Archive for February, 2009



11
Feb
09

Movies on DVD Review: To Catch a Thief

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A fun little movie.

Stars Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Based on the novel by David Dodge.

Taking place in the late 40’s/early 50’s, Cary Grant plays wandering American John “The Cat” Robie who went to Europe, got captured by the Germans and released by the French Underground after which he became a jewel thief. Now he lives in a chateau overlooking the countryside, far removed from his previous life of crime. When a series of thefts in Nice mimic “The Cat” he pleads that he hasn’t committed a crime in 15 years. Teaming up with H.H. Hughson (John Williams, the actor not composer), a jewel insurer, Robie obtains a list of those with jewels to insure so he can beat the copycat burglar to their own game. This leads him to meet Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis), a woman who came into oil money just as her husband died and her daughter, Frances (Kelly). Frances falls in love with Robie (who is posing as a lumber professional) but is unsure if he’s really committing the robberies. And Robie is unsure who the actual burglar is: is it her? Or someone from his past?

While the first 45 minutes of this movie dragged a little, not even a second after the movie kicks into high gear and becomes a fun ride. Hitchcock delivered on the suspense, tension, mystery, and intrigue, as well as being able to shoot in and around Nice. Grant is great and Kelly is incredibly beautiful. Interesting story with a good payoff ending.

Does this movie still hold up to today? Yes and no. Yes for everything after Grace Kelly appears on the screen, no because most people would be lost on the French Resistance and some other events of Word War II.

Watch for Hitch when Grant gets on a bus, sitting to the left (viewer right) of a woman with birds in a cage.

The copy I watched has the Theatrical Trailer, Photo and Poster Gallery, as well as Writing and Casting TCAT, The Making of TCAT, Alfred Hitchcock and TCAT: An Appreciation, and a tribute to Edith Head.

My grade: B+

09
Feb
09

In Passing… James Whitmore (1921-2009)

j_whitmoreTelevision and film actor James Whitmore passed away on February 6 from lung cancer. Whitmore began his career on Broadway and earned many accolades before going Hollywood. In the movies his first role was that of George Pappas in “The Undercover Man” (1948). He continued on with such films as “The Next Voice You Hear…” “The Asphalt Jungle,” “Kiss Me Kate,” and “Them!” the movie about giant radioactive ants. Switching over to television he had roles on “Studio One” and several other “theatre” shows before starring as Abraham Lincoln Jones in “The Law and Mr. Jones,” which lasted for two seasons. He would continue alternating between the two, showing up in such TV shows as “The Twilight Zone,” “The Virginian,” “Gunsmoke,” “The Ray Bradbury Theater,” and “CSI.” His other movies include “Planet of the Apes,” “Madigan,” “Tora! Tora! Tora!” and “The Shawshank Redemption.” And, he was a longtime spokesperson for Miracle-Gro fertilizer. Whitemore was 87 years of age.

Thoughts and prayers to his family and friends

For more information, check out his IMDB page at:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0926235/

04
Feb
09

Movie Review: The Wrestler

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Yes, it’s true: the fans are fake.

 

Stars Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood. Directed by Darren Aronofsky.

 

The movie begins with Quiet Riot’s “Bang Your Head” while the camera pans over newsclippings and flyers of Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Rourke), a wrestler from the 80’s Golden Age of Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Rowdy Roddy Piper and let’s not forget, announcer Mean Gene Oakland. “The Ram’s” career hit its peak with a showdown with wrestler The Ayatollah (Ernest Miller).

 

Cut to “20 years later”. Randy is a broken down being. He takes wrestling gigs when he can find them and “supplements” his income by picking up part-time hours at a local grocery store in New Jersey. When he’s locked out of his trailer park home he resides in his Dodge Ram van. His one friend in town is Pam (Tomei), a stripper who goes by the name Cassidy and who has some feelings for him.

 

And we’re inducted into the world of wrestling through Randy. It’s not all body slams, drop kicks, and rivalries; all the wrestlers meet up before the matches and decide who will do what when the time comes. We see Randy’s drug addiction, prescription and otherwise. He hides small razor bits under the tape around his wrist so at the appropriate time he can cut his face, the blood running down and adding to the “performance.” After one particular match he “drops like a brick” and awakens in a hospital, the recipient of a heart bypass and a doctor’s warning of death if he wrestles again.

