Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

IMDB Synopsis: A group of people hide from bloodthirsty zombies in a farmhouse.

I've never been very familiar with zombie films (or zombies in general), so I decided to start off with the film that is remembered for starting the zombie phenomenon: George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead.

I obviously knew prior to viewing that this was a horror film, but I had no idea what I was in for. It's gruesome, violent and probably the most disturbing film I've ever seen. It's no surprise that it's still considered to be a masterpiece among the horror genre.

While the film contains a great cast (Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea and Karl Hardman, just to name a few), the main thing that makes it unique is Romero's direction and the special effects. The film doesn't necessarily contain "constant gore", but during the few scenes that it does, it's terrifying. I'll admit I had to cover my eyes several times, particularly during the last half.

Overall, Night of the Living Dead deserves to be ranked with the greatest horror films of all time. For anyone interested, TCM is airing it on Halloween night at 8:00PM EST.

5/5 stars

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: Some Like It Hot (1959)

IMDb Synopsis: When two musicians witness a mob hit, they flee the state in an all female band disguised as women, but further complications set in.

I think everyone has an answer when asked what they consider to be funniest film ever made. Most people, along with the American Film Institute, choose Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot. After finally watching it for the first time, I can see why.

Jack Lemmon is one of my favorite actors, one reason for this (and a lot of my other favorite actors) is because he's so versatile: he can do drama (Days of Wine and Roses) or comedy (The Apartment) and manage to be wonderful at both. It's quite obvious that he owns the film. I was really impressed by Tony Curtis, who also seems to have a lot of versatility- this was only a year after he played Sidney Falco in Sweet Smell of Success.
In my reviews of How to Marry a Millionaire and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, I mentioned I wasn't a Marilyn Monroe fan for several reasons. However, I liked her in both of those films, and I thought she was wonderful as Sugar Kane. She's genuinely funny- I found myself cracking up at her quite a few times (if you've seen the film, I'm sure you know why). I didn't think I'd ever say this about Monroe, but I'm honestly surprised she didn't get any kind of recognition from The Academy. Joe Brown was also a really great addition to the cast, and delivers the famous closing line (which I'll mention towards the end of this review).

Billy Wilder is probably my second favorite director of all time (the first being Hitchcock). He's directed so many of my favorites, and I love his work because it remains timeless. After sixty one years, Sunset Blvd is captivating, and The Major and the Minor is still hilarious. I feel the same way about Frank Capra- so many of his films still delight movie watchers today. Some Like It Hot is no different. It's one of those movies that's bound to make you laugh, no matter how many times you've seen it. For instance, the closing dialogue between Jack Lemmon and Joe Brown:

Jerry: Oh no you don't! Osgood, I'm gonna level with you. We can't get married at all. 
Osgood: Why not? 
Jerry: Well, in the first place, I'm not a natural blonde. 
Osgood: Doesn't matter. 
Jerry: I smoke! I smoke all the time! 
Osgood: I don't care. 
Jerry: Well, I have a terrible past. For three years now, I've been living with a saxophone player. 
Osgood: I forgive you. 
Jerry:  I can never have children! 
Osgood: We can adopt some. 
Jerry: But you don't understand, Osgood! 
[Finally gives up and pulls off his wig]
Jerry: Ohh... I'm a man! 
Osgood: Nobody's perfect! 

If it isn't obvious, I'm giving Some Like It Hot 5/5 stars.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Decades Meme: 1950's

The third post in my decades meme, where I pick my favorite film from every year of a certain decade, today's begin the 50's. Previous installments here and here.

1950: Sunset Blvd

1951: The African Queen

1952: Singin' In the Rain

1953: Roman Holiday 

1954: A Star Is Born

1955: East of Eden

1956: The King and I

1957: Designing Woman

1958: Vertigo

1959: North by Northwest

Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: True Grit (1969)

IMDb Synopsis: A drunken, hard-nosed U.S. Marshal and a Texas Ranger help a stubborn young woman track down her father's murderer in Indian territory.

If you saw my review of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, you know that I've never had a strong liking for westerns or John Wayne. I'll admit that I never really had interest in seeing True Grit until it was remade last year with Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfield.

