lucy falls ill when a

 drug pellet apparently ruptures inside her. The traffickers cut her open to retrieve the drug pellets. María convinces Blanca to

 escape with her when the traffickers leave to dump Lucy's body. They abscond with the drugs they have passed.

 María has nowhere to sleep and goes to Lucy's sister's house but doesn't reveal to the sister that Lucy is dead. Blanca soon joins

 her there. Eventually the sister finds out and throws them out. Blanca and María return the drugs to the traffickers and receive

 their money. María uses some of her drug money to send Lucy's body home to Colombia. They are about to board the plane

 back to Colombia when María decides to stay in the United States. Blanca returns home.

Marked Woman**** 1937


Mary Dwight Stauber (Bette Davis), a nightclub hostess who works for the notorious gangster Johnny Vanning (Eduardo Ciannelli) 

briefly meets and befriends a young man (Damian O'Flynn) who confides in her that he does not have the money to repay the 

gambling debt he has accrued during the night. He feels that it's a game, but Mary warns him that he is in real danger. She is 

shocked, but not surprised to learn soon after that he has been murdered, by Vanning's henchman Charlie Delaney (Ben Welden).

Questioned by prosecutor David Graham (Humphrey Bogart), Mary and the other women refuse to implicate Vanning. They fear his

retribution, and while privately detesting him are powerless to free themselves from his influence. Mary's younger sister Betty

(Jane Bryan) comes to visit, and unaware of the dangerous situation she has entered, behaves recklessly against the advice of her 

older sister. When she is killed, Mary agrees to testify against the gangster. Beaten by his thugs, scarred and disfigured, she

becomes the "marked woman" of the film's title, but rather than silencing her, it strengthens her resolve to testify. Aware that they

can only be free of the gangster if they find the strength to stand against him, the other women agree to testify also.

Marnie***1/2    1963


 Marnie Edgar (Hedren) is a troubled young woman who has an unnatural fear and mistrust of men, thunderstorms, and the color

 red. She is also a thief. She uses her charms on Sidney Strutt (Martin Gabel) to get a job without references. Then late one night,

 she steals the contents of the company safe and disappears .

 Mark Rutland (Connery), a widower who owns a large publishing company, is a customer of Strutt's. He learns about the theft from

 the victim, and remembers the woman. Later, Marnie applies for a job at his company, Mark is intrigued. He is robbed too, but

 unlike Strutt, Mark had developed an affection for Marnie and manages to track her down. Instead of handing her over to the police,

 he blackmails her into marrying him.

 After being hastily married, Mark and Marnie depart on a honeymoon cruise. He finds out about her frigidity. At first, he respects

 her wishes but later rapes her. (In certain syndicated broadcastings of the film, the rape scene is censored, making the sexual

 encounter more ambiguous.) The next morning she attempts suicide by drowning herself in the ship's swimming pool, but Mark

 rescues her in time. Upon their return, Mark tries to discover the reason behind Marnie's behavior. In the end, Marnie and Mark

 learn that her mother,

 Bernice (Louise Latham), had been a prostitute. When Marnie was six years old, one of her mother's clients (a sailor played by

 Bruce Dern) had tried to calm her after she became frightened by a storm. The mother thought he was trying to molest her

 daughter and began attacking him. Seeing her mother struggling with the man, Marnie struck him with a fireplace poker, killing

 him. The bloodshed led to her distrust of men and fear of the color red. Once the origin of her fears is revealed, Marnie decides

 she wants to try to make her marriage work.

Match Point****    2005


This movie makes it for one reason. Yes, it is entertaining, ocassionally intense, well plotted, well

performed, and well scripted, But what puts it over the top, is, the soundtrack. The re-produced tracks of

original Enrico Caruso recordings are some of the most romantic recordings I have ever heard. 

 The buzz from the American press about Match Point is almost intoxicating. Can it really be true that our country, our

 capital city, and the film production company created by our national broadcaster has revitalised the career of one of 

 America's greatest film-makers? In a word, no. Or in seven words: I'm really sorry about this, but no. For its premiere

 at Cannes last year and its UK release now, Match Point had me sitting in the audience clenching my fists as the lights

 went down and wishing and yearning for this one to be the big Woody Allen comeback movie, absolutely willing it to


 t's not too bad; a Patricia Highsmith-ish thriller with a chill of existential pessimism, among some quaintly conceived

 English upper classes. There are moments of elegance and steel. It is stronger than his last couple of films, and the

 sheer prolific energy with which these pictures keep tumbling off the production line keeps us, the faithful, nourished with

 hope that if there is to be a new Late Period of creativity from the master, then Allen's magnificent work-rate might

 accelerate its arrival. But the problem with Match Point is that the dialogue is composed in a kind of Posh English that

 Allen seems to have learned from a Berlitz handbook.

 Until now, it has been a truism that Richard Curtis is the nearest thing we have to Woody Allen, doing for London what

 Allen did for Manhattan, siting his comedies in a picturesque capital of his own imagining. Now, remarkably, Woody

 Allen has repaid the compliment. He has arranged for his characters to have their fateful and serendipitous encounters

 in upscale touristy locations that look as if they were filmed on Planet Curtis: Notting Hill, the banks of the Thames by 

 Westminster, Bond Street, Tate Modern and West End theatreland.

 Match Point returns Allen to the darker themes of Crimes and Misdemeanors, though the skulduggery and violence are

 here played out at greater and more laborious length. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is Chris, a tennis pro from Ireland, new

 in London, who begins a Becky Sharp-ish social ascent by romancing Chloe (Emily Mortimer), the daughter of a

 massively wealthy magnate played by Brian Cox and sister of Tom (Matthew Goode), the supremely confident young

 man whom he coaches at the club. Things go badly awry when Chris falls for Tom's super-sexy American fiancee, Nola,

 played by Scarlett Johansson.

 Allen had originally set the script in the US, but the opportunity for financing from BBC Films persuaded him to translate

 it to a British setting. Not too much of a stretch, perhaps, considering Allen's high-end concerns, but a good deal is lost

 in translation, and he does not have what Robert Altman had in Julian Fellowes, the screenwriter for Gosford Park:

 someone who really can speak the lingo. Allen's Brit-dialogue sounds clenched, stilted and occasionally plain bizarre.

 If he was engaged as a script consultant, Fellowes could have explained to Allen that Tate Modern does not have the

 definite article, that we pronounce the name "Eleanor" with the accent on the first syllable not the last, and a thousand

 other solecisms. And - snobbery aside - people with pretensions to love high opera do not tend to adore the work of 

 Andrew Lloyd Webber, or at least not without a great deal of pre-emptive English irony.

 Rhys-Meyers plays Chris in a very opaque way, which is arguably just how this calculating character should be played,

 but it is difficult to tell how intentional it is. Mortimer is perfectly plausible as the sweetly shy Chloe, and Johansson is

 fiery and sexy, though for her, as for everyone else, there are no funny lines. The only actor who really does relax is

 Matthew Goode as Tom, utterly convincing and authentic as the young patrician. He is real. His dialogue sounds real

 Everyone else is ersatz. Could it be that he was allowed to improvise his lines while everyone else was too much in awe

 of the director to depart from the script? Whatever the truth, Goode is a tremendous find. Match Point has some

 interesting moments and a clever twist at the end on the theme of chance and fate. However, as Allen's next movie

 is reportedly also going to be set in the UK, he really is going to have to learn to speak British at something better than

 tourist level.


Meet Me In St. Louis*****   1944


 Meet Me in St. Louis tells the tells the story of a large, idealized upper middle class family. The film covers the year just prior
 to the opening of the 1904 World's Fair, the biggest event that St. Louis had ever seen. The script was based on a series of
 stories written by Sally Benson, published by the 'New Yorker' magazine during the early 1940s.

 The Smiths are headed by taciturn businessman Alonzo (Leon Ames). His graceful wife is Anne (Mary Astor). Perfect son Lon
 is a freshman at Princeton. He has four sisters. Smiling beauty Rose (Lucille Bremer) is the oldest, followed by passionate
 Esther (Judy Garland). Agnes (Joan Carroll) and Tootie (Margaret O'Brien) are still children. 

 Of course, the older children are all given love interests. Esther has 'the boy next door', perfect John Truett (Tom Drake). Lon
 has perfect Lucille Ballard (June Lockhart). Rose has enthusiastic but otherwise perfect Warren Sheffield (Robert Sully).

 The plot weaves several musical numbers around the ups and downs of the various romances. Suspense is created when Alonzo
 announces that he is taking a promotion in New York City. Will the family's pending move to the Big Apple disrupt their ordinary
 but picturesque lives?

 Tootie, the youngest of the children, is an impish little girl with an obsession with death. Her activities including burying her
 dolls that she imagines have died from terminal illnesses. She is a strange character for a musical from 1944. Another curious
 scene has her participating in a street bonfire, which is fed by little children tossing furniture into the flames. No adults are
 present, but their supervision is sorely needed.

 O'Brien was the leading child actress from the 1940s, and was second billed to Judy Garland. In 1945, she was awarded a special
 Juvenile Oscar, for her work in this film and Jane Eyre. She was the first to win the Juvenile Oscar since Garland in 1940 for
 The Wizard of Oz.

 Except for O'Brien's eccentric character, and a scene where Garland bites her beau, Meet Me in St. Louis is conventional even
 for a big budget MGM musical. While the supporting characters are all charming, they have been heavily romanticized. Garland's
 nervous, insecure personality gives her character a depth that it likely didn't have on paper.

 Among the supporting cast is Harry Davenport, who plays the spry grandfather, and Marjorie Main, who is the family cook.
 Davenport was one of the best supporting actors of the 1930s. Main would become famous in a few years from a series of 
 Universal films where she played gregarious bumpkin Ma Kettle.

 Surprisingly, the musical numbers do not dominate the film. The big production is "The Trolley Song", with Garland singing of
 newfound love. The cast with their colorful period costumes are packed onto a trolley, while Garland moves about singing. She
 had a wonderful voice, full of the soaring warmth found in her most famous song, "Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz.

 However, the best song here is "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", a bittersweet song that she would perform in concerts
 for the rest of her life. Another song that works is the moving "You and I", which Alonzo and Anne use to reaffirm their love
 after a family row. Alonzo's singing voice is dubbed by Arthur Freed, the film's producer. Freed's early career was as a

 Director Vincente Minelli was the head of many MGM musicals. Although nearly two decades older than Judy Garland, they would
 marry the following year, 1945.

Merrily We Go to Hell****    1932



 Jerry Corbett (Fredric March), a Chicago reporter and self styled playwright, meets heiress Joan Prentice (Sylvia Sydney) at a party

 and they begin dating. Even though Jerry's economic prospects are dim and he is an alcoholic, he proposes to Joan. She agrees

 to marry him, against her father's objections. Even when Jerry becomes inebriated at their engagement party, Joan stands by him.

 Jerry writes some plays which are rejected, and fights the urge to drink. He manages to sell a play and they go to New York to see

 it produced. The star of the production is Jerry's former girlfriend Claire, and on the premiere night he gets drunk, and mistakes Joan

 for Claire. Still, Joan stands by him. When Joan catches Jerry trying to go to Claire's one night she kicks him out. The following day

 she tells him that they will have a "modern marriage" and that she intends to have affairs herself.

 When Jerry is next seen he is making a "Merrily we go to hell" toast with Claire. In turn Joan and her date toast to the "holy state

 of matrimony–single lives, twin beds and triple bromides in the morning." Joan becomes pregnant, and finds out she is in poor

 health. She tries to tell Jerry, but he is busy with Claire, so she moves on. Jerry quickly realizes that he loved her all along. He

 sobers up, returns to Chicago, and works as a reporter again, but Joan's father keeps them apart. Jerry discovers Joan's pregnancy

 from a gossip columnist and goes to the hospital to be with her. He has to force his way into her room, and discovers his wife near 

 death. The baby is dead. Movingly, a repentant Jerry pledges his love to her in a heartfelt plea.


Merrily We Live****    1938





 Merrily We Live has been on my Wish List for years. TCM has started showing it recently to my delight. It's difficult to describe the movie, without

 using the words "My Man Godfrey" and "derivative," and yet this is a wonderfully enjoyable film. I will go so far as to say I enjoyed it at least as

 much as the earlier far more famous flick. Billie Burke plays the ditsy mother whose habit of hiring tramps as chauffeurs has left the family

 destitute of silver. An early scene has the family eating breakfast using kitchen utensils. She received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for

 the role. Despite the "forgotten men" as servants/love interests plot device, this movie is derived from different source material, a 1926 play,

 "They All Want Something" and the first film incarnation of it, What a Man (1930).

 Brian Aherne plays Wade Rawlins a novelist who has a car accident on a fishing trip and stops at the Kilbourne mansion to use the telephone.

 Assuming he's a tramp looking for work, he is whisked away, protesting loudly, to be be suited up as the family's new chauffeur. One look at him

 in his work duds and heiress Jerry (Constance Bennett) is a goner. This is one of those moments where 1930s sensibilities are lost on me. While I

 think Aherne looks pretty tasty in his scruffy fishing outfit, shown above, chauffeur's uniforms always remind me a little too much of Berlin in

 1939. It hardly signifies what he wears because when a tramp who isn't really a tramp and an heiress are in the same movie together, it's a sure

 bet they're gonna wind up getting married.

 All the supporting cast are excellent including Bonita Granville as aspiring thespian/rich brat (territory that Virginia Wiedler had pretty well sown

 up in my book), Ann Dvorak as the chief rival for Rawlins' attention, Patsy Kelly as the sassy kitchen main and Alan Mowbray, as the family butler

 who quits at least once a day. This family is so screwball, even the dogs are funny, with names like "Down Boy" and "Off the Carpet" though sadly

 there are no wire-haired terriers present.


Metropolis****1/2   1927


 A futuristic look at the schism created in mankind as industrialization and technological advancement serves to alienate the

 humans from one another. People are divided into two groups: the thinkers--who make plans, yet don't know how to operate

 machinery, and the workers--who forward production without having any overview vision. Completely separate, neither group

 is complete; however, together they make a whole. When one man, a "thinker," dares to journey to the underground, where

 the workers 'slave away,' he's surprised at what he sees. 

Midnight Mary***1/2     1933



 While waiting for the jury to decide on her innocence in a murder trial, Mary Martin recalls her past to the court clerk: As a teenager, the orphaned

 Mary is falsely accused of theft and is sent to a house of corrections for three years. After her release, Mary and her friend Bunny fall in with Leo

 Darcy and his gang of thieves and become their unwitting accomplices in a robbery. When Mary realizes how Leo used her, she leaves him but is

 unable to find legitimate work. Broke and desperate, Mary eventually returns to Leo and, within two years, becomes his mistress and partner in crime.

 Then, one night while she and Bunny are setting up a robbery at a private gambling house, Mary is spotted by Tom Mannering, Jr., a "blue-blood"

 lawyer. Tom falls instantly in love with Mary and, when Leo and the gang become involved in a shootout with the police, helps her to escape. Although

 fully aware of Mary's involvement with Leo, Tom takes her to his nearby house and hides her from the police. Overwhelmed by Tom's kindness, Mary

 finally asks him to help her "go straight" and find honest work. With Tom's help, Mary enrolls in a secretarial school and is hired as a stenographer in

 his law firm. Determined to make her own way, Mary avoids Tom at work but, when Tom catches Tindle, the head clerk, accosting her after hours,

 she breaks down and confesses her love. Later that night, while she and Tom plan their future at a Chinese restaurant, Mary is recognized by a

 policeman who was present at the gambling house robbery. To save Tom's reputation, Mary tells him that she has been "playing him for a sucker,"

 and then gives herself up to the policeman. After refusing to implicate Leo, Mary is sent to prison, and a year later, Tom marries a socialite. Once

 free, Mary begins another fruitless search for work and is approached by Leo, who again offers her a place in his prospering gang. Mary returns to

 Leo and accepts his lavish gifts but is stunned when she runs into Tom in a nightclub. Suspicious of Mary's feelings for Tom, Leo threatens the

 unhappily married lawyer and, after a fight in the club, sends his henchmen to kill Tom. While Mary rushes to warn Tom about Leo, the henchmen

 mistakenly murder Tom's best friend. Although Mary pretends to be indifferent about Tom, Leo persists in his demand that he be killed and prepares

 to do the deed himself. To save Tom, Mary finally shoots and kills Leo and is arrested for murder. Back at the courthouse, Mary, who has said nothing

 about Tom during the trial, is found guilty. Just as the verdict is read, however, Tom bursts into the court and, after confessing his relationship to Mary,

 demands an immediate retrial. After Tom's wife sues him for divorce, Tom prepares to defend his beloved Mary in her new trial.

Mighty Aphrodite****1993



 A Greek chorus narrates and comments -- and OedipusJocastaTiresias, and Cassandra sometimes directly intervene -- in this

 modern fable.

 Sportswriter Lenny Weinrib (Woody Allen) is married to career-driven wife Amanda (Helena Bonham Carter). She wants a baby

 and, because she can't afford to get pregnant due to her job, she says they will adopt. Lenny is opposed to this, but as always

 Amanda has her way. They adopt a baby boy, whom they name Max. As the child grows up, it becomes clear he is highly

 intelligent. Lenny becomes obsessed with learning the identity of Max's biological parents. After great difficulty, Lenny finally

 locates his mother: prostitute and part-time porn star Linda Ash (Mira Sorvino). Lenny makes an "appointment" with her. At

 first, Linda appears to be a dumb blonde with a crude sense of humor, along with delusions of becoming an actress.

 Lenny doesn't sleep with her and urges her to stop being a prostitute. Linda becomes furious and throws him out.

 It takes a while for Lenny to befriend Linda, but then he begins her lifestyle makeover. Lenny also tricks her into telling him

 about the child she gave up for adoption. He persuades Linda to quit her profession and even bribes her violent pimp with

 basketball tickets to let Linda go. Lenny then sets Linda up with a boxer-turned-onion farmer Kevin (Michael Rappaport).

 It appears to be a perfect match, until Kevin discovers Linda's background and leaves her. Meanwhile, Amanda has been having

 an affair with her colleague Jerry (Peter Weller). Lenny finds out about it. Lenny and Linda console one another and sleep

 together. Lenny then reconciles with a guilt-ridden Amanda, realizing they are still in love. Linda makes one last attempt to

 win back farm boy Kevin. But as she drives back to the city, a helicopter drops out of the sky. Linda gives the pilot Don a lift

 and, before you know it, they end up getting married. The twist is that Linda is pregnant with Lenny's child. A year later,

 Lenny and Linda, with their individual children, meet in a toy store. They have each other's child, but they don't know it.

Mildred Pierce****     1945







Mildred Pierce won the Best Actress Academy Award for Joan Crawford. It also garnered nominations for
Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Eve Arden and Ann Blyth), Cinematography (Ernest Haller),
Screenplay (Ranald MacDougall). 

It also won the National Board of Review Best Actress Award for Joan Crawford.

The film was chosen in 1996 to be one of the motion pictures preserved on the National Film Registry at
the Library of Congress.

Critics Corner: MILDRED PIERCE 

Mildred Pierce was one of 1945's most talked-about movies and a top hit for Warner Brothers, bringing
in about $5 million. 

"Joan Crawford is playing a most troubled lady, and giving a sincere and generally effective
characterization of same, in the new drama of James M. Cain origin, Mildred Pierce. It is a tribute to Miss
Crawford's art that Mildred comes through as well as she does." - Thomas Pryor, The New York Times,

"Miss Crawford is very intense and restrained in the title role. She plays with studied under-emphasis a
doting mother who spoils her monstrous daughter so badly that the latter tries to steal her second husband
away from her." - Howard Barnes, The New York Herald Tribune, 1945. 

"The film is compelling, an apotheosis of Crawford's MGM Cinderellas in the dark disquiet of Warners' film
noir." - Ethan Mordden, Movie Star: A Look at the Women Who Made Hollywood (St. Martin¿ Press, 1983). 

"Miss Crawford's heavy breathing was certified as acting when she won an Academy Award for her
performance here." - Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies (Henry Holt and Co., 1982). 

"For the first time, despite Crawford's brooding glamour, the woman on the screen is the woman in the
movie house. Mildred Pierce is significant because of the straight-faced but patronizing view of this
woman's definition of a good life. In hindsight, it becomes a piece of social criticism - more subtle than
Warners - or director Michael Curtiz recognized, I suspect." - David Thomson, America in the Dark (William
Morrow and Co., 1977).

