Five movies everyone seem to love that leave me cold

RonSwansonBannerThis list has been on my draft folder for some time. Well, now seems as good a time as any to counter all the the applause for movies as one award after another is getting announced. This post is inspired by Abbi’s list, as well as Kristin’s who posted her own list. Now, I don’t totally abhor all of these films, but like Abbi said, I really don’t get all the praise and for me at least, it did NOT live up to the hype.

I use IMDb rating and Rotten Tomatoes score just to show how critically-acclaimed these films are. Two of the classic films listed here are even considered iconic masterpieces which is even more baffling to me. If you happen to LOVE these movies, well I wish I could say the same but I think they’re awful, sorry!

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

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IMDB rating: 7.1 | RT Score: 87%

I actually enjoyed the first Hellboy and that’s the reason why I was excited to see the second one but heh, my hubby and I actually turned it off after less than a half hour. For some reason I just couldn’t figure out why we liked the first one but this sequel is so boring. All the peculiar creatures and fantastical setting we found amusing the first time around just feels derivative, it feels like a studio obligation instead of a passion project from Guillermo Del Toro perhaps because that’s really the case here. I like Ron Perlman in the role though, but I’d rather just watch the first movie again.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

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IMDB rating: 8.0 | RT Score: 79%

Just like Transformers, a string of horror series and young adult adaptations, I never get the appeal of Pirates of the Caribbean from the get go. Johnny Depp‘s flamboyant, Keith-Richard-inspired Jack Sparrow is amusing for maybe a half hour tops, but for some reason people just can’t get enough of it that the fifth movie is now in the works [face palm]. Alas Depp can’t seem to shake that role either now, it’s as if Sparrow became his acting *curse.* I haven’t bothered watching the sequels, though I had to endure the second one (or was it the third??) when I was at a friend’s house and it just reminded me how awful this franchise is. I wince every time Geoffrey Rush show up, but I suppose a big paycheck from this type of drivels allow him to do something worthy of his talents. As if these movies aren’t unbearable already, we also have to endure watching Orlando Bloom doing poor imitations of Errol Flynn!

Spartacus (1960)

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IMDB rating: 8.0 | RT Score: 96%

Spartacus_romanceMy jaw dropped when I found out just how high the score is after seeing the film. I saw this a few years ago and I could barely made it to the end. Now, I LOVE LOVE Ben-Hur which I have seen time and again over the years and it still held up, and as a fan of swords & sandal genre, I thought I’d enjoy this too. But heck, I find it corny, dull and boring. I don’t buy Kirk Douglas as a gladiator slave for a second. He just isn’t tough nor ruthless enough I’d imagine the character to be. Sure some might’ve called Charlton Heston a wooden actor, but he at least look the part as Ben-Hur and he made me root for his character. Not so with Douglas, and the romance with Jean Simmons have zero chemistry and the backdrop wallpaper they used for the scene is so awfully fake looking I couldn’t stop laughing!

So apparently Douglas did this movie to show William Wyler that he could do a Roman epic of his own, as he didn’t get the Judah Ben-Hur role he wanted. Per IMDb trivia, he was actually offered the role of Messala but he refused to play second banana. Heh, I thank the Lord he’s NOT part of Ben-Hur, I doubt he could do a better job than Stephen Boyd as Messala, let alone the lead role!! I also think Tony Curtis is completely miscast here as well.

Stanley Kubrick apparently disowned this project as he didn’t have complete creative control over it, well that explained it. Seems that this movie resulted from *too many cooks spoil the broth* syndrome.

The Getaway (1972)

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IMDb rating: 7.5 | RT Score: 85%

This was my intro to Sam Peckinpah as my pal Ted S. LOVES his work. Sorry Ted, but I really don’t like this film, like AT ALL. It’s also my intro into Steve McQueen who’s supposed to be this suave and cool hero, but meh, I find him to be blank and stiff. I saw some clips of him in Bullit and he’s pretty much acting the exact same way. Now, I like a tough, brooding hero as much as the next gal, but there doesn’t seem to be much going on internally in his character to make me care. Same with Ali MacGraw who’s gorgeous but doesn’t really have much going on otherwise, and the romance is as lifeless as a dead fish.

TheGetawaySlappingSceneThis film is labeled a thriller but I don’t find it suspenseful at all. Even the shootout from a supposedly celebrated violent action director is so lackluster and on a few occasion it made me laugh! The color of the blood here looks so obviously fake too which doesn’t help matters. Al Lettieri did look menacing as the villain but for the most part he’s more annoying than scary. Plus the whole creepy sex scene with Sally Struthers, forcing her own husband to watch her cheat with a criminal is just plain revolting. What bothers me most here is the violence against women by not just the villain but the hero, as there’s a scene where McQueen slaps MacGraw several times and I read that he actually did it spontaneously so her reaction looked real. Heh, there’s nothing cool or ‘macho’ about assault of any kind and it’s even more shocking that this film is rated PG!!