With most westerns, I usually end up losing interest after the first half hour or so. With True Grit, this wasn't an issue. I actually found myself becoming quite engrossed as the story progressed. It's no surprise to me now that Wayne won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1970- I'd say it ranks with Liberty Valance for being his best performance. I also was really impressed with Kim Darby. Now, I'm really interested in seeing the remake to compare it to the original.

Overall, I found True Grit to be a really enjoyable film. Even if you're like me and don't enjoy westerns, I would most definitely recommend viewing it.

4/5 stars

Friday, October 14, 2011

Review: Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962)

IMDb Synopsis: Author Eugene O'Neill gives an autobiographical account of his explosive homelife, fused by a drug-addicted mother, a father who wallows in drink after realizing he is no longer a famous actor and an older brother who is emotionally unstable and a misfit. The family is reflected by the youngest son, who is a sensitive and aspiring writer.

I don't even know how to start this review. I watched Long Day's Journey Into Night yesterday afternoon, and the only word I can think of to describe it is "Wow"- a film hasn't impressed this much since Judgment at Nuremberg.

Sidney Lumet and Katharine Hepburn really complete the film. I was completely blown away with Hepburn's captivating performance- if that's not superb acting, then I don't know what is (which she's the greatest actress of all time, so I'm not at all surprised). The same goes for Ralph Richardson, Jason Robards and Dean Stockwell, who all give quite impressive performances as well. This is one of the films where the whole main cast deserved Oscar nods.

One of my favorite directors as of late is Sidney Lumet (also known as the man behind masterpieces like 12 Angry Men and Fail Safe). I find his camera shots and cinematography to differ from other directors of the era, which brings a lot of depth to his films. I haven't read Eugene O'Neill's play yet, but I'm definitely going to now.

I can't enforce this enough: if you haven't seen Long Day's Journey Into Night yet, please do yourself a favor and change that.

5/5 stars

Monday, October 10, 2011

My Favorite Films: The Night of the Hunter (1955)

 "Chillll . . . dren?''

As I'm beginning my new "My Favorite Films" series in October, I think it would be appropriate for the first installment to be on one of my favorite horror/thriller films, The Night of the Hunter (1955). I first saw it only five months ago, but its quickly become a favorite since. The film stars Robert Mitchum in what I consider to be his finest role, along with Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish, Peter Graves and Sally Jane Bruce.

The Night of the Hunter tells the story of religious psychopath Mitchum who entices and marries a widow (Winters) so he can get close to her children (Graves and Bruce) who know where their father stored $10,000 dollars from a robbery that he was sentenced to death for. The film was adapted from Davis Grubb's 1953 novel of the same name. The novel was influenced by serial killer Harry Powers (also known as the Bluebeard killer of West Virginia), who was convicted in 1923 for the murder of two women and three children.

This was the first and only film directed by Charles Loughton. The film was a failure, both with audiences and critics when released, and Laughton never directed again. This is quite unfortunate for two reasons, the first being that Hunter is such a wonderful film, and the second being that Laughton had so much potential as a director and I often wonder what other films he would have made had it done better at the box office. He has influenced many modern directors, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese and Terrence Malik being just a few of them.


Hunter contains two of the most frightening scenes I've ever seen in a film, both with show Laughton's brilliant direction, The first being the shot of Winters body in the lake after Mitchum has murdered her, which kept me awake for hours after my first viewing.

The second scene being the one in which Mitchum is seen from a distance riding his horse and singing "Leaning On the Everlasting Arms" as he hunts (no pun intended) for Ben and Pearl. It's almost impossible not to get chills from watching it.

Another reason that makes it so great besides Charles Laughton is the actors. I mentioned above that this is my favorite of Mitchum's roles, and he's so convincing as the psychopath not only in this film, but also in Cape Fear (1962), one of my recent favorites. And even though her performance is so brief (she and Gloria Grahame seem to be the most murdered actress of all time), Shelley Winters adds a lot to the film. Apart from Robert Mitchum, I think the most important presence in the film is from Peter Graves and Sally Jane Bruce, who deserve much more credit for their roles. And I can't not mention Lillian Gish, who does marvelously well in what is sadly one of only two of her films I've seen.