"Everything about Mildred Pierce is first-rate, from stellar production values to Curtiz's marvelously
paced direction, which refuses to allow sentiment to rule the story. The MacDougall script, adapted from
Cain's terse novel, is adult and literate, with plenty of sharp dialogue. The Curtiz string-pulling is greatly
aided by Grot's imposing sets, Haller's moody photography and Steiner's haunting score. Bravely cresting
the waves of disaster is a mature Crawford in a real tour de force, defying the industry to write her off as
washed up. She's matched every slap of the way by Blyth, here giving the performance of her career. The
support in Mildred is, without exception, expertly handled. Scott is an exceptionally attractive snake and
Arden turned in a definitive job as Crawford's wisecracking pal. Two peak scenes among aficionados of
Saint Joan: Veda smacks Mildred; Mildred calls the police. Unforgettable." - TV Guide Online.


The Millerson Case***1/2    1947

VIDEO...not available


 Psychiatrist Dr. Robert Ordway, known as the "crime doctor" because of his interest in criminology, leaves for a long-awaited vacation of hunting and

 fishing in the rural community of Brook Falls. Upon arriving there, Ordway learns from Jud Rookstool, the local storekeeper, about a mysterious

 malaise nicknamed the "summer complaint" that has proved fatal to several of the townsfolk. After Rookstool takes Ordway to the home of Doc Sam

 Millerson, where Ordway has rented a room for his stay, Millerson, an ignorant country doctor who practices folk remedies, expresses his hostility to

 modern medicine techniques. When Ward Beechy, the town barber, becomes the next victim of the "summer complaint," the police come to quarantine

 Brook Falls for typhoid fever, and Dr. Wickersham, the county health official, and Mort Crowell, the county prosecutor, convince Ordway to help them

 fight the epidemic. While studying some blood samples from the three most recent casualties, Ordway discovers that Ward's blood contains no trace

 of the typhoid bacterium, but does contain elements that suggest poisoning. When an analysis of some bitters consumed by Ward indicates the

 presence of poison, Crowell discovers that only two people had recently purchased poison from the local pharmacy: Millerson and Ezra Minnich, an

 illiterate exterminator. Ward had recently rejected Millerson's medical care in favor of the county health department, leading Wickersham to believe

 that may have provided Doc with a motive for murder. While Wickersham questions Millerson, Ordway interviews Ward's wife and learns that her

 husband was a womanizer who had affairs with both Rookstool's wife Eadie and Minnich's wife Ella. After an unseen assailant fires a rifle at Crowell,

 Minnich identifies Millerson as the shooter, but Ordway discounts his testimony because he knows that Minnich blames Millerson for his son Bije's

 retardation. The quarantine is ended just in time for Brook Falls's summer festival, and Ordway, hoping to expose Crowell's assailant, offers prizes

 for the shooting contest. After the contest, Millerson is handed a note by Myra Minnich, Minnich's young daughter, directing him to a meeting in the

 woods. Soon after he disappears into the trees, Millerson is shot in the back and killed. When Bije claims that he saw Rookstool discard the murder

 weapon, Sheriff Akers arrests Rookstool for murder. Believing Rookstool to be innocent, Ordway visits the Minnich house and learns from little Myra

 that she wrote the note for her illiterate father. When Ezra offers Ordway a glass of poisoned cider, Ordway accuses him of murdering Ward because

 of Ward's affair with Ella. After Ezra attacks Ordway, Myra runs crying to town to summon the sheriff. Accompanied by Crowell, the sheriff runs to the

 Minnich house, arriving just as Minnich is about to bash Ordway with a shovel. After the sheriff arrests Minnich, Ordway explains that Minnich killed

 Millerson because he was afraid that the doctor would remember his inquiry about how much poison it would take to kill a man, thus linking him to

 Ward's murder.

Mine Own Executioner****     1947




London psychiatrist Burgess Meredith takes on the case of schizophrenic ex-POW Kieron Moore. So long as Meredith is

 diligent in his approach, Moore shows signs of improvement, and a lessening of his more violent tendencies. But the

 moment Meredith takes too much for granted, Moore goes off the deep end, murdering his wife and committing suicide.

 Brought up on malpractice charges, Meredith is saved by the testimony of his loyal physician-friend John Laurie, though for

 a time the psychiatrist's own mental condition is as fragile as that of his late patient. While Burgess Meredith was fond of

 noting that he had to leave Hollywood for England to find a worthwhile film role, Mine Own Executioner suffered from a bout 

of Hollywood-style interference in delineating the shady background of its protagonist, which might have clarified several

 confusing plot points. Still, the film has a lot of "guts," especially for a late-1940s effort. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi 

Miracle Worker, The****     1962





 In 1887 Annie Sullivan arrives in Tuscumbia, Alabama, to undertake the seemingly impossible task of teaching deaf, blind, 7-year-old Helen

 Keller "language" through the sense of touch. Blind herself as a child and hardened by both her early years in institutions and the death of her

 younger, crippled brother, Annie realizes that if Helen is to be helped she must be removed from the pampering influence of her mother and the

 shouting domination of her father. Though Annie succeeds in getting the family to allow her 2 weeks alone with Helen in a small garden house on

 the Keller property, the high-spirited and strong-willed child opposes her at every turn. At the end of the 2 weeks, however, Helen has learned to

 dress herself, eat with a fork, and understand the alphabet of touch. She is still unable, however, to comprehend that the words she spells are

 names for the objects she touches. Annie asks for another week alone with Helen, but the parents, seeing the progress that has been made, insist

 on bringing the child back into the household. There, she attempts to revert to her former willful savagery, but Annie again opposes her. Following

 an outburst at the dining room table, Annie drags the child to the pump on the front lawn and forces her to refill a pitcher from which she spilled the

 water. As the water pours over her hands, the sudden realization that what she feels is w-a-t-e-r dawns on the child, and she grasps Annie's hand

 and spells out the word. Wildly excited, Helen races about spelling the name of everything she touches--pump, tree, porch, bell, mother, father.

 Finally, Annie identifies herself by spelling out "teacher."

Mockery****    1927



 There is hunger in Siberia during the Russian Civil War. Dim-witted peasant Sergei is searching corpses for food. He meets a

 mysterious young woman looking for the town of Novokursk. She asks Sergei to tell anyone they might meet that he is her

 husband. They find an abandoned house where they can rest... but a stranger is hiding inside. Sergei washes the woman's feet

 and prepares a bed for her. The stranger reveals himself and is soon joined by cossacks; they do not believe that the woman is a

 peasant's wife. They beat Sergei but he does not betray her. The two are rescued by White cavalry. The woman is in fact the

 Countess Alexandrova. In Novokursk, the countess stays with the rich Gaidaroff family. When Sergei leaves hospital, he goes to

 see his "friend". The countess begrudgingly provides a job in the household. Sergei is exposed to the revolutionary talk of Ivan, a

 servant. When the Whites leave town to counter an attack, the Reds are free to act... Written by David Steele

Modern Times*****     1936




Modern Times is often hailed as one of Chaplin's greatest achievements, and it remains one of his most popular films. French philosophers Jean-Paul 

SartreSimone de Beauvoir andMaurice Merlau-Ponty named their journal, Les Temps modernes, after it.[4] The iconic depiction of Chaplin working 

frantically to keep up with an assembly line inspired later comedy routines including Disney's Der Fuehrer's Face (Donald Duck alternately 

assemblingartillery shells and saluting portraits of Adolf Hitler) and an episode of I Love Lucy titled "Job Switching" (Lucy and Ethel trying to keep 

up with an ever-increasing volume of chocolate candies, eventually stuffing them in their mouths, hats, and blouses). This was Chaplin's first overtly 

political-themed film, and its unflattering portrayal of industrial society generated controversy in some quarters upon its initial release.

The film exhibits notable similarities to a 1931 French film directed by René Clair entitled À nous la liberté (Liberty for Us) — the assembly line 

sequence is a clear instance. The German film company Tobis Film sued Chaplin following the film's release to no avail. They sued again after World 

War II (considered revenge for Chaplin's later anti-Nazi statements in The Great Dictator).[5] This time, theysettled with Chaplin out of court. À nous 

la liberté director Clair was an outspoken admirer of Chaplin, was flattered by the notion that the film icon might imitate him, deeply embarrassed 

that Tobis Film would sue Chaplin and was never part of the case.

The film did attract criticism for being almost completely silent, despite the movie industry having long since embraced the talking picture. Chaplin 

famously feared that the mystery and romanticism of the tramp character would be ruined if he spoke, and feared it would alienate his fans in 

non-English speaking territories. His future films, however, would be fully fledged "talkies" – although without the character of the Little Tramp.

The closing sequence...possibly the most cherished in film

 Goddard left an imprint on film with this performance

Mona Lisa Smile****    2003




 Katherine Watson, an Oakland State University Ph.D. student, is hired as an Art History instructor at Wellesley

 College for the 1953/54 school year. She is not an obvious choice as Wellesley is an exclusive upper crust

 institution where its faculty, students and alumni generally look down upon "State" universities. Katherine

 quickly learns that her paper credentials do affect how her students treat her. She also learns that the students

 are book smart, but do not know how to think for themselves. Their parents and the school administration

 oster a predetermined path in life for the girls, namely to stick to traditional mores and thoughts, with the

 primary goal of marrying into a good family. There are pockets of free thinking among faculty and the students,

 but those thoughts and associated actions are generally quashed by the overall tone of the school. Katherine

 decides to instill into her students her own beliefs of what is important in learning. Will the students

 and administration allow Katherine to be contrary to the prescribed thought? Written by Huggo  


Moon is Blue, The***1/2    1953




 This is the story of a chaste young TV-commercial actress (Maggie McNamara) who is romanced by a playboy architect (William Holden). Despite all sorts

 of temptations, the girl refuses the architect's invitation to become his mistress, holding out for marriage or nothing. Meanwhile, middle-aged rake David Niven

 tries to move in on the girl himself, with an equal lack of success. So why was this harmless little comedy so controversial? It seems that director Otto

 Preminger decided to film the play as written, retaining such words as "virgin," "seduce," and "mistress" in the script. The antediluvian Motion Picture Production

 Code refused to approve the film so long as those naughty words remained in the dialogue; thus, Preminger released the picture minus the Code's seal of

 approval. Rather than hurt the film's chances at the box office, Preminger's bold move resulted in a major financial success -- not to mention the beginning of

 the end for the ancient, wheezy Production Code. However, in the meantime, troubles piled up; the Jersey City Municipal Court -- at the hands of Secaucus'

 Justice George King -- fined Alfred Manfredonia, manager of the Stanley Theatre, 100 dollars for screening the film (declaring him guilty of violating a city

 ordinance), and a ban was imposed on the picture by the Maryland State Board of Motion Picture Censors. While The New York Times' Bosley Crowther

 dismissed the accusations of prurience, he blithely observed, "The Moon Is Blue is not outstanding, either as a romance or as a film...at times, it gets awfully

 tedious...Its charm...will depend on how much one delights in its choice of words." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi



Mr. Smith Goes to Washington****   1939





 The governor of an unnamed western state, Hubert "Happy" Hopper (Guy Kibbee), has to pick a replacement for recently deceased U.S. Senator Sam Foley.

 His corrupt political boss, Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold), pressures Hopper to choose his handpicked stooge, while popular committees want a

 reformer. The governor's children want him to select Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), the head of the Boy Rangers. Unable to make up his mind between

 Taylor's stooge and the reformer, Hopper decides to flip a coin. When it lands on edge – and next to a newspaper story on one of Smith's accomplishments

 – he chooses Smith, calculating that his wholesome image will please the people while his naïveté will make him easy to manipulate.

 Smith is taken under the wing of the publicly esteemed, but secretly crooked, Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains), who was Smith's late father's oldest and

 best friend, and he develops an immediate attraction to the senator's daughter, Susan (Astrid Allwyn). 

 The unforgiving Washington press quickly labels Smith a bumpkin, with no business being a senator. Paine, to keep Smith busy, suggests he propose a bill.

 Smith comes up with legislation that would authorize a federal government loan to buy some land in his home state for a national boys' camp, to be paid back

 by youngsters across America. Donations pour in immediately. However, the proposed campsite is already part of a dam-building graft scheme included in a

 Public Works bill framed by the Taylor political machine and supported by Senator Paine. Unwilling to crucify the worshipful Smith so that their graft plan will

 go through, Paine tells Taylor he wants out, but Taylor reminds him that Paine is in power primarily through Taylor's influence. Through Paine, the

 machine accuses Smith of trying to profit from his bill by producing fraudulent evidence that Smith owns the land in question. Smith is too shocked by Paine's

 betrayal to defend himself, and runs away. However, Smith's chief of staff, Clarissa Saunders (Jean Arthur), has come to believe in him, and talks him

 into launching a filibuster to postpone the Works bill and prove his innocence on the Senate floor just before the vote to expel him. While Smith talks non-stop,

 his constituents try to rally around him, but the entrenched opposition is too powerful, and all attempts are crushed. Due to influence of the Taylor

 "machine", on his orders, newspapers and radio stations in Smith's home state refuse to report what Smith has to say and even twist the facts against the

 Senator. An effort by the Boy Rangers to spread the news results in vicious attacks on the children by Taylor's minions. Although all hope seems lost, the

 senators begin to pay attention as Smith approaches utter exhaustion. Paine has one last card up his sleeve: he brings in bins of letters and telegrams from

 Smith's home state from people demanding his expulsion. Nearly broken by the news, Smith finds a small ray of hope in a friendly smile from the President of

 the Senate (Harry Carey). Smith vows to press on until people believe him, but immediately collapses in a faint. Overcome with guilt, Paine leaves the Senate

 chamber and attempts to kill himself with a gun. When he is stopped, he bursts back into the Senate chamber, loudly confesses to the whole scheme, and

 affirms Smith's innocence. Order in the chamber completely breaks down as cheering people rush onto the Senate floor and Smith's supporters hug each other.

 The President of the Senate calls for order a few times but eventually gives up, sitting back in his chair. 

Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone***1/2     1950

 This film was more fascinating as well as enjoyable. It was a collage of Marx Brothers, Ma and Pa Kettle, The Thin Man and Miss

 Marple...more believable than the Marx Brothers, more ridiculous than Ma and Pa Kettle, more outrageous and far less

 sexy than the Thin Man and more calamitous than Miss Marple. The comic relationship between James Whitmore and Marjorie

 Main works far better than one would ever expect. We see an almost mesmorizing serious of murders and apparent coincidences

 with everyone blindly walking through the events.




 In their never-ending efforts to create a movie series to match the success of "The Thin Man," MGM came up with the fast-paced programmer

 Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone. Based on characters created by Craig Rice, the film stars James Whitmore as lawyer and part-time sleuth John J. Malone

 (this character had previously appeared in several other films, as well as the radio series The Amazing Mr. Malone). In his efforts to track down

 an embezzler, Mr. Malone boards a train heading for New York. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hattie O'Malley (Marjorie Main), a raucous widow from Montana, is also

 travelling to New York to claim her prize money from a radio contest. During the journey eastward, the man whom Malone is seeking ends up

 dead. Thanks to Mrs. O'Malley's well-intentioned interference, Malone ends up being accused of murder. How this mismatched pair manages to solve the

 mystery and save their own hides is good for several laughs. Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone didn't result in a series, though James Whitmore and

 Marjorie Main make a surprisingly copacetic screen team. 

Monster***1/2     2003





Model-turned-actress Charlize Theron leaves her glamorous image behind for this gritty drama, in which she plays a disturbed prostitute

 who becomes a serial killer. Aileen Wuornos (Theron) was a woman who survived a brutal and abusive childhood in Michigan to

 become a thick-skinned but emotionally damaged adult. Homeless most of her life, Wuornos subsisted by working as a street prostitute

; later, when she was in Florida, down to her last five dollars and pondering suicide, she stopped into a bar for a beer. There, Aileen met

 Selby Wall (Christina Ricci), a woman in her early twenties who had been sent to live with relatives after her Christian parents became

 aware of her lesbian lifestyle. Selby is immediately attracted to Aileen, and while Aileen tells Selby she's never been in a lesbian

 relationship, she soon finds herself equally infatuated with her. Selby runs away from her family and moves into a cheap hotel with

 Aileen, who initially pays the bills by hooking. However, as their money runs low and Aileen finds herself unable to land a regular job,

 tensions mount between the two. One night, after a john attacks her, Aileen pulls a gun and kills the man. Although her first murder can

 be categorized as self-defense, Aileen's loathing for the men who pay her for sex becomes so extreme that she begins killing her

 customers regardless of their behavior. Meanwhile, Selby slowly becomes aware of the full extent of her lover's instability and the bloody

 consequences of her actions. Monster was inspired by the true story of Aileen Wuornos, whose life and death was chronicled in two

 documentaries by filmmaker Nick Broomfield, Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, and Aileen: The Life and Death of a Serial

 Killer. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi 


Monty Python and the Holy Grail****   1975




 Monty Python and the Holy Grail loosely follows the legend of King Arthur. Arthur (Chapman) along with his squire, Patsy (Gilliam), recruits his Knights of

 the Round Table, including Sir Bedevere the Wise (Jones), Sir Lancelot the Brave (Cleese), Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-As-Sir-Lancelot (Idle) and

 Sir Galahad the Pure (Palin). On the way Arthur battles the Black Knight (Cleese) and despite all his limbs being chopped off, the Black Knight continues to try

 fighting. They are instructed by God (represented by an animated photograph of cricket figure W. G. Grace[1]) to seek out the Holy Grail Their first stop

 is a French-controlled castle where they believe the Grail is being held. After being insulted in mangled Franglais, they try to sneak into the castle in a

 Trojan Rabbit, but this plan goes wrong when they forget to hide in it and it is subsequently catapulted back at them. Arthur decides that they should

 separate and seek the Grail. Concurrently, in a manner of breaking the fourth wall, a modern-day historian is describing the Arthurian legend as for a

 television program. He is suddenly killed by a knight on horseback, triggering a police investigation.

 Each of the Knights encounter various perils on their quest. Arthur and Bedevere attempt to satisfy the strange requests of the dreaded Knights who say Ni.

 Sir Robin narrowly avoids a fight with the Three-Headed Giant by running away while the heads are arguing. Sir Lancelot accidentally assaults a wedding party

 at Swamp Castle believing them to be holding a lady against her will. Galahad is led by a Grail-shaped beacon to Castle Anthrax, populated only by women who

 wish to perform sexual favours for him, but is "rescued" by Lancelot, though slightly against his will. The Knights regroup and travel to see Tim the Enchanter,

 who points them to caves where the location of the Grail is written on the walls. To enter the caves, the group is forced to defeat the Rabbit of Caerbannog

 using the Holy Hand Grenade of  Antioch.

 With their final destination known, the group travels to its last peril, the Bridge of Death, where each  Knight is forced to answer three questions by the

 bridge-keeper before they can cross the Gorge of Eternal Peril; Sirs Robin and Galahad fail and are thrown into a chasm below, before Arthur tricks the

 bridge-keeper. Lancelot becomes separated from Arthur and Bedevere, and is later shown being arrested  by police for the murder of the historian. Arthur

 and Bedevere travel to the Grail castle, which turns out  to be occupied by the same French  forces who insulted and drove them off earlier. They amass a

 large  army to prepare to storm the castle, but just as they begin to charge, the police arrive on the scene.  Arthur and Bedevere are arrested, and one of the

 officers knocks the film out of the camera, putting an abrupt end to the film.

Mortal Storm***1/2     1940  




In a small German university town in 1933, a birthday celebration for Professor Viktor Roth is interrupted by the news that Hitler has been appointed

 chancellor. Roth, who is non-Aryan, his daughter Freya, and Martin Breitner, a family friend who loves Freya, are apprehensive about Hitler's rise, but

 Roth's stepsons, Otto and Erich Von Rohn, and Fritz Marberg, Freya's new fiancé, are enthusiastic. The town's Nazis soon begin to inflict violence on

 their ideological adversaries and on non-Aryans, and Roth's stepsons leave his house. Freya breaks with Fritz and comes to return Martin's love, but

 the lovers are separated when Martin, who has helped a non-Aryan friend leave the country, is stranded in Austria. For refusing to acknowledge a

 difference between Aryan and non-Aryan blood, Roth loses his teaching position and is interned in a concentration camp, and his family's frantic

 efforts to locate him result only in a brief visit before his mysterious death. On their way to Austria, Freya and Mrs. Roth are detained for carrying

 Roth's manuscript, and Freya is forced to stay in Germany indefinitely. Martin, however, returns for Freya and as the couple make their way through

 a difficult mountain pass, they are in sight of Austria when a Nazi patrol, led by Fritz, locates them. The lovers reach the border, but Freya dies shortly

 after from a gunshot wound incurred during the chase.


