June 1st-Murder by Decree from 1979 (Director: Bob Clark, Writers: John Hopkins and based on the Ripper Files by John Lloyd and Elwyn Jones and Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Stars: Christopher Plummer and James Mason, Cinematography: Reginald H. Morris, Runtime: 125 mins)
Sherlock and Watson try to stop Jack the Ripper. That’s the story. This is the second Holmes film to have him facing the Ripper but the most famous. I watched this with family so there was talking and one uncle was building a desk so I did miss some dialogue but I enjoyed it quite bit. So excuse the short review.
Plummer and Mason have a very good dynamic as the famed pair. Plummer is affable, clever and heartfelt as the great detective. Mason is a dedicated partner and just a nice guy. The scenes together are wonderful and I appreciate the lack of insulting each other. Donald Sutherland has a small part as a medium and has epic facial hair. He’s also good. Seriously, Plummer was the best. The heartbreaking scene with Geneviève Bujold in the asylum or the summation scene at the end.
Style wise its Bob Clark from Black Christmas. Dude knows horror. This film has those POV shots, claustrophobic sequence, tense build. It doesn’t go full horror but it still in the genre. A very well put together atmospheric film. The story, well, if you seen From Hell film-that follows the same theory here. So I kind of figured how it was going at one point. Still, very enjoyable Holmes film.
June 2nd-Rocketman from 2019 (Director: Dexter Fletcher, Writer: Lee Hall, Stars: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, and Bryce Dallas Howard, Cinematography: George Richmond, Runtime: 121 mins)
Rocketman is the story of Elton John up through his sobriety. Yep. Elton, in major stage ensemble shows up at rehab. He tells the story of his like in this biopic-musical. We see him as a talented pianist whose father does not try to connect to and his mother just, well, wants to do her thing. He goes to a music academy, gets into rock music, finds a writing partner and becomes a huge star. This includes the sex and drugs.
So Taron is very good as Elton. He is fun to watch, full of energy but also very good at the quiet depression. Bryce Dallas Howard is quite fascinating as Elton’s mother. Her best performance I have seen. The cast is quite good. Really though, it really hinges on Taron for the film to work and it does. The movie is styled as a musical and quite effective. I like the staging of it, from the opening number with younger Elton, using a musical number to show the progression from teen Elton to adult Elton. Its a good musical. The transitions are good, the colors grand, its well out together.
Now, I don’t listen to Elton so I do not have strong feelings about him. I thought the drama was, while well done, pretty standard to celebrity biographies. Still, its a very fun film.
NOT REALLY A DOUBLE FEATURE: June 3rd-Jodowrosky’s Dune from 2013 (Director: Frank Pavich, Cinematography: David Cavallo, Runtime: 90 mins)
Crazy Rich Asians from 2018 (Director: John M. Chu, Writers: Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim, based on the novel by Kevin Kwan, Stars: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, and Michelle Yeoh, Cinematography: Vanja Cernjul, Runtime: 121 mins)
Family just chilled at my uncles house so movies were played. Skipped Almost Famous because I seen it (or part of it) and decided to focus on my reading. Which is currently Lovecraft Country. I did watch the documentary Jodowrosky’s Dune. About the pre-production of one of the great “almost was” films. Second film I watched is Crazy Rich Asians, about Rachel Chu who goes to Singapore with her boyfriend Nick for a wedding. Only to find out he is crazy rich and knows a lot of other crazy rich people.
About the Dune doc, its the second doc I have seen about a film falling apart before production. However, 7nlike the Death of Superman Lives, this one is grander in vision. A film with Salvador Dalim Mick Jagger and Orson Welles starring alongside David Carradine. Three of the men who worked on the seminal scifi/horror masterpiece Alien first meeting here. Plus legendary comic artist Moebius. Its a fascinating film about working on a surreal interpretation of a sicfi classic by a guy who didn’t even read the material. The design and concept art is magnificent. Of course your ability to enjoy may rest on Alejandro Jodowrosky himself.