 

This starts him attempting to change his life. He spends a day with his daughter, a girl who he hasn’t been around for during his entire career. He tries proposing to “Cassidy” who can’t decide to love him or leave him. And he tries operating behind the meat counter at the grocery store. All these things bring him back to square one: he is a wrestler. With the upcoming 20 year rematch with The Ayatollah, Randy has to make a decision:

 

The main point of the movie is: arrested development. Randy is still doing the wrestling circuit and poppin’ painkillers and other drugs to keep going. He listens to Motley Crue, Whitesnake, Poison and every other hair metal band you can think of. His Nintendo only plays a game of him versus the Ayatollah. He carts around his videotapes and has a Polaroid camera. As he looks around at other wrestlers/ friends, he sees their bodies breaking down (wheelchairs, colostomy bags). He’s lonely, tired, and depressed, and doesn’t know how to do anything that he hasn’t done for the past twenty years.

 

Cassidy is also dealing with arrested development. She’s a stripper in a small town in New Jersey. She has a nine-year-old kid. She wants to do better for her life, but isn’t sure how that will happen. She is cautious in regards to having a relationship. As she looks around she notices that the guys aren’t looking at her much anymore. Is Randy the guy that she needs?

 

I will give credit to Aronofsky for this movie. While I have not been a fan of his previous efforts, this movie was on a level I wouldn’t have believed that he could achieve. He made the film feel like a documentary film, which added to how “real” the character felt. Aronofsky made Rourke disappear into the role, and the film was better for it. It’s a sad, lonely, depressing, surprisingly comical at moments, head-bangin’, body-slammin’ drama.

 

And now I’m going back to working on my standing moonsault, chair shot, and el kabong.

 

My grade: A-

And for those who haven’t seen the trailer:

 

 

And a treat from The Onion:

 

 

03
Feb
09

Movies on DVD Review: Next

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 My grade: C. Wait, isn’t that a little more than 2 minutes in the future?

Stars Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, and Jessica Biel. Directed by Lee Tamahori. Based on the Philip K. Dick story, “The Golden Man.”

Nic Cage is Cris Johnson, a Las Vegas magician who morosely lives his life performing as Frank Cadillac and who keeps a secret: he can see 2 minutes into his own future. This helps him out of situations whereby he can easily hide from people, duck corners, avoid getting shot, or barely have a stolen car clipped by an oncoming train. “No good deed goes unpunished” as he stops casino carnage by disarming a serial casino shooter. This brings the attention of FBI agent Callie Ferris (Moore) who figures out that Cris’s ability to see into the future isn’t just a magic trick, it’s the real deal. Ferris needs Cris in order to help find a missing nuclear warhead that will take out the L.A. area faster than the current land eroding. Ferris isn’t the only one interested in Cris; the group with the stolen nuke figures that if the FBI is interested in him, so should they. Cris is only interested in living his life as normal and “under the radar” as possible until he meets Liz Cooper (Biel), a part-time teacher he hitches a ride to Flagstaff with and who has the ability to help him see further into the future.

File this one under “Good Idea, Okay Execution.”

Time travel, clairvoyance, precognition, what-have-you has been the staple of many a sci-fi film, and not always the good ones. To say this is the type of movie you can watch and then appreciate “Millennium” (Kris Kristofferson, Cheryl Ladd) may be a bit of an overstatement, but not by much (okay, I was a kid when I saw “Millennium” and thought the watches running backwards were cool, alright?) Okay, how about “Timecop?” I refuse to acknowledge “Star Trek’s” adventures in time because they’ve abused the privilege. The one thing these movies have over “Next” is: a story.

Getting past the point of belief that the bad guys would be interested in Cris, there’s not a lot else going on in this movie. Jessica Biel does a good job at being the romantic interest/ innocent person caught up in all the mayhem. Julianne Moore is good at being the balls-to-the-wall yet soft-hearted FBI agent needing to find Cris to stop the warhead from detonation. And Nic Cage slumbers around until he’s in an action sequence, at which point he jumps and flails around until it’s over and returns to sleep-acting.

Again, I return to the story. The movie smacks you with its “ain’t this cool?” premise so much that it often makes you forget that there has to be a point to the movie. The filmmakers designed the movie to confuse the viewer as to whether or not what we are seeing is the truth, or if it’s a 2-minute “sneak peek.” This actually ruins the ending. And the part where he makes multiple versions of himself to check for traps while cool is unwarranted.

I really wanted this movie to be good, or at least as entertaining as “Paycheck” (another movie based on a PKD story and hey, at least that one WAS entertaining). The movie tries to be cerebral, but there’s nothing cerebral about it with the exception of Cage moping around. The film also had problems mixing romance with action-adventure thriller, throwing the viewer for a loop. By the hour-mark I couldn’t care less about the characters; I just wanted to know how the movie ended. It should’ve spent less time screaming, “Hey, isn’t this concept cool?” and more time developing a story.

Let’s face it: it was a mess of a movie.

Of note, Jim Beaver (“Deadwood”) and Peter Falk (“Columbo”) were in this one.

My grade: C (cool idea, unworthy execution)