Mother Wore Tights***1/2     1947





In 1900, Myrtle McKinley graduates from high school in Oakland, California. Her grandparents, with whom she lives, expect her to attend business

 college in San Francisco but she joins the chorus at a vaudeville theater instead. There Myrtle meets singer/dancer Frank Burt, who eventually invites

 her to form a double act with him. They are successful together and Myrtle begins to pressure Frank to ask her to marry him. At one point, she leaves

 Frank to work in an act with another singer, but returns to him when she discovers she is unsuccessful without him. Frank finally proposes marriage

 and, as husband and wife, they tour the country in vaudeville until Myrtle becomes pregnant. She retires from the act while Frank continues with new

 partners. After Myrtle goes back to live with her grandmother, she gives birth to a girl, whom she names Iris, and three years later has another

 daughter, Mikie. A few years pass and Myrtle receives a telegram from Frank urging her to come back to the act as a replacement for a partner who

 has left to go into the movies. Myrtle resumes touring and the act becomes even more successful. Meanwhile, Iris and Mikie stay with Grandma and

 attend school, but miss their parents, whom they see only occasionally. One Christmas, when the family is separated, Grandma sends the girls to visit

 their parents in Boston, where they are appearing, and they enjoy the camaradarie of the entire vaudeville troupe. One summer Frank and Myrtle go

 on vacation with the girls at an expensive, but stuffy, summer resort filled mostly with elderly guests. However, the family soon livens the place up

 and Iris meets a young man, Bob Clarkman, from a society family. Later, Myrtle persuades Frank to enroll the girls in an exclusive boarding school

 and Iris continues to see Bob. However, she becomes embarrassed by her parents' profession and is horrified when they announce that they have

 arranged a booking in the town where the school is located. After Mikie chastises Iris for being ashamed of their parents, Iris tells them that she loves

 them but that they are so different from her friends' parents. Myrtle arranges with the school's principal to have all of Iris' classmates attend their local

 appearance. Their elegant act scores a big hit with everyone and Iris realizes that she has been foolish. Later, Iris becomes an honor student in the

 school of music, and at her graduation ceremony, which is attended by Frank, Myrtle and Mikie, she performs one of the songs her parents have long

 featured in their act. Iris eventually marries Bob and enters show business. Mikie also marries and every Sunday takes her children to visit their


Mount Pleasant***1/2    2006




    Local writer-director Ross Weber thoughtfully takes on a number of tough subjects—including marital breakdown, prostitution, drug addiction, and urban development

—in this confidently handled character study of three couples on a messy collision course in a downmarket Vancouver neighbourhood. The distinctively shot film initially

 focuses on one struggling couple, Doug and Sarah (Benjamin Ratner and Camille Sullivan), who eventually cross paths with troubled yuppies Stephen and Anne (Shawn

 Doyle and Kelly Rowan, both terrific). What connects them is Nadia and Nick (Katie Boland and Tygh Runyan), a teen hooker and her junkie boyfriend, also dwelling in the

 marginal Mount Pleasant area. The trouble gets under way when the first couple’s young daughter gets poked by a needle left in the yard by some junkie. Doug then spots

 slick real-estate agent Stephen canoodling with Nadia in his driveway and ends up posting a letter to the man’s wife, who is already in denial.

 The wealthier couple’s communication problems weigh heavily on their daughter, Megan (Genevieve Buechner), a 13-year-old retreating into goth cynicism. Intriguingly,

 Doyle and Buechner get many of the tale’s most touching scenes, with dad and daughter’s relationship too complex to allow simple moralizing. Just a tad more fleshing-out

 would have helped viewers understand the rage fuelling Ratner’s tightly wound character, though, and the self-destructive obsessions of Runyan’s character, who keeps

 stealing power tools in the neighbourhood, with dire consequences. But, on the whole, the decision to understate the material works to the movie’s advantage.

 The film’s cool look, courtesy of veteran lensman A. Jonathan Benny, helps sustain a sober tone, which resists shading over into melodrama. Although Pleasant isn’t without

 dark humour, thanks to Weber’s steady hand in this assured follow-up to his wholly improvised No More Monkeys Jumpin’ on the Bed. His script leaves questions open,

 but the actors provide some answers and offer enough variety to relieve the mounting, and sometimes unpleasant, tension.


Miss Marple Series, featuring Margaret Rutherford

     Murder at the Gallop***   1963

 How could you not like this film, with Margaret Rutherford as the hilarious Miss Marple.

 Her sleuthing is sophisticated despite the humour. Bud Tingwell is effective as the

 always perturbed detective, a victim of, but invariably benefiting from Miss Marples






 Miss Marple and Mr Stringer are out soliciting donations for a charity. When they visit Mr Enderby, a rich and eccentric recluse, he appears at the top of the

 staircase and tumbles down, apparently the victim of a fatal heart attack. However, knowing that Enderby had a pathological fear of cats, Miss Marple

 becomes suspicious when she finds one in the house. When she goes to Inspector Craddock, he is skeptical. Undeterred, Miss Marple eavesdrops when the

 family gather for the reading of the will. Each of the four heirs receives an equal share of the estate. His sister Cora declares that she believes he was murdered.

 The next day, when Miss Marple goes to see her, she finds Cora dead, murdered by a hatpin in the back. Cora's companion of many years, timid Miss Milchrest,

 can provide little information. Miss Marple decides to take a "holiday" at the Gallop Hotel/riding school, as it is run by Cora's nephew Hector Enderby

 (Robert Morley) and the other two heirs are staying there. One of them, art expert George Crossfield, discovers the identity of the murderer, but is locked in

 a paddock with an excitable horse and perishes. An attempt is made to do away with Miss Marple herself, but is foiled by the intended victim (without her

 even realizing it). By this point, Miss Marple knows the identity and motive of the killer, but has no definitive proof. She  therefore lays a trap, pretending to

 have a heart attack at a dance at the hotel (while doing the Twist with Stringer). The police doctor has her placed in a room by herself, declaring it too

 dangerous to move her until morning. During the night, the criminal makes one last attempt to silence her, but Miss Marple is ready. The killer is revealed to

 be Miss Milchrest. She had been after Cora's seemingly worthless painting.


     Murder, She Said***   1961

 The first presentation of Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple. Stringer Davis

 (her companion in real life) plays the accommodating Mr. Stringer. James 

 Robertson-Justice is perfect as the stuffy foil to the sleuth.





 Dumpy, dough-faced British comedienne Margaret Rutherford was not precisely the physical type Agatha Christie had in mind for the prim, tweedish sleuth

 Miss Marple. Still, Rutherford's first "Marple" movie Murder, She Said did so well at the box office that there was no question she would continue appearing in

 the role in the inevitable sequels. In this initial effort, Marple witnesses a murder being committed on a speeding train. She informs the authorities, but they

 find no evidence of a killing and write off Marple as a doddering eccentric. Determined to prove that she's not imagining things, Marple investigates the

 area around the stretch of railroad track where the murder occurred. She winds up on the estate of James Robertson-Justice, disguised as a maid. Many family

 skeletons are exhumed by Miss Marple before she proves that she indeed saw a murder and pinpoints the guilty party. Stringer Davis, Margaret Rutherford's

 husband, makes his first appearance as Miss Marple's chaste companion Mr. Stringer. Based on Agatha Christie's 4:50 From Paddington, Murder, She Said was

 released in some markets as Meet Miss Marple.

 ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Murders in the Rue Morgue****    1932






Having missed the opportunity to direct Frankenstein for Universal, Robert Florey was offered Murders in the Rue Morgue as a

 consolation, whereupon he transformed a pedestrian property into a minor classic. Owing more to Cabinet of Dr. Caligari than to

 Edgar Allen Poe, the film stars Bela Lugosi as Doctor Mirakle (accent on the second syllable), a carnival sideshow entertainer who

 doubles as a mad scientist. Kidnapping prostitutes off the Paris streets, Mirakle endeavors to mix their blood with that of his pet gorilla.

 His experiments will forever be doomed to failure, however, until he is able to obtain the blood of a virgin -- and that's where Camille

 L'Espanye (Sidney Fox) comes into the picture. When Mirakle's monkey kidnaps Camille and murders her mother, suspicion

 immediately falls upon the girl's sweetheart, starving artist Pierre Dupin (Leon Waycoff, later known as Leon Ames). But by using

 the deductive skills displayed in the original story by Poe's master detective C. Auguste Dupin, our hero not only proves his innocence,

 but rescues the helpless heroine from Mirakle's clutches. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Mulholland Drive***1/2    2001






 "What are you doing, we don't stop here," says Rita (Laura Elena Harring) as her chauffer-driven limousine winds down

 Mulholland Drive, a boulevard of broken dreams that mainlines into the center of a sleepless Los Angeles. Rita is unknown to

 herself, a seemingly clueless participant in David Lynch's latest mirror-cracked vision of the world. As difficult as Mulholland

 Drive may appear at first glance, every trajectory in this metaverse is the equivalent of dreams spiraling into REM sleep. Roads

 and hallways fire action potentials spontaneously and continuously while sex organs engorge with blood and waking lives become

 the vital magnifying glasses through which sense is made of runaway chaos. Mulholland Drive isn't a movie about dreams, it is

 a dream (or, at least, until the blue box is opened)—a Hollywood horror story spun by a frustrated actress yet to cross into

 consciousness. Lynch's narrative is carefully configured, painstakingly difficult to decipher, but boldly obvious should one

 embrace its dream logic.

 The film's opening car crash could wake the dead, or the dreamer's of the dream. In its smoky wake, an amnesiac brunette is

 transformed into a femme fatale who makes her way into a random apartment complex and into a Hollywood actress's shower.

 Meanwhile, an oblivious Betty (Naomi Watts) arrives in Los Angeles, her naïveté deliriously emphasized by Angelo Badalamenti's

 score. An elderly couple bids her a cautionary farewell before they transform into what could be ghoulish representations of

 rabid movie fans. They seem to mock Betty's imminent fall from grace, and as such a final visit by the couple becomes a

 frightening "I told you so" of sorts to the film's frustrated dreamer. Making her way to her aunt's apartment, Betty stumbles

 across the voluptuous woman in her shower. A poster of Gilda is reflected from a bathroom mirror as the amnesiac adopts

 more than Hayworth's name. She is both Rita and the legacy of film noir. Betty helps Rita reclaim her lost identity but not

 without risk: Betty's own psyche seems to shatter the closer the pair moves to solving the puzzle of the wayward beauty.

 A waitress's nametag leads Rita to believe that her name is Diane while a call to one Diane Selwyn curiously confounds their

 recognizance mission. "It's strange to be calling yourself," says Rita. An answering message picks up; it's not her voice,

 although Rita seems to know the woman. The bizarre jitterbug freak show that prefaces Mulholland Drive gives way to a

 hovering camera crawl over the writhing body of a person cocooned in bed sheets: this is the film's panicked dreamer on the

 brink of waking life. Betty and Rita may be Diane's fantasy pawns but they are also Lynch's. The director's dream factory

 —where a certain patriarchal rule is the only absolute and crucial decision-making hinges on the taste of espresso—is an

 efficient, interconnected network of mob rule. If Hollywood is a chessboard then Lynch's women are its pawns.

 A dwarf, Mr. Roque (Michael J. Anderson), rules the casting couch from a secret room. If he is God (there's no denying that a

 certain screwball religiosity underscores Lynch's work), then the Cowboy (Monty Montgomery) is his Holy Ghost. This messenger

 is sent by Roque to inform a cocky director, Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux), that one Camilla Rhodes (Melissa George) is to be

 cast as the lead player in the director's old-school musical throwback. If the film's opening jitterbug is any indication,

 Mulholland Drive could very well be as simple as a  struggling actress's nervous post-audition dream world. By film's end, the

 full force of the film's REM sleep seems to suggest that the "part" went to a brunette who was loved by Diane but didn't love her

 in return. Inside Diane Selwyn's apartment, Rita and Betty discover the woman's corpse. Rita loses hope, sports a blond wig

 and Mulholland Drive's women suddenly become one (Persona anyone?). In dreams, Diane seemingly seeks comfort by turning

 the power tables around. Welcome to Tinseltown, where women are so desperate for success that they slowly become

 unrecognizable from each other and themselves.

 Mulholland Drive's final quarter represents Diane's waking life. If seen as such, her dream world becomes fascinatingly sorted

 and processed, with a mysterious blue box (not to mention its elusive key) indicating the passage from sleep into reality. Betty

 disappears, Rita opens the box, and the film's details become clear: Diane is the struggling actress living in the great Camilla's

 shadow; she is victim to her muted desire, shunned upon by a powerful elite whose roles she recasts in dreams. Diane is both

 tragic and pitiful, projecting her deepest fears and desires into a hypnotic netherworld of wishful half-consciousness, a place

 where she is able to control the Camilla/Rita paradox. Details delicately vary within Diane's waking life and Betty's imaginary

 world, showcasing Lynch's profound understanding of the rhythm of dreams: Diane may pay big dollar for a black book that

 brings her closer to Camilla but Rita, in reality, is the one who is rich. Rage fabulously transforms itself into auto-erotic

 pleasure when Diane's final pathetic orgasm becomes the logical accompaniment to the sexual engorgements that often

 accompany REM sleep. Mulholland Drive is a haunting, selfish masterpiece that literalizes the theory of surrealism as perpetual

 dream state.

Murder, My Sweet***1/2   1944




 Dazed and blinded, private detective Philip Marlowe is interrogated by police lieutenant Randall about his involvement in

 several murders. In response to Randall's accusations, Marlowe relates the following story: Upon returning to his office late one

 evening, Marlowe is visited by the hulking Moose Malone, who asks him to find Velma Valento, the redhead he has not seen for

 the eight years he has been in prison. Moose insists that Marlowe accompany him to Florian's, the nightclub where Velma

 worked. When no one at the club remembers Velma, Marlowe visits Jessie Florian, who took over the bar after her husband's

 death, but the drunken Jessie denies knowing Velma until Marlowe finds her photo hidden in a filing cabinet. Jessie then says

 that Velma is dead, and when Marlowe informs her that Moose is out of jail, she becomes hysterical. Marlowe leaves the house,

 but watches from the window as the suddenly sober Jessie makes an urgent phone call. Upon returning to his office, Marlowe

 finds pretty boy Lindsay Marriott waiting for him. Marriott hires the detective to accompany him to a secluded canyon while he

 delivers the ransom for some stolen jewels. As Marlowe waits in the canyon for the jewel thieves, he is knocked unconscious

 and awakens to find a young woman standing over him. After the woman runs away, Marlowe discovers Marriott's dead body

 in the back seat of the car. Marlowe's story of his canyon escapade is greeted with disbelief by Randall, who warns him to stay

 away from Jules Amthor, a psychic advisor whom the police are investigating. Marlowe then returns to his office, where he

 finds a woman reporter waiting to question him about a stolen jade necklace. Seeing through the young woman's ruse, Marlowe

 forces her to admit that she is Ann Grayle, and that her stepmother, Helen, is the owner of the necklace. At Marlowe's

insistence, Ann drives him to the Grayle estate, where he meets the elderly Mr. Grayle and his young attractive wife Helen,

 who explains that the necklace, valued at $100,000, was stolen from her at gunpoint. After Helen admits that Marriott, her

 friend, agreed to ransom the necklace for her, Marlowe asks her if Marriott knew Amthor and she replies that Marriott was

 Amthor's patient. Feeling responsible for Marriott's death, Marlowe agrees to search for the necklace and Marriott's killers

 when Amthor pays a surprise visit to the Grayles. After warning Amthor that the police are on his trail, Marlowe returns home.

 Soon after, Helen visits him with a retainer fee and invites him for a drink at the Coconut Beach Club. When Helen excuses

 herself to powder her nose, Marlowe sees Ann, who offers to hire him away from Helen. Marlowe leaves Ann's table to talk to

 Moose at the bar, and when he returns, Ann is gone, but has left her phone number and address behind. Following Amthor's

 instructions, Moose takes Marlowe to the psychic's apartment, where the detective accuses Amthor of being involved in

 blackmail schemes with Marriott. When Amthor learns that Marlowe doesn't have the necklace, he knocks him unconscious.

 Three days later, Marlowe wakes up in a locked room, drugged and barely able to walk. After breaking out of the room,

Marlowe stumbles down the stairs to the office of Dr. Sonderborg, Amthor's associate, and after seizing the doctor's gun,

 Marlowe leaves the house. On the street, the woozy Marlowe meets Moose, who offers to help him. Moose quickly puts Marlowe

 in a cab and disappears after the detective tells him that Amthor is involved with Velma. At Ann's apartment, Marlowe

 announces that he has recognized her as the woman in the canyon. Just as Ann admits that she found Marlowe's address on

 Marriott's body, Randall arrives and Marlowe tells him about Sonderborg and the jade necklace. After Randall leaves, Ann and

 Marlowe drive to the Grayle house and find Mr. Grayle, upset by the news that, unknown to him, Marriott had been his tenant

 at his beach house. Racked by doubts about his wife's fidelity, Grayle asks Marlowe to close the case. Determined to clear his

 own name, Marlowe and Ann drive to the beach house. There, Marlowe kisses Ann and she accuses him of romancing her for 

 information. Helen interrupts their argument, and after Ann accuses her of being a gold digger, she storms out of the house,

 leaving her stepmother alone with Marlowe. Trying to win the detective's sympathy, Helen confides that Amthor had learned

 of her infidelities when she was his patient and was demanding the necklace in exchange for his silence. Helen also states that

 she suspects Amthor of killing Marriott for double-crossing him by stealing the necklace. Helen kisses Marlowe and asks his help 

 in eliminating Amthor. When the detective agrees, Helen instructs him to lure Amthor to the beach house the next evening

 with the promise of the necklace. After leaving Helen, Marlowe drives to Amthor's apartment and finds the doctor dead, his

 neck snapped by a big man. As Marlowe examines a signed photo of Velma on Amthor's desk, Moose appears and says that the

 woman in the photo is not his Velma. Promising to reunite Moose with Velma, Marlowe takes him to the beach house the

 following night and tells him to wait outside. Inside, Marlowe tells Helen that Amthor is on his way, and she shows him the

 necklace, explaining that she faked the holdup. In response, Marlowe calls her Velma and accuses her of murdering Marriott

 when he balked at following her orders to kill him. Marlowe also conjectures that Mrs. Florian notified Helen that Moose had

 hired Marlowe to find her, and that Helen panicked out of fear of going to jail for a crime that she committed with Moose.

 Marlowe concludes that she would have killed him, too, if Ann hadn't interrupted. At that moment, Helen pulls a gun on

 Marlowe and disarms him, and Ann and Mr. Grayle burst into the house. Just as Helen is about to kill Marlowe, Grayle, unable

 to bear the thought of losing her, shoots her. Drawn by the sound of gunshots, Moose breaks in and finds Helen, his Velma,

 dead. In a rage, Moose lunges at Grayle, who shoots in self-defense. Marlowe jumps in front of the gun as it explodes and

 blinds him. Although he hears the shots, Marlowe is unable to see who is hit. Back at the police station, Randall frees Marlowe

 and tells him that Ann has coroborated his story and that Moose and Grayle are both dead. Marlowe hands Randall the necklace

 and is guided out of the police station, talking about his affection for Ann. Unseen by the blinded Marlowe, Ann follows him

 and climbs into his cab. When he smells her perfume, they kiss. 