Crazy Rich Asians has that thing where someone takes their partner to meet their family without being upfront about it. That sucks. So Rachel (played by an exceptional Constance Wu) has to deal with the the family, specifically the unapproving mother played by the legendary Michelle Yeoh. She is such an underrated dramatic actress. The opening scene where she meets racism at a swanky hotel only to assure her family buys it is wonderful. The film is filled with fantastic secondary players like Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, and Nico Santos. The film is stylish with its settings, set decorations, and wardrobe. Its a very good romantic comedy. I don’t have any deep thoughts on the film. I enjoyed it, was invested, and happy for Astrid when she ditched her man.
June 4th-Big Fish from 2003 (Director: Tim Burton, Writers: John August and based on the book by Daniel Wallace, Stars: Ewen McGregor, Albert Finney and Billy Crudup, Cinematography: Philippe Rousselot, Runtime: 125 mins)
Big Fish is about the tall stories of Edward Bloom. He passes them down to his son, who grows out of them. After years of not speaking Will comes home to see his dying father. Looking for more truth he, and his wife, get more tall tales.
I missed this Burton movie. Skipped it when it came out, regretted it and still did not track it down. But I saw it finally. It was good. Very pretty, good performances and fascinating story. I know-these reviews are sounding very similar. Its just I haven’t had a super strong reaction. Every film has been good, very good, but something is missing. Not anything to really get mad at. A lot to like but for some reason hot enough for me to really love.
However this is the weird thing about doing so many movies-seeing so big lows and so big highs. Big Fish is a strong film but I did not get that high. I liked it-really did. The southern gothic, bright colors, cool stylings. Its one of Burtons best looking movies. A film where he does not go overboard. McGregor and Finney are very good as Edward Bloom. They are so likeable and smooth. I dug it, but I am running out of things to say because I feel like I’m repeating the same review over and over…
June 5th-Angels With Dirty Faces from 1938 (Director: Michael Curtiz, Writers: by John Wexley and Warren Duff based on the story by Rowland Brown, Stars: James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, The Dead End Kids, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, and George Bancroft, Cinematography: Sol Polito, Runtime: 97 mins)
Ever hear the one about two juvenile friends, one becomes a gangster and the other a priest? You can probably thank this film. Rocky and Connolly were juveniles, after a botched train robbery Rocky gets caught and sent to reform school-starting a long career as a gangster. Twenty years later he reconnects with Connolly now a priest. Rocky has to deal with some business with his lawyer and then becomes friends with some local juveniles and starts seeing a girl he grew up with. This being a crime story, Rocky and Connolly start to drift again while Rocky’s associates still look for a way to get rid of him.
I am tired so I can’t think well but I dug this film. Cagney got an Oscar nod and while this one ranks behind a couple other films, he is good. The way he delivers his lines, the confidence, the brash and how he plays it in the final sequence leading to his characters execution. His interactions with Pat O’Brien, Ann Sheridan, and the Dead End Kids is all captivating. I actually wish there was more between Cagney and Sheridan.
The film plays well. Like Public Enemy starting young and then jumping ahead. The transition through police records is a nice touch to the usual newspaper spin. The actions pretty good, including Ricky Sullivan This has a grimey look to it and its wonderful. Okay, I am done. Better reviews going forward. Maybe.
June 6th-Sorry, Wrong Number from 1948 (Director: Anatole Litvak, Writer: Lucille Fletcher based on her radio play, Stars: Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster, Cinematography: Sol Polito, Runtime: 89 mins)
A bed ridden woman, who is the daughter of a wealthy businessman… ::sigh:: I don’t want to do this. A woman basically calls and gets called by a bunch of people as she desperately wants o know where her husband is. He’s trying to pull a scam. She suffers the consequence. She dies. But seriously, I’m glad. The last five minutes of this movie were the best. Before that I was bored. Very bored.
This is my second Stanwyck film, and the least interesting of the two. She was nominated for an Oscar and the whole time I was thinking-I want her dead. I get it, she’s responding to these situations as they come. Growing more fearful and hysteric. I just don’t care. I don’t care about anyone in this film. I really don’t. Burt Lancaster as her husband? Fuck him. The father? Fuck him. The characters I don’t hate I don’t care about. no one is that interesting to me in the film. Including the ex who is now married to the DA looking into the husband. What is wrong with you woman? No thank you.
