January 13th-The Wild Bunch from 1969 (Director: Sam Peckinpah, Writers: Walon Green and Sam Peckinpah, Stars: William Holden, Robert Ryan, Ernest Borgnine, Edmond O’Brien, Ben Johnson and Warren Oates, Cinematography: Lucien Ballard, Runtime: 143 mins)
I liked the first ten or so minutes but once we got to know the characters, I checked out until the action kicked back in. Will need to rewatch with more concentration but I did not care about it. Technically I get it. Its a famous Western. Its just I have a harder time with Westerns though I have liked the ones I saw last year.
January 14th-The Lady Hermit from 1971 (Director: Meng Hua Ho, Writers: I. Fang Yeh, Stars: Pei-Pei Cheng, Lieh Lo, Szu Shih, and Hsieh Wang, Cinematography: Yu-Tang Li and Kuo-Hsiang Lin, Runtime: 95 mins)
A Shaw Bros film. That means kung fu action and excitement. Starring Cheng Pei-Pei, Lady Hermit is three stories. One involves wanting to vanquish evil bad guy Black Demon. The Lady Hermit Ling herself and young martial artist Chin Tsui, who wants to be a great martial artist. Chin Tsui is also seeking the mentorship of Lady Hermit, who she hears is one of the greatest martial artists. Then there is the love triangle with Chang Chun. He has feelings for the servant who is really Hermit hiding out, who is unsure of reciprocity. Her new student is crushing on Chang Chun. Basically the A plot is slim with a bunch of awesome action and minor melodrama delivered by very good performances.
I know that Come Drink With Me is Cheng Pei-Pei most famous film of her Shaw Bros era but damn it, I think she is better in this film. She is still kicking a lot of ass but her performance is fantastic. She is so good. Sweet, charismatic, determined. She is so good. Szu Shih is very good as the bratty but determined Chun Tsui and she delivers in her action scenes. I mean the only wooden performance from the main player is really the bad guy who is just there to be the bad guy.
Yeah, the plot about Black Demon is weak but the film is well paced and makes up for it with other developments. When we find out about Hermits last fight with Black Demon hurting her we start going into her training Chin, then the developments with Chang Chun, it makes the second act work. Work a lot better then it probably should. The first act is built around the search for the Hermits identity and the third act is the string of action leading to the final clash. It really doesn’t drag which sometimes these Hong Kong action films do. Its why I rate thus higher than Come Drink with Me, which despite all its wonderful parts I think drags in parts and has a weaker third act.
Part of the reason this one is so good is the action. Its bloody, brutal, and fun. With those quick editing to make things look like these fighters are supernatural. It also doesn’t blow it by putting the best stuff early on. It has a few short fights at the start leading to a fantastic battle. The second act has less action, then the third is wild. With Chin going solo and having fantastic battles including the bridge fight. Hermit in the bamboo forest. Then the action in Black Demons fort with both ladies. Including Black Demon fights. It helps with the various shift in surroundings. It feels about the world. From a town square, the large homes and temples, to the fort. It feels kind of epic.
Also, that ending… pushed it over for me.
January 15th-Waterloo Bridge from 1931 (Director: James Whale, Writers: Benn Levy and Tom Reed and based on the 1930 play by Robert E. Sherwood, Stars: Mae Clarke, Kent Douglass, Doris Lloyd, and Bette Davis, Cinematography: Arthur Edeson, Runtime: 81 mins)
Baby Face from 1933 (Director: Alfred E. Green, Writers: Gene Markey, Kathryn Scola with Story by Darryl F. Zanuck and Mark Canfield, Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Cinematography: James Van Trees, Runtime: 75 mins)
First film is Waterloo Bridge which has Mae Clarkes sex worker, former chorus girl, picking up a young soldier but scared to press the naive soldier who just thinks a pretty girl likes him. He becomes infatuated with her, probably in part because he is in war and does not get to socialize with much women. Mae Clarks Myra is lonely, broke and scared but does not want to take advantage of him. He is pressuring her about marriage, and introduces her to his well-to-do family. She explains who she really is to the mother who does not disclose her secret. All leading up ti a depressing WTF ending.