Mutiny on the Bounty***1/2   1935




 In Portsmouth Harbour, England, in December of 1787, preparations are made to sail the H.M.S. Bounty to Tahiti, where her 

 crew will collect breadfruit trees and import them as a cheap source of food for slave camps in the West Indies. Before sailing,

 a press gang headed by Fletcher Christian, the ship's lieutenant, strongarms Thomas Ellison, William Muspratt, Quintal and

 others into the King's Navy for the two-year voyage. Roger Byam, a descendent of a long line of decorated naval officers, is

 made a midshipman on the Bounty and is commissioned by Sir Joseph Banks to help him research his Tahitian dictionary. As

 the ship is about to set sail, Ellison, who does not want to leave his wife and child, is caught trying to break ship. When

 Christian learns of Ellison's attempted desertion, he reasons with Ellison and gently persuades him to return and serve his

 country. Soon after boarding his ship, William Bligh, the Bounty's sadistic captain, orders his crew to witness a "flogging

 through the fleet," a brutal form of punishment in which court-martialed seamen are flogged in view of every ship in the fleet.

 Although the master-at-arms pronounces the court-martialed seaman dead as he approaches the Bounty , Bligh insists that he

 proceed with the flogging. Later, Bligh, who respects only one law, the "law of fear," and tolerates no dissent among his crew,

 upbraids Christian when he complains about the ship's indecent food supply. Once at sea, Byam is severly punished by Bligh

 after he and another seaman are caught engaging in a minor fistfight, and is ordered to stand perched on top of the masthead

 during a storm. Christian tries to end Byam's cruel punishment by calling him down, but Bligh immediately sends him back.

 Later, Bligh keel-hauls a sailor because he asked for water to treat a wound. When Bligh accuses his crew of stealing cheese

 from the ship, seaman McCoy informs him that he witnessed Maggs, Bligh's clerk, remove the cheese in Portsmouth under his

 superior's orders. McCoy is soon punished for exposing the captain's scheme. Desperate for food, seaman Thomas Burkitt and

 others decide to risk their rationed dinner and use it as bait for shark fishing. They succeed in capturing a shark, but when

 Maggs insists on a share of the catch, a quarrel ensues and Bligh intercedes. Christian accuses Bligh of starving his crew,

 and Bligh calls Christian a "mutinous dog." Just as Christian is about to strike Bligh, land is spotted on the horizon and the crew

 makes preparations for landing. Once in Tahiti, Bligh is greeted by island chief Hitihiti, an old friend of the King's Navy who

 greeted Captain Cook's ship when Bligh was a sailing master on it ten years earlier. Following the polite exchange of salutations,

 Bligh puts his crew to work harvesting the breadfruit trees. When Bligh denies Christian shore leave, the kind-hearted Hitihiti

 manages to secure his freedom and then introduces the lieutenant to his granddaughter Maimiti. Christian falls in love with

 Maimiti, and before he leaves Tahiti, he instructs Byam to tell her that he will come back for her someday. At sea once again,

 Bligh orders the flogging of four seamen who attempted to desert and insists that the ship's ailing surgeon witness the

 punishment. The brutality proves too much for the physician, and he collapses and dies. Christian blames Bligh for the doctor's

 death and decides to put an end to Bligh's ruthless tyranny by leading the crew in a mutiny. Christian takes over control of the

 ship by forcing Bligh and his allies into the ship's launch and casting them out to sea. He then turns the ship around and sails it

 back to Tahiti, where he marries Maimiti. Christian then abandons Byam and other seamen who were loyal to Bligh and were

 not loaded onto the ship's launch with the captain. As Christian leaves Tahiti to sail the Bounty to a new island, another British

 ship, the Pandora , is seen approaching on the horizon. The Pandora lands in Tahiti carrying the rescued Bligh, who quicky

 arrests Byam and the others for mutiny, despite their sworn loyalty to him. Determined to find Christian and see him "hanging

 from a yardarm," Bligh navigates the Pandora into heavy seas and breaks the ship on a reef. Bligh, Byam and other survivors

 are rescued and then taken to England. Meanwhile, Christian sails the Bounty to Pitcairn Island, where he sets the ship ablaze

 and settles his men to begin life anew. Five years pass and Byam, who has been convicted of high treason, receives a pardon

 when the King learns of Bligh's cruel disciplinary practices. Byam is soon restored to the Royal Navy, and is assigned to its

 flagship, which is set to fight the French in the battle of Trafalgar and "sweep the seas for England."

Murphy's Romance***1/2   1985




 Emma Moriarty is a 33-year-old, divorced mother who moves to a rural Arizona town to make a living by training and boarding

 horses. She becomes friends with the town's druggist (pharmacist), Murphy Jones, but a romance between them seems unlikely

 due to Murphy's age and because Emma allows her ex-husband, Bobby Jack Moriarty, to move back in with her and their

 12-year-old son, Jake.

 Emma struggles to make ends meet, but is helped by Murphy, who boards his horse with her and urges others to do the same.

 A rivalry begins to develop between Murphy and her ex-husband, until one day another woman shows up with Bobby Jack's baby.

 As her ex leaves town, Emma asks Murphy for advice on what to do with her life. It is then that Murphy reveals to her two

 things of importance -- his true feelings and his age.

Music and Lyrics***1/2   2007





 King of the romcom, Hugh Grant plays Alex Fletcher, a washed-up 1980′s pop star who is reduced to playing state fairs and high

 school reunion dances. What’s worse is, his fame is burning out. Even the state fairs are starting to cut down his dates. As

 a last opportunity, Fletcher is given the chance to write and record a duet with pop dive Cora Corman. He just needs to produce

 a hit song by the end of the week, and Cora needs to approve. Enter Drew Barrymore as Sophie Fisher, the quirky plant lady

 who has a flair for words. Fletcher convinces a reluctant Fisher to collaborate on the song together.

 Fletcher’s Pop Goes My Heart perfectly lampoons the classic music videos of the 1980′s. It’s use of checkerboard backgrounds,

 cheesy transitions, split-screens and horrible musical scene reenactments (think Lou Albano in the old Cyndi Lauper music

 videos) is the highlight of the film.

 Grant is well versed at charm, and Barrymore is comfortable as the quirky girl next door. However, the chemistry is servilely

 lacking between the two, making their romantic relationship anything but believable. And in a Romantic comedy, that could

 be deadly, but somehow it isn’t. Newcomer Haley Bennett perfectly captures the current state of sex symbol pop music.

 Music and Lyrics is refreshingly funny, yet comfortably familiar. It might not be your new favorite movie, but it will certainly

 entertain your Valentines Day date. While the film will never be a “dinner”, it is a fun “desert”.

 PS: The movie ends with an en-genius pop video epilogue which is such a nice clever touch.

My Cousin Vinny***   1992




When sweet Northern college kid Bill (Ralph Macchio) and his buddy Stan (Mitchell Whitfield) are picked up and thrown into the

 slammer in a hick Southern town, at first it looks like no big deal. Then they are informed that they are accused of murder.

 Penniless and without a single friend in the area, Bill decides to call his goofy cousin Vinny (Joe Pesci), who has somehow

 recently become a lawyer. Full of family feeling and bravado, Vinny, who has never tried a criminal case in his short life as a

 lawyer, rides south to defend his trusting relative. He's an expert motormouth and street-level logician from the wilder reaches

 of metropolitan New York, complete with a thick accent and the attitude to go with it. Otherwise, he's much less well qualified

 than your average public defender. When he arrives on the scene with his equally brassy girlfriend Lisa (Marisa Tomei), Bill is

 fairly sure he's going to be sentenced to death. His buddy Stan is even less confident of his legal representative, if that's

 possible, and the first thing Vinny has to do is to regain the consent of his clients to represent them. The local judge doesn't

 seem any too sympathetic to Vinny's verbal shenanigans either, and even the most optimistic supporter of the boys would begin

 to have doubts at this point -- and Vinny's no exception. With the insistent moral encouragement of his girlfriend, Vinny

 somehow accomplishes the impossible and wins grudging (if very irritated) respect from all concerned, for once studying

 as if his life depended on it. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi 

My Darling Clementine****   1946





 Perhaps the best orchestrated western of all time, courtesy of the modest Mr. Ford. No western figure inspired more cinematic

 lore than the indomitable Wyatt Earp, and Fonda, back from WWII, gives a definitive portrayal of the famous frontier lawman.

 Earp and his brothers (Bond, Holt and Don Garner) have driven their cattle to the outskirts of rough-and-tumble Tombstone,

 Arizona. Coming upon their campsite is Old Man Clanton (Brennan), who offers the Earps a cut-rate price for their herd. Wyatt

 rejects the offer and heads into town, leaving his youngest brother as watchman. In Tombstone Earp manages to rid the town

 of a bothersome drunken Indian, and the grateful townsfolk offer him the job of sheriff. He doesn't accept the position until he

 discovers the Clantons have stolen his cattle and killed his brother. Then it's time for the remaining Earps to strap on their

 guns, shore up Wyatt's mysterious, alcoholic friend Doc Holliday (Mature), and head for the OK Corral.

 Dramatic and brooding, with shadows at night and blinding light at day under a sky that never ends, MY DARLING CLEMENTINE

 doesn't follow history exactly, but Ford is much more concerned with the myth of the West. The scene where Wyatt brings

 harmony to Tombstone by eliminating the disruptive element--notably, a Native American--is almost a prototypical expression

 of the genre's obsession with the formation of community. The most famous scene in this regard, however, is the dance at the

 church-founding social, where Wyatt and Clementine (Downs) walk down the street like it was a wedding aisle. Fonda was rarely

 better, his Midwest accent and measured delivery perfect for the part. His chair-balancing makes wonderful use of his lanky

 body, and his deliberately stiff but gracefully folksy dance with Clementine is a brilliant bit of acting. The often underrated

 Mature is also outstanding, acting out the tormented Holliday with amazing passion and restraint. Darnell's luscious noir

 persona is effective, even if she is too glamorized and seems about as Latina as "My Wild Irish Rose." Downs, meanwhile,

 cast as a refined parallel to Darnell, isn't much of an actress, but then this isn't much of a part; schoolteacher Clementine is

 less a character than the embodiment of civilization from the East, and the ingenue fills the bill admirably. Finally, Brennan,

 downright chilling as Clanton, will make you forget every rerun of "The Real McCoys" you ever watched.

 As with other Ford films, there is no sustained score; Newman merely provides haunting little variations of the title song on a

 harmonica, and other western ballads on fiddles or guitars as needed. The script is lean and tight, and MacDonald's startling

 photography, under the Master's guidance, provides graphics so sweeping that the whole of the West seems bounded by the


 Many other films about Wyatt Earp have been made: LAW AND ORDER with Walter Huston; two films named FRONTIER

 MARSHAL with George O'Brien and Randolph Scott in the role; TOMBSTONE, THE TOWN TOO TOUGH TO DIE with Richard Dix;

 WICHITA with Joel McCrea; GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL with Burt Lancaster; HOUR OF THE GUN with James Garner; and

 DOC with Harris Yulin. This, however, is the definitive rendering, if only for the sequence at the church dance. If that scene

 doesn't either give you chills or make you cry, see your doctor immediately.

My Man Godfrey****    1940




 My Man Godfrey (1936) is one of the 1930's most delightful, classic screwball comedies. It was directed by Gregory La Cava

 for Universal and is now considered the definitive screwball comedy, with its social commentary on life during the 30s. The

 film, filled with marvelous character actors (Alice Brady, Eugene Pallette, Gail Patrick, and Mischa Auer), resonated with

 Depression era audiences for its statements on morality and class. [On a side note, the real-life divorced couple of Powell an

 Lombard were married previous to the film's making, from 1931 to 1933.] The screenplay by Morrie Ryskind (a co-screenwriter

 for the Marx Bros.' A Night at the Opera (1935)) and Eric Hatch was based on Hatch's own short novel 1011 Fifth Avenue.

 The film displays the mad-cap personalities of a wildly rich, eccentric family. One of its members - a flighty socialite/heiress,

 finds a down-and-out "forgotten man" tramp in a hobo colony during a scavenger hunt, and hires him as the family's butler.

 The bum teaches them the realities of life, ultimately regenerates their confused, scattered lives, and reverses the nobility

 of rich and poor.

 The entertaining film was both a commercial and critical success, with six Academy Award nominations (but no wins),

 including Best Actor (William Powell), Best Actress (Carole Lombard with her sole Oscar nomination), Best Supporting Actor

 (Mischa Auer), Best Supporting Actress (Alice Brady), Best Director, and Best Screenplay. However, it set a milestone as the

 first film to receive nominations in all four acting categories and it remains one of the few films with that distinction in

 addition to not being nominated for Best Picture.

 In the same year, another William Powell film - The Great Ziegfeld - won the Best Picture and Best Actress awards, and

 Powell also appeared in Libeled Lady (1936) and After the Thin Man (1936). The film was remade in 1957 with David Niven

 as the "forgotten man" and June Allyson (in her next-to-last film) as the Lombard character.

Mystery Street***1/2   1950




 Vivian Heldon, a "B-girl" at the Grass Skirt café in Boston, lives in a boardinghouse operated by Mrs. Smerrling. Desperate for 

 rent money, Vivian telephones James Joshua Harkley, a married man with whom she had an affair, and demands that he meet 

 her at the Grass Skirt. While waiting for Harkley, Vivian meets Henry Shanway, a drunk and despondent young man whose wife

 has just lost their baby in childbirth. When Harkley fails to show up, Vivian offers to drive Henry home and steals his car. She

 then arranges a meeting with Harkley at Lakeman's Hollow, on Cape Cod. When Vivian demands money from Harkley, he

 shoots her and tries to cover up the murder by sending her car into a pond. Three months later, the skeletal remains of Vivian's

 body are found on a Cape Cod beach. Police Lieutenant Peter Moralas and his associate, Detective Tim Sharkey, begin an

 investigation into the murder by visiting the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard University. There they meet forensics

 expert Dr. McAdoo, who determines that the victim was a female in her mid-twenties who died sometime in late May. While

 searching through photographs of all the missing persons in the area, Peter and Tim discover Vivian's photograph, and realize

 that her facial features match the contours of the victim's skull. To learn more about Vivian's disappearance, Peter visits Mrs.

 Smerrling's boardinghouse, where they find items in Vivian's suitcase that clearly establish her as the murder victim. When

 Mrs. Smerrling learns that Vivian was murdered near Hyannis, she tracks down Harkley through a Hyannis telephone number

 scrawled on the wall near the hallway telephone. Mrs. Smerrling then visits Harkley and makes an unsuccessful attempt to

 extort money from him in exchange for her silence. Before leaving, however, Mrs. Smerrling manages to secretly steal Harkley's

 gun. Meanwhile, Peter visits a number of Vivian's former associates, including a bartender, a mortician and a physician. Peter

 later visits Henry when it is determined that he owned the car in which Vivian was last seen. Henry denies any association with

 Vivian, but a tattoo artist friend of Vivian's later identifies Henry as the man who escorted Vivian home from the Grass Skirt

 on the night she was killed. Peter charges Henry with the strangulation murder of Vivian, but complications arise in the case

 when McAdoo determines that Vivian died of a gunshot wound. Realizing that his case against Henry can only proceed if the

 pistol used to kill Vivian is found, Peter begins questioning other people who may have associated with Vivian. A check of the

 boardinghouse telephone bill leads Peter to Harkley, who denies having known Vivian and watches nervously as Peter searches

 his office. Later, Harkley visits Mrs. Smerrling, accuses her of stealing his pistol and offers her $500 in exchange for the gun.

 When Mrs. Smerrling demands $20,000, Harkley forces her to tell him where it is hidden and then knocks her unconscious with

 a candlestick. Moments later, Peter arrives at the boardinghouse and sees a man fleeing, but he is unable to catch him. A

 breakthrough in the case comes when Peter finds a train station baggage check receipt hidden in Mrs. Smerrling's bird cage.

 Peter and Tim race to the train station, and arrive in time to catch Harkley trying to flee with Mrs. Smerrling's suitcase.

 Harkley is then arrested and charged with Vivian's murder, and Henry is cleared of any wrongdoing.

Mystic River****   2003       




 In a time where it seems like every other movie is either based on some comic book or features a few hundred special effects

 shots, Clint Eastwood continues to champion the style of old Hollywood, when movies were more about telling a story than

 showcasing a spectacle and a lot of undeserving hype. With his latest effort, an uncompromised and gut-wrenching film called

 Mystic River, Eastwood is at the top of his game and proves you don't need a big budget to make a movie of epic proportions.

 Unlike most of the films he's directed, Eastwood does not play a character in Mystic River, and there's no reason he should

 considering he already has so much talent to work with.

 Sean Penn gives one of the finest and most complex performances of his career, playing a father with a shady past

 whose daughter is needlessly murdered. Kevin Bacon plays a detective investigating the case, and Tim Robbins is a guy who

 lives nearby and is battling some serious demons of his own, but what ties the three together is that they all grew up in the

 same neighborhood and were profoundly changed by a single, horrific event. So what does the past have to do with a film

 centered around a murder? Well, everything and absolutely nothing at the same time.

 Based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, what makes Mystic River brilliant is how it gradually digs deeper into

 the story, revealing bits and pieces of information and taking us somewhere we would never anticipate in a million years. How

 these seemingly coincidental kernels of truth are relevant is unknown until it all culminates in a dramatic and truly disturbing

 finale. The tone of the film is so jarring because you never quite know who you can trust and what they've done and what their

 motives are, which is paralleled by the cold and relentless cinematography. Mystic River hits you in the mouth and never lets

 up, tying your stomach in knots along the way. There are several opportunities in which Eastwood could back off a little, to

 give us a chance to relax and take a breath, but he doesn't stop pressing until the credits role, as if to say, "these are the

 facts, so live with it." It's really, really brutal.


Naked City, The****     1948 






 “There are eight million stories in the Naked City,” as the narrator immortally states at the close of this breathtakingly vivid film—and this is

 one of them. Master noir craftsman Jules Dassin and newspaperman-cum-producer Mark Hellinger’s dazzling police procedural, The 

Naked City, was shot entirely on location in New York. As influenced by Italian neorealism as American crime fiction, this double Academy 

Award winner remains a benchmark for naturalism in noir, living and breathing in the promises and perils of the Big Apple, from its lowest 

depths to its highest skyscrapers.

Nanook of the North***1/2     1922





Nanook of the North is regarded as the first significant nonfiction feature, made in the days before the term "documentary" had even been

 coined. Filmmaker Robert Flaherty had lived among the Eskimos in Canada for many years as a prospector and explorer, and he had

 shot some footage of them on an informal basis before he decided to make a more formal record of their daily lives. Financing was

 provided by Revillion Freres, a French fur company with an outpost on the shores of Hudson Bay. Filming took place between August

 1920, and August 1921, mostly on the Ungava Peninsula of Hudson Bay. Flaherty employed two recently developed Akeley gyroscope

 cameras which required minimum lubrication; this allowed him to tilt and pan for certain shots even in cold weather. He also set up

 equipment to develop and print his footage on location and show it in a makeshift theater to his subjects. Rather than simply record

 events as they happened, Flaherty staged scenes -- fishing, hunting, building an igloo -- to carry along his narrative. The film's

 tremendous success confirmed Flaherty's status as a first-rate storyteller and keen observer of man's fragile relationship with the

 harshest environmental conditions. (In a sadly appropriate footnote, Nanook, the subject of the film, died of starvation not long after the

 film's release.) ~ Tom Wiener, Rovi 

Narrow Margin, The****     1952





The Narrow Margin is generally considered a "model" B picture; some film buffs go farther than that, labelling this

 1952 RKO suspenser as the best low-budget studio production ever made. Nail-hard detective Walter Brown

 (Charles McGraw) is assigned to protect gangster's widow Mrs. Neall (Marie Windsor) as she rides the train from

 Chicago to LA, en route to testifying at a grand jury. There's no love lost between the ill-tempered Neall and Brown,

 especially since Brown's partner (Don Beddoe) was killed by mobsters while shielding Neall from harm. On the

 train, Brown makes the acquaintance of a likeable woman (Jacqueline White) and her playful young son. He also

 comes in contact with a rather secretive fat man (Paul Maxey), who may well be a mob assassin. Not long before

 the train pulls into California, Brown is approached by small-time crook (Peter Brocco), who offers the detective a

 great deal of money if he'll permit Neall to be silenced. Brown appears to be tempted, but this is only a smokescreen

 to throw the crooks off the trail. The Narrow Margin was remade (and unnecessarily padded and attenuated) in

 1990. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi 

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation***1/2  1989 




Third in the "National Lampoon" series about the Griswold family. In this sequel, the Griswolds must deal with a holiday with 

their in-laws. 