Visually the film is pretty good. The best shot is when the camera goes from Stanwycks window down to an almost POV shot of the man breaking in. That was cool. I kind of wish the rest of the film had that kind of energy instead of just being “good.” Like, I’m waiting for the scenes to go to a next level. There’s room for it, but it just stays mostly at the same level. Then there is the story-Jesus its easy to forget how the phone was still a magical device decades ago. Why is Leona (Stanwyck’s character) telling everyone her life story. Why the fuck did she not get out of that house earlier? Call the nurse and get some help. She does call the cops who dismiss her and that annoyed me. Maybe if this was the same decade I’d care. Now, I just don’t. This film was boring.
Other Entertainment: Been watching New Girl because my cousin.
DOUBLE FEATURE: June 7th-Holiday from 1938 (Director: George Cukor, Writers: Donald Ogden Stewart, Sidney Buchman from the play by Philip Barry, Stars: Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, Cinematography: Franz Planer, Runtime: 95 mins)
His Girl Friday from 1940 (Director: Howard Hawks, Writers: Charles Lederer and Based on The Front Page 1928 play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, Stars: Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant, Cinematography: Joseph Walker, Runtime: 92 mins)
Pair of Cary Grant films tonight. First, him and Katherine Hepburn in a film with the classic 30s rom-com set up of someone falling for someone of wealth. This time Grant is Jonny Case, an idealistic man who falls for one Julia Seton. The Seton family has money, but that doesn’t quite mean much for Linda Seton who misses her youth. When her and her siblings would play. The brother was a great musician but pops ruined that. case connects more and more with Linda while his on view of work and money is at odds with what Julia and the patriarch want. His Girl Friday has Grant as editor Walter Burns whose ex, Hildy is planning to get married. He-in classic screwball fashion, fucks with his ex. Jealous of her new fiance but also because she’s the best “newspaper” man in the business. With schemes he gets her to cover one last story of a man who shot a cop. Was the shooter insane, influenced by “red propaganda” he heard in a park? Hildy is working against Walters schemes while getting pulled back into the newspaper game. Its a crazy screwball comedy.
Two films both based on stage plays so a lot of standing on a set, facing the “crowd” and big performances. Not that, that’s a bad thing. The first film, takes a minute to get to the main stage of play. First introducing Grants Jonny case and his friends. Grant is quite physical in his enthusiasm with some tumbles and cartwheels. Grant is so damn likable, as is Katherine Hepburn. She is vert interested in Case, liking the pairing with her sister. I also dug Lew Ayers as the brother. He comes off as a dumb drunk but the notion of him as this super talented musician who is just stuck in expectations is a nice twist. I like Case’s friends, feeling out of place at the big party invite and then ending up in Linda’s solo party and having a blast. Grant and Hepburn have much chemistry as you can tell from their two more famous films. Visually, the big house and setting is nice but like a staged play, it doesn’t really do anything stylistic. Hard to really do anything too special. This was good, but I did not get why Jonny liked Julia and did not care for her or the father. Overall, it was good but nothing too special to me.
I liked His Girl Friday more. Grant is the more likable asshole version of himself and has more crackerjack line delivery. Rosalind Russell keeps up as Hildy and Ralph Bellamy is the poor, sad, but likeable sap in Bruce. The sequence with Grant and Russell is loud and so rapid fire you’re going to miss pieces. Then to the lunch scene with Grant formulating his plan. But Hildy is onto his schemes. The film takes a more dramatic turn with the crime being documented and a couple real mean scenes. Like the harassment of a woman who was nice to the killer, and once scene where she jumps from a window to keep the journalist off his trail after he escapes. Pretty shocking and surprising. Rosalind is actually pretty amazing in the role. Grants good, hell even great, but this is Russell’s film.
That’s it. Not a spectacular week for reviews. To be fair, most these films I gave ***1/2. I just had not enough to say. I will try to be better next week.
Other Entertainment: New Girl… Also some reading