I am grading this on a curve. Its 1931 and based on a stage play. While not a film I really liked, I did not mentally check out at any point which was a positive. I was actually impressed by the scope of such a small and early thirties film. You get a feel for Myra’s small part of the world with scenes out in public and on the Waterloo Bridge. As well as a glimpse of the splendor of the young soldiers family fortunes. The performances are all very dramatic in the theater sense. James Whale is a very good director and stages everything well. The photography is really good too. Though I find Kent Douglass a bit restrained compared to others around him, which I appreciated. So yeah, its pretty good if you like melodramas. Heard the Vivian Leigh redo is inferior.
Second film is the other film from that three movie set. Another pre-code classic, notorious for its time. Barbara Stanwyck plays a woman who is not happy with her life. When she gets an out, and based on suggestion from a Nietzsche reading doctor, Stanwycks Lily works her way through the shot callers of the bank with sex. Ends up ruing one poor womans life who we only see in two scenes. I feel bad for her. But basically Lily dated that womans fiance, broke up with him and started dating her father who was the president of the bank (I think, writing this a day later) but that fiance was obsessed with. Then murder suicide between the guys. New bank president transfers her to Paris in exchange for her not talking to papers. Then they get a thing going.
So… yeah. Another film that was good. Looked fine, some great shots, Stanwyck is pretty and does a good job. All the men are idiots. I really don’t have much to say. It is not a film i really liked. I read it was Warner Bros. response to Red Headed Woman which I prefer. But it was fine with some shocks and generally amusing. So yeah.
[Waterloo Bridge Has No Trailer On Youtube / Baby Face Trailer]
January 16th-The Mark of Zorro from 1940 (Director: Rouben Mamoulian, Writers: John Taintor Foote with Story by Garrett Fort, Bess Meredyth and Based on The Curse of Capistrano by Johnston McCulley, Stars: Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, and Basil Rathbone, Cinematography: Arthur C. Miller, Runtime: 94 mins)
Its Zorro! Do I need to explain this one? Don Diego Vega returns home to find the common people abused by a corrupt government. His father was pushed out of office by these terrible people. He dons the mask of Zorro and goes after them. Starts falling for the niece of the man in charge, a woman named Lolita. Zorro saves the day by the way. A remake of the 1920s silent film adaptation of The Curse of Capistrano, the first Zorro story which would be renamed after then1920s film.
The film kicks off and for the first five or so minutes nothing interesting. You quickly see the change in Tyrone Powers performance when he meets the people in charge. He does the Bruce Wayne/Batman dual identity. The playboy pretending and then in reality the Zorro. Tyrone really shines and it takes a while for anything else to really catch up. Mostly working around everyone else, including Basil Rathborne who usually is so good. Here he Basil is fine, just not exceptionally deep as the vicious captain. Linda Darnell is fine, getting more to do as the film progresses but still just the love interest. Luckily she works well with Tyrone.
Visually the film looks fine. The staging of the action being the best scenes. Though the dance number is pretty nice. The costuming is pretty fantastic. Its a pretty cool film, I am curious about the 1920s version. Cause the 1920s one is the film the Wayne Family saw before Bruce lost his parents. This version is used in updates of his origin.
QUADRUPLE FEATURE: January 17th-Mission: Impossible from 1996 (Director: Brian De Palma, Writers: David Koepp, Robert Towne with Story by David Koepp & Steven Zaillian and Based on Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller, Stars: Tom Cruise, Cinematography: Stephen H. Burum, Runtime: 110 mins)
Mission: Impossible 2 from 2000 (Director: John Woo, Writers:
Robert Towne with Story by Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga and Based on Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller, Stars: Tom Cruise, Cinematography: Jeffrey L. Kimball, Runtime: 123 mins)
Mission: Impossible 3 from 2006 (Director: J.J. Abrams, Writers: J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Based on Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller, Stars: Tom Cruise, Cinematography: Dan Mindel, Runtime: 126 mins)
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol from 2011 (Director: Brad Bird, Writers: Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec and Based on Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller, Stars: Tom Cruise, Cinematography: Robert Elswit, Runtime: 133 mins)
In the first film Ethan Hunts IMF team is mostly knocked off during a mission by a mole. Now disavowed, him and team member Claire Phelps put together a team to weed out the mole and to set up the person who was looking for the NOC list known as Max. Some stealth work, spycraft and action mixed in with a few twists and you get the first Mission: Impossible film.