Network****   1976






Media madness reigns supreme in screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky's scathing satire about the uses and abuses of network 

television. But while Chayefsky's and director Sidney Lumet's take on television may seem quaint in the age of "reality TV" and 

Jerry Springer's talk-show fisticuffs, it's every bit as potent now as it was when the film was released in 1976. And because 

Chayefsky was one of the greatest of all dramatists, his Oscar-winning script about the ratings frenzy at the cost of cultural 

integrity is a showcase for powerhouse acting by Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway and Beatrice Straight (who each won Oscars), and 

Oscar nominee William Holden in one of his finest roles. Finch plays a veteran network anchorman who's been fired because of 

low ratings. His character's response is to announce he'll kill himself on live television two weeks hence. What follows, along 

with skyrocketing ratings, is the anchorman's descent into insanity, during which he fervently rages against the medium that 

made him a celebrity. Dunaway plays the frigid, ratings-obsessed producer who pursues success with cold-blooded zeal; Holden 

is the married executive who tries to thaw her out during his own seething midlife crisis. Through it all, Chayefsky (via Finch) 

urges the viewer to repeat the now-famous mantra "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore!" to reclaim our 

humanity from the medium that threatens to steal it away. --Jeff Shannon

New Orleans***     1947





In 1917, in the Storyville district of New Orleans, Louisiana, Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong plays ragtime music with his band in 

the basement of the Orpheum cabaret. The cabaret, which also operates as a casino, is owned by Nick Duquesne, the "King of 

Basin Street." One of Nick's patrons, a wealthy widow named Mrs. Rutledge Smith, from Baltimore, Maryland, is joined in New 

Orleans by her daughter Miralee, a classically trained singer. Miralee's black maid, Endie, who is Satchmo's girl friend, 

introduces Miralee to the blues, and takes her to a "jam" session featuring Satchmo and his band. Nick discourages Miralee's 

love of ragtime because high society considers it immoral, and orders Grace Voiselle, a debutante, who is in love with Nick, to 

take her home. Jealous of Nick's attention toward Miralee, Grace calls Mrs. Smith and warns her to keep Miralee away from 

Nick. Mrs. Smith, who earlier had lost ten thousand dollars at the Orpheum, wins it back in roulette and offers it to Nick on the 

condition that he discourage Miralee's involvement with him. After a month of successfully keeping Miralee out of Basin Street, 

Nick determines to show her its sordid side to teach her a lesson. At dawn, assuring Nick she has no illusions about him, Miralee 

kisses him, and they are seen by her mother. Mrs. Smith appeals to her friend, Colonel McArdle, and he has an article printed 

about the dangers facing unchaperoned debutantes visiting Storyville. He also suggests to the Public Safety Commissioner that 

he condemn the district. One night, Nick orders Grace, who is drunk, to leave the club, and she is hit by a car and killed. The 

incident causes a grand jury to order that Storyville be evacuated by the United States Navy. Satchmo and his friends pack up 

and leave, and Nick makes plans to move to Chicago. Miralee begs Nick to take her with him, and in order to spare her feelings, 

he accepts an expensive bracelet from Mrs. Smith to make it look as if he never loved Miralee. He returns the bracelet to Henry 

Ferber, Miralee's music teacher, to give to Mrs. Smith, but she does not tell Miralee. Determined to give up the gambling 

business in favor of spreading jazz music across the nation, Nick opens the Club Orleans in Chicago, with Satchmo and piano 

player Meade Lux Lewis as performers of Chicago style blues. Meanwhile, Miralee becomes a famous opera singer in Europe. 

Eventually, Satchmo and Endie are married, and he and his band tour Europe. In Paris, Satchmo sees Miralee and tells her that 

Nick returned the bracelet and has been heartbroken ever since. He also tells her that Nick gave up gambling, has a new job as 

a music agent, and has been busy trying to introduce New York to the blues. Finally, at a concert at Symphony Hall, Miralee 

surprises Nick by including Woody Herman and his band and Satchmo and his band in the program. For an encore, Miralee sings 

Endie's old favorite, "New Orleans," for Nick.

New Waterford Girl****   1999




Allan Moyle, the director of "New Waterford Girl" captures the right atmosphere of a small town in Nova Scotia. He shows us how

the people live in this isolated area. The life of the small village, with all its local characters, is presented by Mr. Moyle in a way 

that affects us into feeling for these people in that barren place.

The best thing going for this movie is the brilliant performance by Liane Balaban. She plays Moonie Pottie, a girl that wants to 

break away from the boredom of the town and go away to pursue her ambition. This young actress' face registers a lot of 

emotions going on inside Moonie's mind. She knows the only chance for her to get out of the mediocrity in which she lives is to

become pregnant because invariably, those fallen girls are sent away to have their children.

Luckily for Moonie, she finds a friend in Lou, the rebel American teen ager who arrives from the Bronx to hide away with her 

mother and young brother. This is the only part that doesn't make much sense, but it's a diversion to the story that otherwise 

would be too confined to just the locals. Lou gives Moonie a confidence that the latter one didn't know she had. Moonie grows

up helped by her friendship with the tomboyish Lou, who is too wise for her young age. Tara Spencer-Nairn does a wonderful job 

in recreating Lou Benzoa.

The film takes a while to click with the viewer, but it will stay in his mind for days after having seen it. The Pottie family is 

presided by Francis and Cookie. As played by Nicholas Campbell and the always excellent Mary Walsh, this family shows an inner 

strength, even at times of great crisis.

Andrew McCarthy is also seen briefly as the teacher that wants a better life for Moonie, who inspires her to break away from 

this small town. Cathy Moriarty plays, yet another, boxer's wife. She has nothing to do in the film. This small movie will charm 

those willing to take a trip guided by the sure direction of Allan Moyle.

Night and the City***1/2     1950





Jules Dassin's Night and the City opens with cheap grifter Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) running for his life through the streets of 

London. Harry wants to be big-time, and he does not care how he raises cash for his schemes. Like a junkie, he uses and steals from

 his girlfriend Mary (Gene Tierney), a singer at the Silver Fox, a seedy nightclub owned by the physically grotesque Phil Nosseross Francis

 L. Sullivan. Harry, who also works for Phil steering unsuspecting customers to the club, comes up with a plan to wrest control of

 professional wrestling from promoter and underworld kingpin Kristo (Herbert Lom) by manipulating Kristo through his father, retired

 wrestling great Gregorius (Stanislaus Zbyszko). For financial backing, Harry turns to Phil and Phil's wife Helen Googie Withers, both of

 whom give him the money, but only to further their own ends. When Gregorius is accidentally killed by his protege's upcoming opponent,

 Strangler (Mike Mazurki), and Phil realizes that Helen is leaving him for Harry, the scheme quickly unravels. Truly a glimpse of hell, Night

 and the City's distorted visuals and dark symbolism depict an underworld from which there is no escape and in which redemption comes

 at a very high price. ~ Steve Press, Rovi 



Night at the Opera, A***1/2     1935




 In A Night At the Opera, the Marx brothers help two young lovers to succeed in love as well as in the opera world. Otis B. Driftwood (Groucho Marx)

 is hired by widowed socialite hopeful Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont) to help her break into high society, but he instead alternately woos and

 insults her. At the last opera performance of the season in Italy, of Pagliacci, Otis meets Fiorello (Chico Marx), who is the best friend and manager 

 of Riccardo (Allan Jones), an opera singer who longs for his big break and who is in love with fellow opera singer Rosa (Kitty Carlisle). However,

 Riccardo's dreams are thwarted by the star of the opera, Lassparri (Walter Woolf King), an egotistical man who wants fame—and Rosa—for himself.

 Otis signs Riccardo to a contract, thinking he is signing Lassparri (because Fiorello said he was the manager of the best opera singer in the world,

 making Otis think Ricarrdo was Lassparii); Lassparri, meanwhile, is signed for the New York opera by the manager of the opera company, Herman

 Gottlieb (Sig Ruman). Although Riccardo and Fiorello are not allowed to accompany the troupe on their trip to New York, they manage to stow away

 on the ship, hiding in Otis's trunk, along with another of Fiorello's friends, Tomasso (Harpo Marx), a dresser who got fired by Lassparri (after he caught

 Tommaso wearing his costumes). In New York, to protect their identities, the three stowaways pretend to be three famous aviators. They are forced

 to make a speech, however, since Harpo is mute, he fails to do so, causing people to get suspicious. Tommaso's identity is quickly revealed when

 his fake beard falls off. They hide in Otis's apartment after escaping. Otis finds out from a newspaper that the stowaways are being pursued by the

 police for entering the country illegally. Otis ends up losing his position with the opera to Gottlieb. When they find out that Rosa has been fired for

 siding with Riccardo, the boys spring into action, sabotaging the opening night performance of Il Trovatore by throwing it into total chaos. With the

 police and Gottlieb after him, Tommaso turns off the lights. While the lights are off, Lassparri and Otis end up in a box.

 Tommaso pulls the box up before the lights turn on. Finding that Lassparri has disappeared, Gottlieb desperately asks Riccarrdo and Rosa to sing.

 As they finish singing, the box Otis and Lassparri are in drops to the ground. Lassparri tries to perform, only to be booed by the audience. Riccardo

 and Rosa once again sing. The film ends with Otis and Fiorello telling Gottlieb that because they signed the contract, they get ten percent each

 from the profit Ricarrdo and Rosa make from singing.


The famous stateroom scene

Night Must Fall****       1937



In a small English village, the police drag the river, searching for the body of Mrs. Shellbrook, who has been missing for several days. Meanwhile, at 

the home of Mrs. Bramson, a churlish, elderly woman who pretends to need a wheelchair, the maid Dora tells her mistress that her Irish boyfriend, 

Danny, works for Mrs. Shellbrook. Danny, who knows that Mrs. Bramson is a hypochondriac and only pretends to need a wheelchair, is very solicitous 

toward her. He tells her that she reminds him of his mother, then says that he loves Dora and would marry her if he had a better job. Mrs. Bramson's 

niece and companion, Olivia Grayne, is suspicious of Danny, but Mrs. Bramson stubbornly refuses to listen to her. Soon Mrs. Bramson's attorney, 

Justin Laurie, arrives to give Mrs. Bramson some money, and warns her not to keep much cash around the cottage, but she is unconcerned. 

Meanwhile, Justin, who is in love with Olivia, asks her to marry him, but she refuses because she yearns for something "romantic" to happen. After 

Justin leaves, Mrs. Bramson puts money into her safe and is secretly observed by Danny. A short time later, Danny purchases a scarf in the village 

and gives it to Mrs. Bramson, saying that it belonged to his mother. Olivia, who sees the price tag on the scarf, says nothing as she and Danny 

secretly eye each other, acknowledging their mutual attraction. Soon Dora discovers Mrs. Shellbrook's decapitated body. Though Olivia accuses 

Danny of the murder, he denies it and says that he merely fantasizes and pretends to be mysterious. Though she is still fascinated by him, Olivia is 

now certain that Danny is the murderer. Mrs. Bramson dismisses her niece's accusations because she has grown very found of the attentive Danny. 

When police inspector Belsize comes, he searches Danny's room and find a large, locked hatbox. He is just about to open it when Olivia impulsively 

grabs the box and says that it is hers. After Belsize leaves, Danny faints, and at dinner that night both he and Olivia are ill at ease. Olivia soon calls 

Justin and asks if she can stay with him, then begs Mrs. Bramson to come along, but she refuses. Even when the maids also leave the cottage, Mrs. 

Bramson feels safe enough to stay while Danny, who has cut the telephone wires, walks the maids part way to the village. Alone in her drawing room, 

Mrs. Bramson hears noises and becomes frightened. When she screams for Danny, he comes in and calms her down by giving her something to drink 

and lulling her to sleep. Then, when he is certain that she is asleep, he starts to smother her. She begins to wake up, but it is too late, and Danny kills 

her. He then robs the safe, after which Olivia returns and sees what has happened. She admits that she was attracted to him, but says that that is 

over. He threatens to kill her, too, to cover up his crimes, but just then the police, who were called by Justin when he could not reach Olivia by phone, 

arrive and arrest Danny. As he leaves, Danny says "I'll hang in the end, but they'll get their money's worth worth at the trial." Finally, as Danny is 

taken away, Justin and Olivia embrace.


Night of the Lepus**1/2    1972




Corny...yes. Amateurish at times yes. But why did it work then? Simple. It scared me. Very few movies, 

even those that claim to be frightening effect me one way or the other. But what made this film click 

was the depiction of the monster rabbits. They looked and seemed real, and the stampede sequences 

were brilliantly done. This movie makes me think of the Birds. After watching the Birds, seeing a flock 

of gulls makes you jump a mile. After seeing this film, if I had seen a ribbit running across the lawn 

outside, shivers would have run up my spine. The idea of these films is to make us think that a lot of the 

apparently innocent things out in our world could turn around and destroy us, especially if we tamper 

with them. An indirect environmental message to be sure. Or direct for that matter! The one major flaw 

was that the depiction of the humans after they hade been attacked, showed them lying there, covered 

in "ketchup" without one indentation or scratch on them. Maybe it would have been too gory any other 


 Yet another legendary bad movie my friends, because this is the story of how Doctor McCoy helped save the world from a herd of giant killer rabbits. 

 The film opens with scenes and narration about plagues of rabbits that destroyed parts of Australia and the American southwest. Some of the scenes

 are pretty funny, because you have a circle of men holding large sticks slowly closing in on frantic rabbits. You can safely assume that they were not 

 there to pet the bunnies. Anyway, this suddenly switches to scenes of a rabbit roundup filmed for the movie. The great thing about those is that all

 the rabbits, with their dark fur and plump bodies, are obviously domesticated ones. This is later explained away as a result of a fire that 

 destroyed a local rabbit farm and accidentally released them onto the prairie. Still, not exactly the sort of rabbits that flourish in the wild, prosperous

 though the children of El-Ahrairah may be. 

 Just a few minutes into the film we encounter the first casualty, which is Cole's horse. The poor animal breaks its leg in a rabbit hole. The rancher then

 puts the horse out of its misery with his rifle. What would have been smart is if Cole had dismounted and led his steed through the rabbit infested area.

 There are literally dozens of the furry critters crouched around big piles of dirt; the horse breaking its leg was no surprise. After his walk back to the

 house, Mr. Hillman resolves to call Eglin and see if there is some way to control the rabbits without resorting to poison. 

 Enter the Bennetts, who are entomologists. Despite the apparent mismatch of specialties, they are enlisted by Eglin to help address the rabbit problem.

 What do they use? An experimental DNA-altering serum supplied by another scientist. Holy cow! Poison is evil, but a little harmless genetic tampering

 sure is environmentally friendly. Amanda is distraught when daddy gives her favorite lab bunny an injection. She switches rabbits when the adults are not

 looking and takes the gene-seeded monster along with her to Hillman's ranch. There she runs afoul of Jackie, who yells that he hates rabbits. The young

 boy pulls the bunny away from Amanda, then lightly sets it down so it can dive down a nearby hole. 

 You know, I think that Cole could have handled his problem without poison if his son was less of a wuss. Give most country boys a .22 rifle and plenty of

 ammo and they will put a dent in the rabbit population for you. Also, this is yet another deadly chain of events that is set in motion by the actions of a

 researcher's kid. Scientists who work with anything living, including viruses and mysterious organisms from outer space, should be childless. It just makes

 sense. An indeterminate period of time passes before people start being killed by giant slow motion rabbits. They eat a refrigeration truck driver, along

 with the contents of his truck, and even a group of people at a picnic ground. Well, "eat" may be a misnomer. What we see is people smeared with thick

 red paste and their clothes ripped, but never anything else. Despite those large incisors,there are not even chunks missing out of the bodies. Heck,

 nobody is even scratched. I thought the rabbits were hungry. None of this should distract you from that fact that, mysteriously, the rabbits are

 carnivorous. None of the characters are surprised either; once they accept the idea that giant bunnies are loose the change to a meat diet is totally


 The rabbits made their den in an abandoned mine. This allows Mr. Hillman and the Bennetts to set dynamite and collapse the mine on them. Before

 that they do something colossally stupid: Roy and Cole venture into the mine to see and photograph exactly what is running loose (the mine exploration

 is when they discover the true furry face of unspeakable horror). Once they find the rabbits it is time to leave, quickly. A swarm of hopping mammals

 streams after the two men. Lucky for them that the rabbits are filmed in slow motion, otherwise they would probably have been caught and eaten. I

 know that the slow motion was used to try and convey a sense of mass, but it looks silly. The rabbits appear as ponderous as a hippopotamus, except

 when they attack. Then somebody wearing a dark-furred Easter Bunny suit takes over. Oh, like that helps me with not giggling. Okay, to get back on

 track. Roy and Cole dash out of the mine and the dynamite is detonated, burying many of the rabbits under tons of rock and soil. The end. Hah! Not even

 nearly. We are talking about rabbits. What nobody seems to think of is that rabbits can dig. The furry monstrosities dig their way out of the mine and

 conduct a reprisal raid against the Hillman ranch and a nearby town (population, about six). There is only one casualty (besides the horses) at Cole's place.

 He hikes to the nearby town to find assistance, but discovers the buildings are filled with a black, brooding presence. Inside each darkened edifice lurks

 a horror that mortal man was not meant to witness. Else, he might claw away the flesh from his skull trying to rid his diseased mind of the horrible image

 of: giant rabbits, sitting calmly. Cole, for his part, stumbles to a pay phone, calls Roy, and slowly says, "There are more of them damn rabbits." 

 Were I ever to go searching for Cthulhu, a tough old rancher would be the first addition to my party. Why do these things usually happen to frail old ladies

 or excitable cheerleaders? Perhaps demons have erupted from the ground in front of a cowboy, only to be clobbered with a shovel and then buried again

 before supper. With the startling news that the rabbits are out for blood, the humans are slow to organize a counterattack. Soon there are National

 Guard troops available to stem the furry tide, but the Lepus expeditionary force outmaneuvers the state militia. The town of Ajo is next in line for a

 butt-kicking as the rabbit Rommel leads his forces over a bridge to outflank the defenders. Gerry and Amanda, who, to avoid the media frenzy that was

 expected to surround the rabbits, had set out for yet another city in the Bennett's camper-equipped pickup, are also in harm's way. The truck gets stuck

 in deep sand at a remote turnoff. Roy is temporarily diverted in his quest to save Ajo from giant bunnies by the search and rescue mission for his family.

 Do not worry, the girls are fine. The plan to save Ajo is, however, of dubious value. Utilizing about a hundred civilian vehicles that were at a drive-in,

 the authorities plan to channel the rabbits into a narrow approach. With the cars' headlights on full, the Lepus invaders will be forced to assault directly

 into interlocking machinegun fire and a final protective line created by an electrified railroad track. There is some useless suspense attempted here with

 a freight train that must clear the track before the electricity can be diverted from the power grid, but it hardly matters. With a roar (well, as much of

 one as you might expect from bunnies), the Lepus charge. Those that are not machine-gunned or flamethrowered to death hit the tracks and die in

 agonizing pain as the electricity arcs and crackles. This is pretty funny, because it looks like some twisted version of "Apocalypse Now" with rabbits

 replacing people. When it is over all that remains is acres of burnt bunnies. That must smell AWFUL. 

 "Night of the Lepus" is flawed in many ways. It is entertaining, despite everything. This is because the movie is presented in a perfectly serious manner.

 They really wanted to scare or worry people with the possibility that huge rabbits could wreak havoc. I must admit that their true size is hard to ascertain.

 Sometimes it looks like they might be the size of a mastiff, but in the next scene the furry aberrations appear larger than a minivan. Nor does anyone

 ever explain why they turn carnivorous or what they were eating before the rampage. The amount of food a few hundred giant rabbits would consume is

 no small matter. I just know that, somewhere lost on the editing room floor, there is a scene with a farmer staring at a thousand acres of ravaged carrots

 and spinach and wondering, "What in the Hell is going on here?" What I really want to know is this: who was the scientist that provided the Bennetts with

 that serum? Was he working on a secret government weapon? Even Ronald Reagan would be proud of the idea to unleash a horde of meat-eating rabbits

 on Russia! Perhaps the mysterious scientist was a big guy, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, and the vial with the DNA serum had a label hat read "Experiment

 627." We will probably never know. 