Interestingly enough, this is yet another movie disowned by the director himself, as apparently he butted heads with McQueen who wanted a different version of the story and the studio backed the actor.

To Catch A Thief (1955)

ToCatchAThiefPosterIMDb rating: 7.5 | RT Score: 95%

The poster promises ‘shocking suspense and sizzling romance’ but we’ve got neither. Apart from the gorgeous cinematography of the French Riviera – as well as Grace Kelly’s exquisite beauty – this film hasn’t got much to offer. Kelly’s soooo beautiful here that it’s actually distracting, and I was  also distracted by how tanned Cary Grant is in this movie, especially compared to his alabaster co-star. It feels more like a rom-com than a mystery romance, as it lacks any real suspense or even believable chemistry between the two leads. Perhaps the fact that Grant was 50 playing a guy in his mid 30s have something to do with that. It’s almost as tedious as Torn Curtain, another disappointing film from ‘the master of suspense’ director Alfred Hitchcock.

The premise sounds promising on paper and you’d think with this cast, this could’ve been far more entertaining. By the time the twist was revealed, I no longer cared who did what to whom. I suppose this film is worth seeing for the lush scenery and glamorous costumes (done by Edith Head, natch!), but as a film, it’s more window dressing than an intriguing piece.


Well, those are five movies that everyone seem to love but me. What do you think? Let’s hear it!

August Blind Spot: The Philadelphia Story (1940)

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Instead of a straight review, this post is more of my reaction of the movie and the cast, so I’m going to include some observations as well as trivia from IMDb.

There’s been a lot of ‘firsts’ with some of the Blindspot movies I saw. Well, with this one, it’s a lot of ‘seconds.’ It’s the second George Cukor film I saw (the first was My Fair Lady, but I’m not counting Gone With the Wind as he was fired early on from his directing duties) and it’s also the second Cary Grant + Katharine Hepburn film I saw after Bringing Up Baby.

It is however, the first time I saw both Cary Grant AND Jimmy Stewart in a movie together and honestly, that’s the main draw for me. I was also curious because this movie was regarded as one of the best rom-coms, in fact it ranked #5 on the AFI’s list of 10 greatest films in that genre. Well, now that I’ve seen it, I think it’s an enjoyable movie but it wasn’t GREAT by any means, in fact it got a bit silly at times and Stewart seems awkward in some of the scenes and not as effortless in comedy as Grant was. That’s why I was  surprised that Stewart actually won Best Actor that year, say what? Well, apparently the actor himself was shocked as well. According to IMDb, ‘Stewart never felt he deserved the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in this film, especially since he had initially felt miscast. He always maintained that Henry Fonda should have won instead for The Grapes of Wrath (1940), and that the award was probably “deferred payment for my work on Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)”.’ Yep, I totally agree Stewart should’ve won for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, which was another Blindspot film I saw earlier this year (read my review).

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Now, for those who haven’t seen the film, the film is about a socialite, Tracy Lord (Hepburn) whose wedding plans to nouveau riche George Kittredge (John Howard) are complicated by the simultaneous arrival of her ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) and a tabloid magazine journalist Macaulay Connor (Stewart). The movie didn’t immediately click with me, which I often find with some classic films I saw, but fortunately it got a bit more engrossing as the film progressed. One reason I didn’t click with the movie right away could be because I couldn’t quite warm up to Hepburn. Yes I know she’s one of Hollywood’s best actresses and the most decorated with 12 nominations and four wins (WOW!), but out of the three films I saw her in, I find that she’s not immediately sympathetic. I mean there are other actresses who often play strong independent women with minds of their own, but they somehow still have a certain vulnerability and even warmth about them that I don’t quite see in Hepburn.

In any case, the movie itself is enjoyable enough, but lack the emotional resonance I felt with say, The Apartment or Roman Holiday. The actors are fun to watch as they’re bantering with one another, but I feel somewhat detached from them that it was hard for me to care about any of them. So for most of the movie, I was busy admiring the gorgeous costume design, especially all Hepburn’s dressed designed by Adrian.

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Hepburn had such a svelte figure that everything looked good on her, I especially love the Grecian dress she wore when she was dancing with Stewart by the pool. The transparent silk organza dress with string tie belt she wore in the finale [see above, bottom left] is my favorite as it looks ethereal and elegant, and it fits Hepburn so beautifully.

The chemistry between her and her male co-stars are ok, I think she seems most comfortable with Grant which is perhaps why they often do a film together. What I do enjoy more than the romance is the scenes of Grant and Stewart together. They seem to have a good rapport as they play off each other well. Just seeing these two biggest classic male superstars together is amusing enough, but the two have quite different styles of acting which made it even more fun to watch.