To sum it up, The Night of the Hunter has captivated me since I first watched it back in May, and has continued to do so with others since it's release in 1955. As Robert Ebert stated  "It is one of the most frightening of movies, with one of the most unforgettable of villains, and on both of those scores it holds up ... well after four decades."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Review: No Man of Her Own (1932)

IMDb Synopsis: Clark Gable plays a card cheat who has to go on the lam to avoid a pesky cop. He meets a lonely, but slightly wild, librarian, Carole Lombard, while he is hiding out. The two get married after Lombard wins a coin flip and they move back to the city. Gable continues his gambling/cheating scheme unbeknownst to Lombard.

Since Clark Gable and Carole Lombard are one of the most remembered old Hollywood couples, it's surprising that they only worked together once, several years before they fell in love and later married in 1939 (even though the 1976 film Gable and Lombard makes it seem as if they began seeing each other soon after they met).  

I quite enjoyed watching Gable and Lombard in this film. Even though they weren't together at the time, I thought they had wonderful chemistry and played off of each other very well. Another great addition to the cast is Elizabeth Patterson, who is most famous for her role as Mrs. Trumble in I Love Lucy.

Overall, I wouldn't say No Man of Her Own is the best of either Gable or Lombard's films- I'd pick Gone With the Wind and My Man Godfrey for those- but I do think it's a decent film supported by remarkable performances. You can watch it here if you wish.

4/5 stars

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Review: The General (1926)

IMDb Synopsis: When Union spies steal an engineer's beloved locomotive, he pursues it single handedly and straight through enemy lines.

I mentioned in my review of The Phantom of the Opera  that I was starting to watch more silent films, for two reasons: one being that I've really been enjoying silents lately, and the second being that Buster Keaton is the October Star of the Month on TCM, so I've watched a good bit of his work so far this month. The General is Keaton's most famous film. A lot of critics call it his best film, and, from what I've seen, I can agree.

Whether it's a comedy or a drama, Buster Keaton is a delight to watch in any of his silent films (I'm sure he is in the talkies he made, too, but I can't say as I haven't seen any of those yet). I think he and Charlie Chaplin possessed the same quality of always being able to entertain the viewer no matter what the genre is. I also really enjoyed Marion Mack, who played his love intrest.

It's hard to believe now that The General was a flop at the box office, considering the status it has in the film industry today (then again, a lot of films now ranked among the best were failures- look at It's a Wonderful Life and Bringing Up Baby). Overall, I'd recommend it if you're in the mood for a great comedy or are looking to see more silent films. Watch it here if you wish.

5/5 stars

Monday, October 3, 2011

Decades Meme: 1940's

Continuing with the second installment in which I pick my favorite film from every year of a particular decade. (View 1930's post here).

 1940: The Grapes of Wrath

1941: The Maltese Falcon

1942: Casablanca

1943: The More the Merrier

1944: To Have and Have Not

1945: Brief Encounter

1946: Notorious

1947: Out of the Past

1948: The Red Shoes

1949: Adam's Rib

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Review: Baby Face (1933)

IMDb Synopsis: A young woman uses her body and her sexuality to help her climb the social ladder, but soon begins to wonder if her new status will ever bring her happiness.

If you like classic films as much as I do, you'll probably agree that one of the best things about classics is pre-codes. I think it's so interesting to see how much film makers got away with in the early thirties, as apposed to films made after the Production Code went into effect in 1934. There are so many great pre-code films that never would have made it past the Hays Office, and Baby Face is one of them.

Barbara Stanwyck's performance is top-notch. She's so convincing as Lily Powers, and this is my favorite of her earlier roles, along with Night Nurse (1931). I haven't seen many of George Brent's films, but I enjoyed his performance as well. Also notable are Donald Cook and a young John Wayne towards the beginning of his film career.

Overall, Baby Face is the most provocative pre-code film I've seen, and one of the best. I would suggest watching it if you're looking to see more pre-codes, or are just a Barbara Stanwyck fan.

5/5 stars