Night of the Living Dead****   1968




While visiting their father's grave, a sister and brother, Barbara and Johnny, are attacked by a strange, disheveled man. 

Leaving the unconscious Johnny behind, Barbara flees to a nearby farmhouse and discovers a horribly mutilated corpse. 

Meanwhile, the strange man has been joined by several other ghoulish figures who are trying to help him break into the 

farmhouse. Suddenly, Ben, a young black salesman also seeking refuge, appears and fights his way past them into the house. 

While barricading the windows and doors, he explains to Barbara that a mutation resulting from radiation has caused the dead 

to arise and devour the living. Ben learns from a television report that fire frightens the ghouls and that they can be killed by a 

bullet or blow to the brain. Barbara and Ben then find that they are not alone in the farmhouse: in the basement are teen-aged 

couple Judy and Tom as well as married couple Helen and Harry and their young daughter, Karen. Unknown to Helen and Harry, 

Karen has been injured by the ghouls and is slowly acquiring their disease. Ben improvises a plan to help Tom and Judy escape; 

but they panic and die in a fire and are devoured by the zombies. The ghouls finally burst through the barricades, and Ben 

accidentally shoots Harry; Barbara is dragged away by her brother Johnny, who has become a ghoul; and Helen is murdered and 

eaten by her infected daughter. By morning, when the living have succeeded in suppressing the dead, only Ben has survived by 

barricading himself in the basement of the farmhouse. But he is mistaken for a ghoul and shot through the head when he bursts 

out to greet a posse sent to destroy the zombies.

Night World**** 1932



Night World is the closest I've come to spending a night inside a Prohibition era speakeasy. The tone is set from the opening credits which unwind accompanied by a rollicking jazz tune that then gives over to a few somber notes warning us that what follows may not be all fun and games. From a showgirl's window we fall over New York's bright and blinking lights hawking a good time under the darkness of night. A seedier side is shown tucked in the city's back alleys as we see a prostitute being picked up; a man turns to us, shocked, as gun fire rages and puts him down; the Salvation Army marches past; a child prays; into the clubs we go and find a young woman so hopped up on illegal hooch that she collapses into a ready man's arms; another girl shows plenty of leg under a table while her foot nudges a bottle over to her fellow; finally, we settle on the outside of Happy's Club and prepare for our close-up view of the vice.


No Blade of Grass***1/2      1970




Environmental pollution turns a normally harmless virus into an uncontrollable plague that is deadly to crops, and famine spreads throughout Britain. 

Biochemist Roger Burnham convinces his friend John Custance that Custance and his family must leave London immediately. On the way to the 

well-stocked farm owned by Custance's brother, they stop to steal firearms from a supermarket. The shopkeeper tries to stop them, but hoodlum 

Andrew Pirrie, who with his wife, Clara, has joined the party, shoots the man, and the group escape. Later, Custance's party is attacked by a band of 

motorcyclists who steal their cars and supplies and rape Custance's wife, Ann, and their daughter Mary. When they finally camp for the night, Clara 

attempts to seduce John, but the outraged Pirrie shoots her. Continuing on foot the next morning, they join another escaping group and finally reach 

the farm. John's brother David is unwilling to permit such a large number of people on his farm, however, and John, unwilling to abandon the rest of 

the people, leads an attack on the farm. David and many others are killed; the Custances and other survivors take over the land, determined to live 

in peace.

No Man of Her Own****   1932




Gambler Babe Steward (Clark Gable) is in trouble with the law and decides to lie low in a small town. There he meets librarian

Connie Randall (Carole Lombard) and attempts to seduce her. They flip a coin to decide whether or not to get married. The coin

forces them to get married and Connie soon falls in love with Babe. Babe, meanwhile, continues his conning while telling Connie 

that he is working on Wall Street. Connie does not suspect anything until she finds Babe's marked cards in his desk. She shuffles 

the cards and when Babe plays a game of poker, he loses. Babe wants nothing more to do with Connie and leaves for 

Rio de Janeiro to win big money at cards. But, realizing that he loves Connie, he gives himself in to the police to serve his jail 

sentence. When Babe returns to a pregnant Connie, he does not suspect that she knows of his deception, but she does not say 

a word about it and in true Hollywood fashion, we are left to assume that the couple lives happily ever after.

North by Northwest***1/2   1959




This is one of those films that was never seriously considered for my list until an afterthought. I had

turned the dial on to my revered channel 55 (TCM) and North by Northwest was on. I had seen it many

times before, and had no intention of watching it again, but an hour and a half later, I had completed

wtching it...again. Why? I knew every line, every character, every event, and every climax. Clearly the

gradual ascension of suspense and the corresponding visuals worked miracles. The best example of this is

the home of villain Phillip Vandamm. The razor sharp architecture, and the deck that lunges out over the

jagged rocks with it's massive steel diagonal supports are so strongly symbolic that they create emotion.

When you look at the deck, you wonder that precise engineering calculated the angle necessary to

support the deck, without risk of collapse, just the way the hero, Roger Thornhill, calculates the extent

of risk he can afford to take. A master Hitchcock calculation. Another method that Hitchcock uses, is that

he never over portarys the characters. They are thinly illustrated, therefore you really never know them 

for sure. Each time you watch the film, you create another new element of their personas.   

 The film's themes include many plot devices and elements typical of Hitchcock films (especially The 39 Steps (1935) and

 Saboteur (1942)) - predominantly the themes of mistaken identity for the innocent, ordinary, 'Wrong Man' hero. Another of its

 themes is false pretenses and survival in 20th Century America during the Cold War. [The Leo G. Carroll character in the film

 - the head of the American Intelligence Agency, was possibly modeled after two 1950s real-life figures: Secretary of State John

 Foster Dulles and his brother Allen W. Dulles, head of the CIA.] Arthur Hiller's Hitchcockian Silver Streak (1976) paid homage to

 this film, with a similar train ride, dangerous circumstances, pursuit by police, and a mysterious woman.

 The quick-paced, glamorous espionage thriller includes a tongue-in-cheek odyssey away from the city - a perilous adventure for

 a man who is normally sheltered by his wealth and prestige. A light-hearted and complacent hero/bystander (a successful

 Manhattan advertising executive in a corporate Brooks Brothers suit) is suddenly totally vulnerable, isolated, and caught up in

 an unexplainable series of events - after being accustomed to making up 'the truth' with slick ad copy for marketing purposes.

 After an abduction, he is victimized (mistaken for a government undercover Federal agent by a group of foreign spies), and

 then on-the-run as an implicated murder suspect (after being framed for a UN official's murder). He is pursued (cross-country

 across part of the US) by a seeming conspiratorial group of spies, the police, and the FBI. The American is eventually forced to

 assume another man's identity (George Kaplan, a non-existent US agent), while confronted with murder, mayhem, a world of

 spies and counterspies, a domineering and unbelieving mother, and an untrustworthy, mysterious blonde, femme fatale lover.

 His final salvation occurs on the Presidential faces carved on Mount Rushmore - the most modern American image of all.

Nothing Sacred****1/2   1937


 A man posing as the Sultan of Mazipan is exposed as a Harlem bootblack at a banquet sponsored by the New York Morning Star

 to honor him for offering to donate ten dollars to every dollar given to establish the "Morning Star Temple," supposedly with

 twenty-seven halls of culture. Editor Oliver Stone assigns the perpetrator of the hoax, star reporter Wally Cook, to write

 obituaries, but after he suffers several indignities, Cook convinces Stone to send him to Warsaw, Vermont to interview radium

 poisoning victim Hazel Flagg, who has been diagnosed as having only six months to live. Before Cook meets her, Hazel learns

from her doctor, Enoch Downer, that his original diagnosis was in error and that she is not ill. However, when Cook offers to

 take her to New York as a guest of the newspaper, she jumps at the chance to leave Warsaw. In the city, Hazel is given a ticker

 ape parade, and she receives the key to the city. She becomes an inspiration to poets and artists, and is guest of honor at a

 wrestling match and at a nightclub's "Hazel Flagg Night," but the phoniness of the adulation angers Cook, who becomes genuinely

 concerned about Hazel. She too is falling in love with Cook, and when he sends for radium poisoning expert Dr. Emil Eggelhoffer,

 she writes a suicide note thanking the city and arranges for Enoch to rescue her following a jump into the river. Cook goes to

 stop her, but because he can't swim, Hazel rescues him. He proposes and even when he learns after the examination by

 Eggelhoffer and his three colleagues that Hazel is a phony and will live, he still wants to marry her. To make it appear that she

 is sick, Cook knocks her cold. When Hazel revives, she, in turn, knocks out Cook. Caught by Stone, Hazel confesses the hoax

 to the mayor and leading citizens, but they decide that news of her health would not be good for the city. As newspapers exhibit Hazel's suicide note and the city mourns at her funeral, Hazel, Wally and Enoch sail for the tropics.

No Way Out****     1950




Dr. Luther Brooks, an intern who has just passed the state board examination to qualify for his license to practice, is the first

African-American doctor at the urban county hospital at which he trained. Because he lacks self-confidence, Luther requests to

 work as a junior resident at the hospital for another year. Johnny and Ray Biddle, brothers who were both shot in the leg by a

 policeman as they attempted a robbery, are brought to the hospital's prison ward. As Luther tends to the disoriented Johnny, he

 is bombarded with racist slurs by Ray, who grew up in Beaver Canal, the white working class section of the city. Believing that

 Johnny has a brain tumor, Luther administers a spinal tap, but Johnny dies during the procedure. Wondering if Ray's antagonism

 may have caused him to be careless, Luther consults his mentor, chief medical resident Dr. Daniel Wharton, and Wharton

 concedes that a brain tumor was only one possibility. Feeling that he must prove the accuracy of his diagnosis, Luther requests

 an autopsy, but Wharton informs him that according to state law, they cannot proceed without the permission of the deceased's

 family. When Ray refuses, as he does not want his brother's body to be cut up, Wharton confers with the head of the hospital, Dr.

 Sam Moreland, about requisitioning an autopsy. Moreland, aware that a scandal over the black doctor's actions could endanger

 funding, denies the request in the hope that the incident will be forgotten. Upon learning from police records that Johnny was

 married, Wharton and Luther visit his widow, Edie Johnson, who tells the doctors that she divorced Johnny a year and a half ago,

 and that she hates his whole family. Although she does not reveal it to Wharton, his sympathetic attitude persuades her to visit

 Ray to ask about the autopsy. Ray tells her, however, that Johnny would be alive if he had had a white doctor, and that Wharton

 wants to have the autopsy to cover up the truth about Luther's actions. Edie's racist feelings are revived by Ray, with whom she

 had committed adultery, and he convinces her that Wharton played her for a "chump," and that she can make up for her past

 infidelity to Johnny by contacting Beaver Canal club owner Rocky Miller and telling him about Johnny's death. Accompanied by

 Ray's other brother George, who is a deaf-mute, Edie goes to the club, where Rocky and his pals lay plans to attack the black

 section of town, which they call "Niggertown." Although Edie desperately wishes to leave, Rocky forces her to stay. Meanwhile,

 Luther arrives at the hospital and learns about the upcoming attack from Lefty Jones, a black elevator operator. Luther tries to

 dissuade Lefty from organizing a counterattack, but Lefty reminds him of a race riot that occured while Luther was away at

 school, during which Lefty and his sister were beaten. Luther then contacts Alderman Tompkins to try to avert the riot, while Lefty

 and a large group of blacks, including Luther's brother-in-law John, meet and plan their strategy. Edie watches in disgust as the

 whites prepare their weapons, but leaves before the blacks surprise the whites by attacking first. As victims of the riots are

 brought in to the hospital, Wharton is called in from home. Before he departs, however, a drunken and disheartened Edie arrives

at his house, and Wharton leaves her in the care of his black maid, Gladys. Although Edie fears that Gladys will harm her because

 of her connection to the riot, Gladys tenderly cares for her when she collapses. At the hospital, Luther tends to the victims until a

 white woman orders him to take his "black hands" off her son. Stunned, Luther walks out, and the next morning, after Wharton

 returns home to find Edie chatting with Gladys, Luther's wife Cora arrives and announces that Luther has given himself up to the

 police for the murder of Johnny Biddle. Cora relates that after he left the hospital, Luther realized that the coronor would be

 forced to conduct an autopsy if he were charged with murder. Wharton assures Cora that he will stand by Luther, and after he

 leaves with Edie, Cora's stoic demeanor in front of the whites crumbles and she cries in Gladys' arms. Following the autopsy, the

 coroner confirms that Johnny died of a brain tumor and that Luther was justified in performing the spinal tap. Wharton, Cora and

 Edie are pleased that Luther has been exonerated, but Ray insists that the doctors are conspiring to bury the truth. Luther leaves

 with Cora, following by Edie, who denounces Ray before she departs. After overhearing Wharton tell the coroner that he is leaving

 town for a much-needed rest, Ray and George overpower the police guard and escape. When Edie returns to her apartment, she

 finds Ray and George waiting, and Ray, whose leg is bleeding profusely, beats Edie to make her call Luther and tell him to meet

 Wharton at his house. Drunk and in shock, Ray raves that he is going to kill Luther, then leaves Edie with George. By turning up

 the volume on her radio, which George does not notice, Edie cause her neighbors to break down her door, then escapes and calls

 the hospital prison ward for help. Meanwhile, when Luther enters Wharton's house, Ray holds a gun on him, beats hi and shouts

 racist slurs. Edie arrives and tries to stop Ray from killing Luther, but Ray's physical pain and obsessive hatred have pushed him

 beyond reason. Edie turns out the lights as Ray shoots at Luther, and although Luther is wounded in the shoulder, he retrieves

 Ray's gun as he collapses in pain. Edie coldly tells Luther to let Ray's leg bleed, but Luther asserts that he cannot kill Ray simply

 because of his racism, then uses the gun and Edie's scarf to fashion a tourniquet. As a siren announces the arrival of the police,

 Luther tells the hysterical Ray, "Don't cry, white boy, you're gonna live." 

Now, Voyager****     1942





 Olive Higgins Prouty's popular novel was transformed into nearly two hours of high-grade soap opera by several masters of the

 trade: Warner Bros., Bette DavisPaul Henreid, director Irving Rapper, and screenwriter Casey RobinsonDavis plays repressed

 Charlotte Vale, dying on the vine thanks to her domineering mother (Gladys Cooper). All-knowing psychiatrist Dr. Jaquith

 (Claude Rains) urges Charlotte to make several radical changes in her life, quoting Walt Whitman: "Now voyager sail thou forth

 to seek and find." Slowly, Charlotte emerges from her cocoon of tight hairdos and severe clothing to blossom into a gorgeous

 fashion plate. While on a long ocean voyage, she falls in love with Jerry Durrance (Henreid), who is trapped in a loveless

 marriage. After kicking over the last of her traces at home, Charlotte selflessly becomes a surrogate mother to Jerry's

 emotionally disturbed daughter (a curiously uncredited Janis Wilson), who is on the verge of becoming the hysterical wallflower

 that Charlotte once was. An interim romance with another man (John Loder) fails to drive Jerry from Charlotte's mind. The film

 ends ambiguously; Jerry is still married, without much chance of being divorced from his troublesome wife, but the newly

 self-confident Charlotte is willing to wait forever if need be. "Don't ask for the moon," murmurs Charlotte as Max Steiner's

 romantic music reaches a crescendo, "we have the stars." In addition to this famous line, Now, Voyager also features the

 legendary "two cigarettes" bit, in which Jerry places two symbolic cigarettes between his lips, lights them both, and hands one

 to Charlotte. The routine would be endlessly lampooned in subsequent films, once by Henreid himself in the satirical sword-and

 sandal epic Siren of Baghdad (1953).


October (The Ten Days That Shook the World)****1/2     1927




October was one of two films commissioned by the Soviet government to honour the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution

 (the other was Vsevolod Pudovkin'sThe End of St. Petersburg). Eisenstein was chosen to head the project due to the internation

al success he had achieved with The Battleship Potemkin in 1925 . Nikolai Podvoisky, one of the troika who led the storming of

 theWinter Palace was responsible for the commission. The scene of the storming was based more on the 1920 re-enactment

 involving Lenin and thousands of Red Guards, witnessed by 100,000 spectators, than the original occasion, which was far less

 photogenic. This scene is notable because it became the legitimate, historical depiction of the storming of the Winter Palace

 owing to the lack of print or film documenting the actual event, which led historians and filmmakers to use Eisenstein's

 recreation. This illustrates October's success as a propaganda film.[1] 

Eisenstein used the film to further develop his theories of film structure, using a concept he described as "intellectual montage"

, the editing together of shots of apparently unconnected objects in order to create and encourage intellectual comparisons

 between them. One of the film's most celebrated examples of this technique is a baroque image of Jesus that is compared,

 through a series of shots, to Hindu deitiesthe BuddhaAztec gods, and finally a primitive idol in order to suggest the

 sameness of all religions; the idol is then compared with military regalia to suggest the linking of patriotism and religious

 fervour by the state. In another sequence Alexander Kerensky, head of the pre-Bolshevik revolutionary Provisional Government,

 is compared to a preening mechanical peacock. 

Old Acquaintence****     1943




 In 1924, prize-winning novelist Kit Marlowe returns to her home town to give a lecture and is greeted by her

 old friend, Millie Drake. In the years since they last saw each other, Millie has married and is now pregnant

 with her first child, news that Kit learns first from Millie's husband Preston. At first Millie is upset that Kit does

 not seem eager to see her, but later, after Kit apologizes, Millie confesses that she too has written a book

 designed to be a best seller. Eight years later, Millie is a wealthy and successful writer of popular fiction. She

 and Preston and their eight-year-old daughter Deirdre are in New York City to attend the opening of Kit's play.

 Millie's success has helped destroy her marriage, however, and the afternoon before opening night, Preston,

 who is drinking heavily, tells Kit that he is in love with her. Replying that Millie would always be between them,

 Kit tries to patch up her friend's marriage, but Preston leaves Millie after asking Kit to keep an eye on Deirdre.

 Ten years later, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Kit joins the Red Cross and broadcasts a request for

 money over the radio. Preston, who is now in the army, hears Kit's speech and telephones her. Kit agrees to

 join him for a drink, sending Rudd Kendall, her younger lover, to fetch Deirdre as a surprise for Preston.

 Preston surprises Kit as well when he announces his engagement. The next morning, Rudd, having received

 his commission, begs Kit to marry him immediately. Because of the difference in their ages, Kit turns him

 down, and a disappointed Rudd joins the now-grown Deirdre for a walk. The two spend the day together and

 fall in love. In the meantime, Kit changes her mind about Rudd and reveals her plans to marry him to Millie.

 After Preston tells Millie he is remarrying and wants to see Deirdre more often, he confesses that he was once

 in love with Kit. Overcome with jealousy, Millie tells Deirdre about Kit's marriage plans and then accuses Kit of

 stealing her husband. Fed up with her friend's tantrums, Kit gives Millie a thorough shaking. That night Rudd

 breaks the news to Kit that he has fallen in love with Deirdre. Although it is a shock, Kit pretends to be

 delighted and rushes off to make sure that a disillusioned Deirdre does not miss her chance for a happy

 marriage. Later, Millie stops by Kit's apartment to apologize and Kit forgives her. Millie then describes her

 new book, Old Acquaintance , about two longtime women friends, and the two women drink to it. 