Going to breeze through this quickly because I have a total of 6 films over at least 2 days. The first film is a straight up spy thriller with sadly that 90s shine to it. That particular look a lot of 90s films have. Hard to describe but visually not up to par with the Brian De Palma films I like. Not that it looks bad, it just has a lot to do with the change in how movies are filmed. Besides that, its a well staged movie. De Palma constructs scenes that really work well and he has quite a cast, so it is not Tom Cruise carrying everything. Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Béart, Vanessa Redgrave, Ving Rhames and others do a very fine job. The story itself is good, though remembering the twist had me waiting for a while for certain things to occur. I think this one, while a very good spy thriller, kind of has little replay value. Outside the first act which I completely forgot about. The stuff that happens after Hunt goes on the run is not as strong. The film does not have the same fun energy as the last three movies though it is a great start for the franchise.
M:I2 has Hunt recruiting a thief who is the ex-girlfriend to a terrorist who has acquired a dangerous chemical weapon. No major twists and turns this time around. Good spy stopping bad guys. There is more interpersonal stuff like the romance between Hunt and Nyah and also a scene Nyah injecting herself with the poison to screw up her exes plans and we get the countdown to save her. Really though, who cares because this one lives up its reputation of not being good.
The opening bit with the doctor is the first bit of change. His narration and plan seems out of place for this. Then we get the airplane scene which is fine but then some overlong opening credits wit Cruise solo rock climbing. This film has that post Matrix gloss and the action sequences and sound effects are a departure from the first film. It also drags. A lot. It is boring. The best scenes for Cruise and Thandie Newton (playing Nyah) is their meeting up to their separation for the job. I am disappointed in John Woo. You made Hard Boiled, the Killer and A Better Tomorrow. Or maybe disappointed in everyone else on the production side? Lets move on.
Ethan Hunt quits and gets engaged. To bad IMF need him when an agent is caught on assignment. The rescue does not go well with a bomb implant killing Keri Russell and leaving questions. The current IMF team snatch the dude she was after but hey, he has a friend in the IMF. Things go south, the team steals the rabbit foot macguffin as Hunts new wife is held hostage.
JJ Abrams directorial debut comes with a good bolt of energy the previous film lack. Those first couple minutes from thenflash forwqrd are intense. Still, after a strong first the film kind of lacks. Setting its best set pieces before the third act. Also this film moves deeper into pure action territory, only playing up spycraft when convenient. MI2 made spycraft boring and took out the thrills, this overcompensated the action. Still, a step up from the sequel but weaker than the first. Plus, Tom Cruise has his best MI hairstyle in this. The movie gets a con in the lack of Simon Pegg. Laurence Fishburne is good in it and Philip Seymour Hoffman as well.
Against my better judgement put o the fourth film, Ghost Protocol. I told myself I would never do 4 in a day again. This one as Ethan Hunt extracted from Russian prison. An IMF agent is killed while securing a package. Now the team has to secure more intel on target Cobalt. Things go wrong, really wrong. Now Hunt and his three person team have to save the world from nuclear destruction at the hands of Cobalt.
MI4 is almost it. Its a tad under the first one and a tad ahead of the third. The stunt set pieces are more elaborate, action bigger and a good integration of spycraft. Like the high tech infiltration of the Kremlin for example. Brad Bird, in his first live action film, delivers a very strong action spy film. Promoting Simon Pegg as the field agent tech guy was a smart move. Paula Patton is good too, sadly not in the films after this. Still, the story lacks a little umph. Its like the other two films except the third picture had a more interesting bad guy. Michael Nyqvist feels a bit wasted. Still, for the weakness of the story the scope of the film, action and stunt work make it a fun ride. This film also features uncredited rewrites from Christopher McQuarrie who would helm the next two pictures. The best in the series?