Old Dark House, The***1/2     1932





It's a wildly varied group that takes shelter from a raging English storm in the forbidding mansion of the Femm 

family. Among the reluctant guests are stuffed-shirt Philip Waverton (Raymond Massey): Philip's sensitive wife 

Margaret (Gloria Stuart); their mutual friend, disillusioned war veteran Roger Penderell (Melvyn Douglas); 

vulgar self-made millionaire Sir William Porterhouse (Charles Laughton); and Porterhouse's no-better-than-she-

ought-to-be lady friend Gladys DuCane (Lillian Bond). Under the baleful eyes of ungracious, atheistic host 

Horace Femm (Ernst Thesiger) and Horace's religious-zealot sister Rebecca (Eva Moore), the group sits around 

conversing, slowly coming to the realization that first impressions are most deceiving. Normally, that would be 

the whole story-except that the old dark house houses a deep dark secret involving 101-year-old Sir Roderick 

Femm (played by "John Dudgeon", actually an actress named Elspeth Dudgeon) and pyromaniac Saul Femm 

(Brember Wills). Lumbering ominously throughout the proceedings is top-billed Boris Karloff, playing Morgan, 

the mute, alcoholic family butler (the opening credits felt obligated to tell 1932 filmgoers that yes, this was the 

same Karloff who'd portrayed the Monster in the previous season's Frankenstein). Directed with sinister verve by 

James Whale and brimming with unforgettable dialogue, The Old Dark House is one of the most enjoyable and 

least formularized of the Universal "scare" pictures of the early 1930s. The film was based on J. B. Priestly's 

Benighted, though Priestly's hero dies in the book and does not in the film (this appears to have been a last-

minute decision--and a wise one). Long thought lost, The Old Dark House was rediscovered in the early 1970s; 

copyright problems with the lukewarm 1963 remake kept it off television until 1994, at which time a sparkling 

new print was struck, replacing the washed-out dupes with which film buffs were all too familiar. 

Old Maid, The****1/2   1939

A great Civil War period piece, made along with Jezebel at the time of Gone with the Wind. 

Well developed tension between the Miriam Hopkins and Bette Davis characters. Jane Bryan 

was a scene stealer as Clementina. I found out that she retired in 1940 and became a political 

influence on the career od Ronald Reagan (to my dismay of course!).




Set during the American Civil War, the story focuses on Charlotte Lovell and her cousin Delia, whose wedding day is disrupted 

when former fiance Clem Spender returns following a two-year absence. Delia proceeds to marry Jim Ralston, and Charlotte 

comforts Clem, who enlists in the Union Army and is killed in battle. Shortly after his death, Charlotte discovers she is pregnant 

with Clem's child, and in order to escape the stigma of an illegitimate child, she journeys to the West to have her baby, a 

daughter she names Clementina.

Following the end of the war, Charlotte and Tina relocate to Philadelphia, where Charlotte opens an orphanage. Delia is the 

mother of two children, and Charlotte is engaged to marry Jim Ralston, her cousin's brother-in-law. On her wedding day, 

Charlotte tells Delia that Tina is her child by Clem, and Delia stops Jim from marrying Charlotte by telling him she is in poor 

health. The cousins become estranged, but when Joe is killed in a horseriding accident, Delia invites Charlotte and Tina to move 

in with her and her children. Tina, unaware Charlotte is her birth mother, assumes the role of Delia's daughter and calls Charlotte

her aunt.

Fifteen years pass, and Tina is engaged to wealthy Lanning Halsey. Still unaware Charlotte is her mother, she begins to resent 

what she considers her interference in her life, and when Delia offers to formally adopt Tina in order to provide her with a 

reputable name and a prominent position in society, she gladly accepts. Charlotte intends to tell Tina the truth before the 

wedding but finds herself unable to do so.

Charlotte confronts Delia and reveals she resents the fact both Clem and Tina loved Delia more than they did her. Delia tells 

Tina Charlotte sacrificed her happiness by refusing to marry a man who did not want to raise Tina as his own, and she urges her 

to kiss Charlotte last when she prepares to depart with her new husband. Tina complies, and her gesture leaves Charlotte happy 

and willing to share the rest of her life with Delia as a friend rather than an adversary.

Once More With Feeling****     2009




 A successful psychiatrist and doting grandfather resurrects his dormant dream of becoming a professional singer whileexperiencing a personal crisis that

 mirrors that of his increasingly neurotic daughter in this endearing comedy drama from Flannel Pajamas director Jeff Lipsky. Frank Gregorio (Chazz Palminteri)

 lives a charmed life; he has a unique gift for helping his patients work through their problems, a beautiful wife, and two gorgeous grandchildren thanks to his

 eldest daughter Lana (Drea de Matteo). Introduced to karaoke through a patient with parent issues, and then again at his granddaughter's birthday party, Frank

 finds himself drifting back to the days when all he wanted in life was to become a professional singer. Instead of following his dream back then, Frank chose

 the practical route in life. When Frank starts exercising his rusty vocal chords, his wife Angela (Maria Tucci) assumes that he's just practicing to sing at their

 younger daughter's upcoming wedding. Lately, the wannabe crooner is spending more and more time with femme fatale karaoke aficionado Lydia

 (Linda Fiorentino), who hasn't been entirely forthright about her true intentions towards Frank. Meanwhile, Lana is becoming increasingly neurotic about her

 post-pregnancy weight, considering plastic surgery and an affair with a strapping police officer in hopes of boosting her self-esteem. As the rash decisions

 made by Frank and Lana yield unexpectedly dire consequences, the family comes together in a sincere attempt to ensure that the insecure father and daughter

 realize they will always be loved despite their insecurities


Once Upon a Time in America****    1983





Wanted by mob hitmen, David 'Noodles' Aaronson flees 1930s New York. Decades later he returns, revisits the gang's hang-out, and recalls 

old times....

As boys, Noodles, Cockeye, Patsy, and Dominic commit petty crime on the lower east side. They meet Max who joins the gang and soon 

Noodles and Max become best friends and the gang work their way up in the crimeworld by blackmailing the local police sergeant. Meanwhile 

Noodles is in love with Deborah, a local girl who has dreams of becoming a dancer, but she rebuffs him for being too coarse. One day during a 

treet-fight Noodles stabs a rival hoodlum and a policeman, and is sent to juvenile prison.

By the time of his release from prison, Prohibition has enabled the gang to become bootleggers and hit the big time. Max is eager for the 

gang to cement ties with bigger gangs but Noodles resists, preferring 'the stink of the streets'. His love for Deborah remains but when he tells

her so, she again rejects him in order to pursue her career. Meanwhile, Max forms a plan for a fantastic robbery and in order to save all their 

lives, Noodles informs the police. Instead, Max, Patsy, and Cockeye are killed in a shoot-out with police and Noodles flees on the first bus out.

His return decades later is prompted by receipt of a mysterious letter and a suitcase of money in return for 'one last job.' Meanwhile, he tracks 

down Deborah - now a successful actress - and is contacted by a Secretary Bailey who is engulfed in a corruption scandal. Noodles confronts 

Bailey and learns that the past was not as he thought.

On the Waterfront*****   1954






At the request of mob boss Johnny Friendly, longshoreman Terry Malloy, a former boxer, lures fellow dock worker Joey Doyle to 

the roof of his tenement building, purportedly to discuss their shared hobby of pigeon racing. Believing that Friendly only intends 

to frighten Joey out of his threat to speak to the New York State Crime Commission, Terry is stunned to see Joey topple from 

the building as he and his brother, Charley "the Gent," watch from across the street. As neighbors gather around Joey's body, his 

distraught sister Edie accuses parish priest Father Barry of hiding behind the church and not helping the neighborhood break 

free from the mob's grip. Listening nearby, Terry is disturbed by Edie's indictment and later joins Charley, Friendly's lawyer and 

accountant, at a meeting with Friendly and his lackeys. Friendly assures Terry that Joey's death was necessary to preserve his 

hold on the harbor, then directs dock manager Big Mac to place Terry in the top job slot the following day. The next morning, 

while waiting for the day's work assignment, the dock workers offer their sympathy to Joey's father Pop, who gives Joey's jacket 

to Kayo Dugan. Terry is approached by Crime Commission representative Eddy Glover, but refuses to discuss Joey. Edie comes 

down to the docks to apologize to Father Barry, but he admits that her accusation has prompted him to become more involved in 

the lives of the longshoremen. Father Barry asks some of the men to meet downstairs in the church, despite being advised that 

Friendly does not approve of union meetings. Later, in the warehouse, Charley asks Terry to sit in on the church meeting. When 

Terry hesitates, Charley dismisses his brother's fears of "stooling." Despite the sparse turnout, Father Barry adamantly declares 

that mob control of the docks must end and demands to know about Joey's murder. Several men bristle in anger upon seeing 

Terry at the meeting, and Kayo tells Father Barry that no one will talk out of fear that Friendly will find out. Father Barry insists 

the men can fight Friendly and the mob through the courts, but the men refuse to participate. Friendly's stooges break up the 

meeting by hurling stones through the church windows. After Pop and Kayo are attacked outside, Father Barry presses Kayo to 

take action and Kayo agrees. Terry insists on walking Edie home and, on the way, she hesitatingly tells him abut her convent 

upbringing and ambition to teach. At home, Pop scolds Edie for walking with Terry, whom he calls a bum, and demands that she 

return to college. Edie responds that she must stay to find out who killed Joey. Later that day Edie is surprised to find Terry on 

the roof with Joey's pigeons. Terry shows her his own prize bird, then asks her if she would like to have a beer with him. At the 

bar, Terry tells Edie that he and Charley were placed in an orphanage after their father died, but they eventually ran away. He 

took up boxing and Friendly bought a percentage of him, but his career faded. Swept up among wedding party revelers, Edie and 

Terry dance together until they are interrupted by Glover, who serves Terry with a subpoena to the Crime Commission hearings. 

Edie demands to know if Friendly arranged Joey's murder, and when Terry cautions her to stop asking questions, she accuses 

him of still being owned by the mobster. That evening, Friendly visits Terry, who is evasive about the church meeting, then 

surprised when Friendly reveals that Kayo testified before the commission. Charley criticizes Terry for seeing Edie, and Friendly 

orders Terry back to working in the ship hold. The next day in the hold, Terry attempts to speak with Kayo, but the older man 

brushes him aside, calling him one of Friendly's boys. Big Mac and one of his henchmen rig a crane to slip, and a load of boxes  

crashes down upon Kayo, killing him in front of Terry. Outraged, Father Barry gives an impromptu eulogy for Kayo, asserting 

that Kayo was killed to prevent him from testifying. After two of Friendly's henchmen begin pelting the priest with fruit and 

vegetables, Pop and Edie arrive and watch as Father Barry ignores the abuse and exhorts the men to believe in themselves and 

reject mob control. Terry furiously knocks out one of the henchmen, angering Friendly and Charley. Later, Father Barry returns 

Joey's jacket to Pop and Edie. That night, after Edie gives Joey's jacket to Terry, the guilt-stricken Terry tries but is unable to 

tell her about his part in Joey's murder. The next morning Terry seeks out Father Barry to ask for guidance as he believes he is 

falling in love with Edie, but is conflicted about testifying and about going against Charley. Father Barry maintains that Terry 

must follow his conscience and challenges him to be honest with Edie. When Terry meets Edie on the beach later, he relates the 

details of the night of Joey's murder, insisting that he did not know Joey would be killed, but Edie rushes away in distress. Later 

while tending his pigeons on the roof, Terry is visited by Glover and implies that he might be willing to testify. Their meeting is 

reported to Friendly, who orders Charley to straighten Terry out. That night, Charley takes Terry on a cab drive and chides him 

for not telling him about the subpoena. When Terry attempts to explain his confusion, Charley brusquely threatens him with a 

gun. Hurt, Terry reproaches his older brother for not looking after him and allowing him to become a failure and a bum by 

involving him with the mob. Charley gives Terry the gun and says he will stall Friendly. Terry goes to see Edie, and breaks down 

her apartment door when she refuses to let him in and demands to know if she cares for him. Edie tells Terry to listen to his 

conscience, which angers him, but the two embrace. When Terry is summoned to the street, Edie begs him not to go, then 

follows him. After the couple is nearly run down by a truck, they find Charley's body hung up on a meat hook on a nearby fence. 

Taking down his brother's body, Terry vows revenge on Friendly, and sends Edie for Father Barry. Armed, Terry hunts for 

Friendly at his regular bar, but Father Barry convinces him that the best way to ruin Friendly is in court and Terry throws away

the gun. The next day at the hearings, Terry testifies to Friendly's involvement in Joey's death, outraging the mobster, who 

shouts threats at him. Back at home, Terry is scorned by the neighbors for testifying and discovers that his pigeons have been 

killed by a boy he once coached. Edie attempts to comfort Terry, advising him to leave, but Terry insists that he has the right to 

stay in his town. The next day Terry reports to work as usual, but is ignored by the men and refused work by Big Mac. In his 

office at the pier, Friendly, who is about to be indicted, swears vengeance on Terry. Terry confronts Friendly on the pier, 

declaring he is nothing without guns, and the two fall into a brutal fistfight. While Friendly's men help to thrash Terry, the 

dockworkers watch impassively as Edie arrives with Father Barry. Friendly orders the longshoremen to begin unloading, but the 

men refuse and demand that Terry be allowed to work, hoping the shipping owners will witness their refusal to obey Friendly and 

realize their intention to restart a clean union. Father Barry urges on the beaten Terry, who rises and defiantly stumbles down 

the pier and into the warehouse. 

Oranges and Sunshine****1/2     2010




Jim Loach's sombre, painful film packs a hard punch; harder than you'd expect from the soft-focus poster. Emily

 Watson plays Margaret Humphreys, a Nottingham social worker who made it her mission in the 1980s to investigate

 the postwar scandal of child deportation. Children in care were literally transported – like criminals from a bygone age

 – to Australia, there to be kept in children's homes. Many were (falsely) told their parents were dead and often brutally

 abused in places similar to Ireland's Magdalene laundries, particularly in a place called Bindoon, run by the Christian

 Brothers in the remote bush south of Perth. In the burning sun, Bindoon looks like something akin to Castle Dracula.

 Loach's film shows how Humphreys's controversial intervention triggered something like the retrieval of a repressed

 collective memory. There are excellent performances from Watson, from Hugo Weaving as a gentle, damaged soul

 and David Wenham, a truculent ex-Bindoon boy who makes an unlikely common cause with Humphreys. 

Ordinary People****   1980






It really is just so refreshing to discover an intelligent film that treats us, the audience, like adults. Instead of assuming that 

we're unable, or unwilling, to deal with emotional complexity, Ordinary People trusts us to think and to care. Adapted from 

Judith Guest's novel with a gentle understanding, the script serves to lay its main characters bare before us; on the floor lie 

scattered the intangible garments of self-justification, responsibility and guilt. In step with the cast we approach judgements 

and conclusions, we come to appreciate the situation and what must naturally emerge; the ending agrees perfectly with the 

story told, it's no cop-out. 

The seat of the film is the Jarretts, an upper-middle-class family inhabiting an over-large house with drive, and within that the 

second-son Conrad (Timothy Hutton). Without wishing to reveal too much, for Ordinary People takes its time doing just this, 

it's safe to say that Conrad is disturbed. At nights he dreams furiously, jerking awake bathed in sweat. During the day Conrad's 

distracted and unreachable, barely convinced by the virtue of study, a different person to those who used to be friends. His

parents, Calvin (Donald Sutherland) and Beth (Mary Tyler Moore), can't connect or identify with this misery; they worry but that's 

an emotional rut to nowhere. What Conrad desperately needs is a fresh ear, someone like psychiatrist Berger (Judd Hirsch). 

It's through this pivotal relationship that the story opens up, exploring the tragedy that consumes Conrad from the inside out, 

starkly highlighting the emotional ulcers that are destroying his family. Berger's informal office baths in autumnal colours, 

soothing greens and browns, sympathetic to Berger himself. Despite initial resistance, it becomes a haven for Conrad. It's here 

that Hutton's remarkable talent for characterisation stands obvious, forcing us to emotionally bind with him. As Conrad's tale 

emerges, Hutton makes him grow and evolve, drawing each and every viewer into this struggle. A painful and moving battle, 

you can't help but react to his reaching out for support. Hirsch is just great as Conrad's therapist, the sort of doctor that 

anybody could trust, a rock of compassion. The scenes of Conrad and Berger together are fabulous. This is, however, only one 

aspect of Ordinary People. The family triangle is just as important, the unit that should at all costs remain unbroken. Sadly 

there's a pretence that all have recovered from the crisis, when in reality wounds fester unhealed. While everyone pretends for 

the sake of those they care about, the supportive structure erodes. Instead of talking and facing up to the facts, they live in an 

atmosphere of unvoiced blame. Robert Redford's restrained direction really triumphs here, nurturing a trio of understated, yet 

tender, performances. Moore is wonderful as the unable-to-express, glassy mother figure; her palpable distance and cold 

ersentment chills horribly. It's not a role that gives much to the audience, which Moore clearly realises. Sutherland proves reliably 

confused and hurt, stuck in the middle, bereft of answer yet tortured by assumed responsibility. This truly is a dysfunctional, and

extremely believable, family. 

Beyond the central characters, yet related to them, it's striking to note the supreme perception of Sargent's script (and 

presumably Guest's book). In numerous scenes it quietly captures suburban horror, the actions that most can recognise when 

prompted. For instance, there's the way in which some women, as housewives, try and solve every outburst with the offer of 

food and drink, their emotion substitute. Or how about when Beth glides to Calvin's side, to prevent him from revealing more of 

what she considers private, and suppresses her anger until the car journey home. These notes ring true, elevating Ordinary 

People beyond the level of any TV-movie. Through such details Redford builds on a faint swell, eventually overwhelming us with 

scenes of enormous impact, a subtle technique. 

Yet it seems that Redford, in his debut no less, is much more than a director using acting experience to provoke a decent cast. 

His technical acuity positively ensures that Ordinary People traces a great arc of change, that its constructed mood is never 

shattered by carelessness. So in times of tumult, Marvin Hamlisch's music surprises by its absence; clearly Redford feels no need

to underscore. Similarly, John Bailey's photography reinforces the story without assaulting it; the Jarrett home, Beth's creation, 

reflects her inner self through clean and harsh bright whites (contrast with Berger's domain). Finally, Redford even manages to 

make sensible use of flashbacks. Rather than tossing them in as a visual narration, he fractures and distorts, integrating them 

into Conrad's tortured sessions with Berger. Unlike the characters, Ordinary People's merit is plain to see.

Orphans of the Storm*****     1921




 Having turned the creaky old stage melodrama Way Down East into a money-spinning film, director D.W. Griffith set about to perform the same magic with the

 barnstorming theatrical piece The Two Orphans. Adolphe Philippe Dennery's play told the story of two orphaned girls, one blind, who are separated early on and

 undergo innumerable deprivations before their tearful reunion. Though the play took place in France, it had nothing whatsoever to do with the French Revolution;

 this didn't stop Griffith from plunking the storyline smack dab in the middle of that late-18th-century maelstrom, allowing him full scope for the spectacular scenes

 which had brought him worldwide fame. Lillian Gish plays Henriette, the sighted sister, while Dorothy Gish is cast as the visually impaired Louise. Henriette brings

 Louise to Paris, in search of a surgeon who might be able to restore her sister's sight. Henriette is kidnapped by a lascivious nobleman, leaving Louise to wander

 helplessly about until she too is "stolen" by a family of beggars. Rescued by kindhearted aristocrat Chevalier de Vaudrey (Joseph Schildkraut), Henriette begins the

 arduous search for her lost sister. Just before the film's intermission, Henriette hears Louise begging on the streets. Before they can be reunited, Henriette is

 arrested by minions of the evil nobleman who'd earlier tried to seduce her. Released from the Bastille by the revolutionaries, Henriette resumes her search, only to

 be arrested again--this time because she has consorted with the aristocracy, and is therefore a candidate for the guillotine. The stage is thus set for a thrilling "race

 to the rescue" climax, and of course the reuniting of the two orphans. Orphans of the Storm was filmed at Griffith's east coast studio in Mamaroneck, New York, which

 explains why the exteriors are always so overcast. In an effort to be topical, Griffith took every opportunity possible to equate the French revolution with the recent

 Bolshevik rebellion in Russia, and to warn his audience of the dangers of mob rule (this from a man who glorified the Ku Klux Klan in Birth of a Nation!) The film

 opened to excellent reviews and great business; Griffith, who always placed art above commerce, poured virtually every penny of profit into his "smaller" project,

 Isn't Life Wonderful, which died at the box office. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi 


Other Men's Women**** 1931




Other Men's Women is a 1931 all-talking pre-code American film directed byWilliam A. Wellman and written by Maude Fulton. It was

 produced and distributed by Warner Brothers. The film stars Grant WithersRegis Toomeyand Mary Astor. The film was first previewed

 and released in a limited number of locations under the title The Steel Highway in 1930. By the time of the film's general release the title

 had been changed to Other Men's Women. Due to the public's apathy and aversion to anything musical in films in late 1930 and early

 1931, the film's music is kept to an absolute minimum. The credits at the beginning and ending of the film are presented without music

 and there is virtually no background musical score throughout the film.

Our Dancing Daughters****     1928




Sexual politics is tough enough today—I can’t imagine what it was like in the 1920s.

 You might think I could. By now I’ve seen just about every variation of the male-female dynamic committed to silent
 film. But in a way it’s meaningless, because those relationships were idealized. They were reflective of what people
 felt they ought to be, or worse, what they were forced to pretend to be. The truth boiled underneath.

Nevertheless, the Gishes and Pickfords, in their guises of committed, suffering wives and premarital virgins,
 expressed something important. They expressed a high watermark of values against which average people could
 measure themselves—probably unfavorably—just as a starlet’s beauty expressed an ideal to be constantly
 approached, but rarely matched. I wonder: if one could be complimented for looking a little like Mary Pickford,
 could one also have been respected for being nearly as pure?

Nobody’s perfect.

But you always wonder what people thought, because the official line, so much of the time, at least on film, was no
 to vice. Oh there was innuendo, and some damn sexy actresses toward the end of the silent period (time for your
 close-up, Greta and Louise), but the idea of a woman both heroic and easy was really not a Silent one. I can’t name
 too many films pre-1929 that seriously challenged traditional sex roles, at least all the way through the last reel.

I’m not sure Our Dancing Daughters does, either. But I’ve written you a three-paragraph preamble to it because, if 
nothing else, the sheer confusion of values in this film tells us something. Maybe the only constant in the Jazz Age
 was confusion—the mashing of traditional values with emancipatory glee; indifference, guilt, rage, nihilism and
 sexual abandon embraced in equal measure; maturity blurred with selling out. I loved this film, readers. I loved it
 to its chaotic core and I don’t know, or care, how much of it was that way on purpose.

Our Town****     1940





Around the turn of the century in the small town of Grovers Corners, folks were never afraid to leave their doors unlocked. Doc 

Gibbs, his wife Julie, son George and daughter Rebecca live next door to Charlie Webb, his wife and daughter Emily and son Wally.

While Julie confides Mrs. Webb about the trip she dreams of taking with her husband, George confides in Emily about his dream of 

becoming a farmer and Emily worries about attracting a man. Two years later, at the town soda fountain, George begins his 

courtship of Emily, and in one year, after high school commencement, the couple's wedding day arrives. On the morning of the 

wedding, a nervous George pays a visit to his prospective father-in-law for advice, and later, as they march down the aisle, the 

participants are visited by second thoughts as they all begin new phases in their lives. Nine years pass, and Julie now rests in the

town cemetery. Emily, expecting her second child, is very ill, and as she drifts into death, she sees her mother-in-law and all the 

others that have passed on. Trying to recall her life, Emily remembers the day of her sixteenth birthday, but the memories of past 

happiness prove too painful for her and she returns to the living to give birth to her baby. 

Out of the Fog***1/2     1941

John Qualen and Thomas Mitchell are perfect as the two fisherman, who are evidently vulnerable to the 

tactics of the petty criminal, played by John Garfield. The not so meek Jonas (Mitchell) proves to be a 

tough match for Goff (Garfield) and the tension increases. The setting by the old docks is dramatic.




Near Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, tailor Jonah Goodwin and short order cook Olaf Johnson find solace after work in fishing from 

their small boat. The men dream of buying a larger boat that would allow them to leave behind their jobs and responsibilities 

and fish in the Gulf Stream. Jonah's daughter Stella is engaged to George Watkins, an auctioneer on the pier, but she is tired of 

George's modest plans for the future. When Harold Goff, a petty gangster, notices her, she is more than willing to drop George 

in his favor. Unknown to Stella, however, Goff has demanded five dollars a week in "protection" money from Olaf and her father.

 To ensure that Jonah and Olaf will not turn him in to the police, Goff forces them to sign a paper stating that the money they 

give to him is in payment of a debt. Later, Goff uses their five dollars to buy perfume for Stella. In order to separate Stella from

Goff, Jonah offers to send her on a cruise to Cuba using the money he and Olaf have saved to buy the larger boat. When Goff 

learns about the money from Stella, he offers to take her to Cuba himself and then demands that Olaf and Jonah give him their 

savings. Furious, Jonah turns Goff over to the police, but he shows the judge the I.O.U. that the two men signed and the judge 

dismisses the case. When Stella tells her father that she is going to Cuba with Goff, Jonah and Olaf plot to kill him. They lure 

Goff on to their boat, planning to knock him unconscious and throw him overboard, but at the last minute, Olaf is unable to 

attack Goff. Unexpectedly, however, Goff falls overboard and drowns. Later, Jonah finds Goff's wallet in the bottom of the boat 

with their savings still in it. After Goff's body is found, the police search Jonah and Olaf, looking for the missing wallet. They 

find nothing, as Jonah has hidden the wallet in the water. After the police leave, Jonah fishes it out of the sea and invites a 

contrite Stella to accompany him and Olaf on their fishing trip in the Gulf Stream.

Near Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, tailor Jonah Goodwin and short order cook Olaf Johnson find solace after work in fishing from 

their small boat. The men dream of buying a larger boat that would allow them to leave behind their jobs and responsibilities 

and fish in the Gulf Stream. Jonah's daughter Stella is engaged to George Watkins, an auctioneer on the pier, but she is tired of 

George's modest plans for the future. When Harold Goff, a petty gangster, notices her, she is more than willing to drop George 

in his favor. Unknown to Stella, however, Goff has demanded five dollars a week in "protection" money from Olaf and her father.

 To ensure that Jonah and Olaf will not turn him in to the police, Goff forces them to sign a paper stating that the money they 

give to him is in payment of a debt. Later, Goff uses their five dollars to buy perfume for Stella. In order to separate Stella from 

Goff, Jonah offers to send her on a cruise to Cuba using the money he and Olaf have saved to buy the larger boat. When Goff 

learns about the money from Stella, he offers to take her to Cuba himself and then demands that Olaf and Jonah give him their 

savings. Furious, Jonah turns Goff over to the police, but he shows the judge the I.O.U. that the two men signed and the judge 

dismisses the case. When Stella tells her father that she is going to Cuba with Goff, Jonah and Olaf plot to kill him. They lure 

Goff on to their boat, planning to knock him unconscious and throw him overboard, but at the last minute, Olaf is unable to 

attack Goff. Unexpectedly, however, Goff falls overboard and drowns. Later, Jonah finds Goff's wallet in the bottom of the 

boat with their savings still in it. After Goff's body is found, the police search Jonah and Olaf, looking for the missing wallet. 

They find nothing, as Jonah has hidden the wallet in the water. After the police leave, Jonah fishes it out of the sea and invites

a contrite Stella to accompany him and Olaf on their fishing trip in the Gulf Stream.

Out of the Past****   1941




A man named Joe Stephanos (Paul Valentine) passing through town recognizes Jeff. He returns and tells Jeff that their mutual 

acquaintance Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas) has been looking for him. Jeff agrees to go to Lake Tahoe to meet with Whit.

Before he leaves, Jeff decides it's time to tell Ann about his mysterious past. His real name is Jeff Markham. He and partner 

Jack Fisher (Steve Brodie) worked as private investigators in New York. They took on a job for Whit Sterling , a rich gambler.

In a flashback to that time, Whit hires Jeff to find his girlfriend, Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer). She has run away after shooting 

Whit and stealing $40,000 from him. Whit wants both the woman and money back.

Jeff is told by her former maid, Eunice, that Kathie packed for warm weather, was vaccinated and left for Florida. Jeff knows 

that vaccinations aren't needed for Florida, but they are for Mexico. He tracks the luggage to Mexico City and, from there, the 

trail leads to Acapulco.

He finds Kathie there. At first he doesn't mention that he's been hired to find her. They begin to fall in love. Jeff ultimately tells 

her the truth, that Whit is alive and wants her back. She denies taking Whit’s money. They decide to run away together the 

next day. Whit and his henchman Joe Stephanos show up unexpectedly, having flown down to check up on Jeff. He lies to Whit 

that he hasn’t found Kathie yet, that she has caught a boat south. As soon as Whit leaves, the lovers take a boat north.

They live as inconspicuously as possible in San Francisco, thinking the odds are one in a million that anyone will spot them. But 

it happens. Jeff’s old partner, Fisher, spots him at a race track. Tracking the couple to a cabin in the woods, he demands the 

$40,000 in return for his silence. A fistfight breaks out that ends when Kathie fatally shoots the would-be blackmailer. She 

drives off, leaving Jeff to fend for himself. He finds her bank book and discovers a balance of $40,000.

The story flashes forward to Jeff and Ann. He tells her that he never saw Kathie again, but that Whit has sent for him. He 

arrives at Whit’s home in Lake Tahoe to discover that Kathie is living there. Rather than discussing the past, Whit says he 

wants to hire Jeff to recover some income-tax records that a San Francisco lawyer, Leonard Eels (Ken Niles), is using to 

blackmail him.

Jeff feels obliged to take the job. He meets with Eels' secretary, the sultry Meta Carson (Rhonda Fleming). She tells him Whit's 

plan to get the tax papers back. Jeff feels certain he is being set up and tries to warn Eels that something is wrong. He returns 

later to find Eels dead. With Kathie's help, Whit has planned the murder of Eels and hopes to frame Jeff for it.

Kathie has lied to Whit that it was Jeff who killed Fisher. Among Eels' papers is an affidavit she signed that names Jeff as the 

killer. Jeff goes to Whit’s nightclub, slugs the manager and takes the papers.

Jeff returns to Bridgeport, where he goes fishing. Joe Stephanos tracks him there and is about to shoot when Jeff's deaf young 

assistant from the gas station, The Kid (Dickie Moore), reels him in with a fishing rod and sends Stephanos off a cliff to his 


Jeff returns to Whit's home, only to find that Kathie has killed him. She tells Jeff that he must leave with her or be arrested for 

killing three men -- Fisher, Eels and now Whit. Jeff agrees, but makes a private phone call before they go. They come upon a 

police roadblock. Kathie realizes Jeff has double-crossed her. She shoots him with a small revolver. The police fire on their car, 

killing both.

On the way from Jeff's funeral, Ann stops to ask the deaf young man from the gas station, The Kid, if it was true that Jeff was 

going away with Kathie. The Kid nods to indicate that he was. Ann drives off with Jim, who still loves her.

Owning Mahowny****   2003


Owning Mahowny casts an unflinching gaze into a window of addiction of a sort not often portrayed in movies. Based on the 

true-life book "Stung" by Gary Stephen Ross, the film chronicles the facts of the case of a Toronto bank vice president who stole 

more than $10 million from his employer over a two-year period in the early 1980s. All of that money funded his expanding 

gambling addiction, ending up in the pockets of bookies and the vaults of casinos. In Owning Mahowny, by the time the lead 

character is caught, the concept of losing (or winning) $1,000,000 in one night is acceptable.

But Owning Mahowny isn't really about how the police closed the noose around the man's neck. Instead, it's a character study 

and an examination of addiction. The two go hand-in-hand. In order to understand Dan Mahowny (played brilliantly by Philip 

Seymour Hoffman), you have to come to grips with his addiction, and vice versa. The two are inseparable. For Mahowny, 

gambling isn't a diversion, a passion, or even an obsession. It is a necessity. He cannot survive without it. When a psychologist 

sks him to quantify, on a scale of 1 to 100, what the most excitement he has ever had gambling is, he responds "100." When 

asked the same question about excitement away from gambling, he replies "20."

Owning Mahowny is not a feel-good story about one man's ability to overcome addiction. Instead, it illustrates a deepening 

spiral of compulsive behavior, withdrawl from society, and denial. In this case, gambling is the root cause, but the same movie 

could be made about a man caught in the grip of drugs, alchohol, sex, or anything else. For Mahowny, gambling isn't about 

winning or losing. Those things are incidental, as is the money needed to play. The high and the need are about playing the 

game and taking the risk. Winnings are merely ways to prolong the experience. In the end, everything will be lost - it's just a 

matter of how long it takes.

The film opens with Mahowny in debt for $10,300 to a local bookie, Frank Perlin (Maury Chaykin). When he learns that he is 

being cut off until he can pay back the money, Mahowny becomes desperate. So he starts fudging accounts and creating fake 

loan applications. Soon, he has access to a nearly endless line of credit - enough to fund expensive binges, trips to Atlantic City

and Las Vegas, and to wager on nearly every sporting event taking place in North America. ("Bet on all the home teams in the 

National League and all the away teams in the American League," he says at one point.) His gambling has driven a rift between

him and his mousy girlfriend, Belinda (Minnie Driver). When he spends all of their "romantic" weekend in Vegas at the tables 

rather than with her, she realizes the seriousness of his problem. At work, no one seems to figure out what is happening. His 

bosses are pleased with his work ethic and he even passes an audit.

The film also offers some degree of insight into the insidious things that casinos do to appease their high rollers and keep the 

money flowing. The windows are tinted so it looks gray and unappealing outside. Oxygen is pumped in to create a high. Rooms, 

drinks, food, shows, and prostitutes are on the house. The spider at the center of the Atlantic City web ensnaring Mahowny is 

Victor Foss (John Hurt), who has all the charm of a snake oil salesman. He's a predator, and Mahowny realizes it, but doesn't 

care. At first, Victor fails to notice Mahowny, but, when his losses cross into the six-figure range, things change. Soon, Victor is 

wooing Mahowny with countless amenities, but the gambler turns down a woman and barely notices the bigger suite with three 

washrooms. All he wants are some ribs (without sauce) and a Coke. Victor is delighted. "A purist!" he exults.

Central to the film's success is the quality of acting. The role of Dan Mahowny is a standout from Philip Seymour Hoffman, best 

known to date for his scene-stealing supporting performances in Paul Thomas Anderson movies (those guys with two first names

have to stick together). As was true last year in a pair of independent features, The Good Girl and One Hour Photo, a forceful 

and uncompromising portrayal by the lead actor can elevate the project from intriguing to compelling. That's what happens here. 

Hoffman, dressed like a slob and looking like a nerd, draws us into Mahowny's single-mindedness and shows the world through 

the character's tunnel vision. Even for those who admired Hoffman beforehand, this is a revelation.

In view of Hoffman's dominating performance, there isn't much room for the other actors. John Hurt (who starred in director 

Richard Kwietniowski's Love and Death on Long Island) offers a deliciously reptilian turn as the casino director who wants to 

squeeze every last cent out of Mahowny. There's a wonderful scene in which Victor's boss approaches him during a Mahowny 

winning streak and warns him that the casino could be in trouble. "Come back to me at 4 a.m. and ask me how we're doing," he 

advises with the confidence of one who understands the mindset of his prey. While Hurt makes the most of limited screen time, 

the same cannot be said of Minnie Driver, who is underutilized in an underwritten part.

Movies about men caught in the grip of an addiction are never pleasant to watch. But they are powerful and often instructive. 

Owning Mahowny is such a motion picture. It works for two reasons: (1) it understands the nature and patterns of addiction and 

doesn't try to blunt or soften them to appeal to an audience, and (2) it doesn't cop out with a happy ending. Add to that a 

brilliant performance by Hoffman, and you have a motion picture that never ceases to be worthwhile.

© 2003 James Berardinelli

Ox-Bow Incident, The ****1/2   1943


In 1885, cattlemen Gil Carter and Art Croft travel from their small ranch to the nearby town of Bridger's Wells, Nevada, after 

the winter round-up. Gil is hoping to meet his sweetheart, Rose Mapen, and is infuriated when Darby, the bartender, informs 

him that she left town to be married. Gil's temper worsens when rancher Jeff Farnley insinuates that he and Art, as the only 

strangers present, may be responsible for the recent cattle rustling that has hit every rancher in the area. Gil and Farnley 

engage in a fistfight, which ends when Darby shatters a bottle over Gil's head. As Gil and Art are standing outside afterward, a 

rider rushes into the saloon. Gil and Art rejoin the crowd, which has just learned that Larry Kincaid, a well-respected local 

rancher, has been murdered, presumably by the rustlers. Farnley, Kincaid's best friend, is easily whipped into a frenzy by the 

town drunk, Monty Smith, and other bored men who insist that the perpetrators should be lynched. Storekeeper Arthur Davies

tries to persuade the men to wait for Sheriff Risley and Judge Daniel Tyler, but when they persist in forming a posse, Davies 

sends Gil and townsman Joyce to get Tyler. Davies asks Gil to avoid involving Butch Mapes, the brutish deputy sheriff, but 

Mapes is at Tyler's house, and when he learns of the excitement, he joins the gathering crowd. Tyler tries to dissuade the men

from pursuing the alleged criminals, but Smith, Farnley and the others insist that Tyler's justice moves too slowly. Smith 

caustically suggests that black preacher Sparks should come, and even though he knows Smith is kidding him, Sparks decides to 

go in case prayer is needed. The mob is joined by Jennie "Ma" Grier, a tough woman who also insists that they find Kincaid's 

killers. Tyler and Davies have almost persuaded the crowd to desist, however, when Major Tetley, a former Confederate soldier 

who now fancies himself a town leader, arrives and announces that three men were seen on Bridger's Pass, and that they had 

forty head of cattle bearing Kincaid's brand. Despite Tyler's protests that only Risley can appoint new deputies, Mapes swears in

the posse members and they set off for the pass. Gil and Art reluctantly go along, for they fear that suspicion will fall on them if 

they do not participate. Gil's uneasiness about the situation increases when Sparks remarks that he still has nightmares about 

seeing his brother lynched many years previously. Night falls as the posse travels, and everyone begins to suffer from the cold. 

As they stop on the mountain road to rest, a stagecoach passes by and the driver mistakenly assumes that the crowd are robbers.

 Art is shot in the shoulder during the ensuing confusion, and while his wound is being cleaned, Gil discovers that the passengers 

are Rose, her new husband, Swanson, and his sister. After the wealthy Swanson vaguely warns Gil to stay away from Rose, the 

stage departs. Art is determined to stick with the posse, which continues on to the Ox-Bow Valley. There they find three sleeping 

men and the cattle bearing Kincaid's brand. After surrounding them, the mob awakens the three men, who are led by young 

rancher Donald Martin. Martin's companions are Alva Hardwick, an addled old man whom Martin calls "Dad," and a Mexican 

named Francisco Morez, who does not appear to speak English. Martin is amazed by Tetley's accusations and immediately 

protests their innocence. Martin insists that he moved to nearby Pike's Hole three days earlier and purchased the cattle from 

Kincaid, who was too busy to provide him with a bill of sale. Gil tries to persuade the others to bring the trio back to the judge, 

but Art reminds him that they may get lynched as well if they interfere. Davies also pleads for the men's lives, and finally, Tetley 

agrees to give them until dawn to  prepare themselves. Martin writes a letter to his wife and two young children, while Dad sits 

in a daze and Morez hungrily consumes a meal prepared by Ma. While Davies tries to get Tetley to read Martin's moving letter, 

Morez attempts to escape. He is shot in the leg and brought back, and Kincaid's gun is found on him. Morez, who now reveals 

that he does speak English, asserts that he found the gun along the road, but the presence of the weapon seals his fate. Davies 

again protests the lynching, and this time, Sparks, Gil, Art, Tetley's cowardly son Gerald and two other men stand by him. They 

are outnumbered, however, and the condemned men are put on horseback. Tetley tries to force Gerald to whip the horse from 

underneath Martin, and when he cannot, Tetley knocks him unconscious. Martin, Dad and Morez are hanged, after which the 

now somber crowd leaves. Before they have journeyed far, though, they are joined by the sheriff, who tells them that not only

is Kincaid alive, but his attackers have been caught. Risley promises that those responsible for the lynching will pay dearly, and 

the group rides back to town. There, Gerald castigates his father for his cruelty, and the distraught major commits suicide. 

Meanwhile, in the crowded saloon, a collection is taken up for Martin's wife. Gil and Art contribute, and Gil tries to get Art to 

read Martin's letter. Art cannot read, however, so Gil reads the letter aloud, and the men are ashamed to hear Martin's stirring 

words about the nature of justice and conscience. Gil and Art then leave Bridger's Wells on their way to deliver the letter and 

look after Martin's wife and children. 



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