DOUBLE FEATURE:January 18th-Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation from 2015 (Director/Writer: Christopher McQuarrie, Writers: Story by Drew Pearce and Based on Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller, Stars: Tom Cruise, Cinematography: Robert Elswit, Runtime: 131 mins)
Mission: Impossible – Fallout from 2018 (Director/Writer: Christopher McQuarrie and Based on Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller, Stars: Tom Cruise, Cinematography: Rob Hardy, Runtime: 147 mins)
The fifth and sixth Mission: Impossible work as a great double feature because they have the same mastermind. Solomon Lane, leader of the Syndicate. In Rogue Nation Ethan Hunt is operating solo as the IMF has been disbanded and CIA does not believe in the Syndicate. Eventually we get the team together plus a deep cover British Agent trying to stop Lane from accessing black budget funds to use for his operations. Fallout has Lanes agents causing hell all over the globe and Hunt and his team losing plutonium. Hunt has to work with a CIA operative to get it back but to do that, they have to break Lane out and trade him. Plus twists and turns in what is widely considered the best film in the series.
Christopher McQuarrie takes over writing and directing and doing so he makes Mission: Impossible into the acclaimed hit franchise it struggled to be. Before Ghost Protocol it was a modestly successful franchise, the fourth film gave the series a shot in the arm and these two take it next level. Rogue Nation opens big and has a number of fascinating set pieces mixing action and stunts with the high tech spycraft of the first film which was a struggle for the second and third film to a degree. Solomon Lane is a better bad guy then most of the MI bad guys outside 3. He is very well played by Sean Harris. Rebecca Ferguson adds a little mire mystery and style to the proceedings. Fallout capitalizes on the previous film. Angela Bassett is always a welcome sight and Henry Cavill gets to be in a successful film that utilizes his best talents. Outside of this film, his best movie is the under appreciated Man from UNCLE, another spy film based on a show. Like the fifth film, a number of big set pieces and while not as much spycraft, we have Ethan playing undercover. Plus the best staged op to get a confession since the first film.
Visually the film looks its best. They are paced their best. Though still a few minutes too long. I still think they can cut six or so minutes and make the final action pieces tighter. I also think Cruise gives his best performances in these two films. On another note, I kind of feel like these play best on a big screen in a dark theater. Finally, I don’t agree Fallout is the best action film of the 2010s, but I think the franchise has a stake in being called one of the best action franchises of the 2010s.
I watched them all, now more than year until the next one.
They sound the best. They
January 19th-An American In Paris from 1951 (Director: Vincente Minnelli, Writers: Alan Jay Lerner, Stars: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guétary, and Nina Foch, Cinematography: Alfred Gilks, Runtime: 115 mins)
The story of an American trying to make it as an artist in Paris. His friend is a concert pianist, his new friend is a performer, and he soon meets a woman who wants to help him out. Probably more. However this Jerry Mulligan spies a beautiful young woman named Lise and convinces her to see him. They begin to fall for each other but she is the fiance of the French singer Jerry only recently meet.
Now I start every film as a level of wanting to enjoy it. At three stars, going up or down depends on the flick. About ten or so minutes in I was at a five. The humor, the photography, Leslie Carons introduction, all the colors, the dancing and especially that opening diner number. The film dipped a tad here and there but ended at a five. It is fantastic. A film that I had been not sure if I was interested in but I went with my grandma to see it on the big screen and wow. What a movie.
The supporting cast is on point. Adam Cook is funny, Georges Guétary is filled with so much enthusiasm, and Nina Foch is effective in her role as Milo. This film has some some great comic moments, had me laughing. The visual and scope is impressive. The locations are great and stylish. People loved big colors back in the day and half the films today want to wash them all out. I don’t get it. The numbers-the songs themselves are less important than the showmanship. They are perfectly staged pieces that captivate. The composer sequence is great even if its meaningless. The almost twenty minute silent musical segment is stunning with the painted backgrounds, props, art, dancers and Kelly and Caron doing their thing.
This film is the best I have seen this month and a while.