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The scene where Stewart got the hiccups as he was drunk is pretty hilarious. I could tell Grant was amused and at times he looked like he was about to burst out laughing. As it turns out, the hiccup was improvised and Stewart didn’t tell Grant ahead of time, hence Grant’s natural amused reaction. LOVE it!

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The supporting cast is pretty good, I thought Virginia Weidler is so darn cute as Tracy’s smart-alecky teenage sister and Ruth Hussey as the sardonic photographer who’s not-so-secretly in love with Stewart’s character.

SPOILER ALERT! [I figure I might not be the only one who hasn’t seen this] Now the movie ends in happy ending of course. And the trouble with seeing tons of still photos of the wedding scene before I finally saw it, I kind of know how it’d end so there’s no surprise there. Still it was pretty sweet, I think that’s probably the only dramatic moment in the entire film as the camera pans to both Grant and Hussey’s look of dismay as Stewart’s character proposed to Hepburn’s.

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Final Thoughts: The high-society type comedies are pretty amusing to me and having three major movie stars certainly didn’t hurt, but for some reason I just wasn’t wowed by it. I know I’m in the minority as seems like everyone else LOVED this movie. I wish I loved it more but hey, it is what it is. That said, I’m glad I finally saw it and I’m still curious to see more work from all three actors. This movie is apparently based on a Broadway production and I think this story might actually work better on stage. I just saw Noël Coward’s 1930s comedy of manners Private Lives starring Toby Stephens & Anna Chancellor, I’d imagine the battle of the sexes with all the witty repartee would be similar to that. So overall the movie an enjoyable farce, but not exactly a comedic masterpiece it’s made out to be.

3.5 reels


BlindSpotSeriesSidebarCheck out my previous 2014 Blind Spot reviews


So have you seen The Philadelphia Story? I’m curious to hear what you think!

Classic Actor Spotlight: Walter Matthau – Showing his Chops

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Greetings and all sundry!

Given the success of my earlier three article arc on the career of Jack Lemmon. And to steal a suggestion from Nostra. Allow me a few moments of your time to focus some attention and love towards a consummate character actor. Utilized and cozily comfortable as part of an ensemble or team. Who earned his stripes and reputation in the fledgling years of television. Gathering attention and notoriety. While honing his talents for the better part of a decade before his stars finally aligned. To that end. Allow me to introduce.

Walter Matthau: Finding What Works.

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Not many actors can claim esteemed director, Nicholas Ray on their early Curriculum Vitae. Though Mr. Matthau can. Given a small but important role as Wally Gibbs. Concerned co-worker, teacher, friend and neighbor of Manic-Depressive, Bi-Polar and soon to be self medicating Cortizone addict, Ed Avery (James Mason). In a little 1950s, suburban ‘Fathers Knows Best’ from Hell masterpiece:

#1: The Fortune Cookie: (1966)

Mr. Matthau’s Wally is content early on to sit on the sidelines and watch as Mason’s Ed Avery grows ever more distant, manic and eventually dangerous to himself, his family and the “Ain’t life swell!” facade of the white picket fences, manicured lawns of the perfect suburban ‘Atomic family’.

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Granted, the film is Ray’s and Mason’s to build a slowly frightening, often shadowy foundation upon. And some may argue that Matthau’s Wally responds with too little and too late. Especially with an undercurrent of an evening dinner scene with Ed, his wife, Lou (Barbara Rush) and son, Richie (Christopher Olsen) that leaves the same seen used in American Beauty forty plus years later far in the dust. The Olsen family is afraid to breathe. Lest delusional daddy, Ed goes into an Old Testament shouting, dinner and silverware throwing and smashing tirade.

But that is what makes Bigger Than Life near essential viewing in the small, yet frightening  realm of ‘Suburban Horror’. All the parts mesh together. Humanly and with errors. Through confrontations, denials and lies stacked upon lies from Ed. Which makes you not believe for a second the triumphant, dried out and rehabilitated Ed’s joyous, tearful, family hugging, “Happily ever after” return to family, hearth and home before the film’s final credits!

Overall Consensus:

To be given even a small part in a memorable and ground breaking film that dared to mess with the well marketed and maintained myth of opulent “perfection” of Post War America would be any actor’s dream. Especially if that film’s director had just delivered Rebel Without a Cause a year earlier. A very heady task. To be a small cog inside a much larger machine.And Mr. Matthau delivers! Quietly and with reserve. Letting his concern and emotions show through his face and gestures. Until it is almost too late.

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Which may piqued director Elia Kazan to contact Mr. Matthau for another slightly larger supporting role. As Mel Miller. The quiet, smitten, unassuming assistant to roving radio radio reporter, Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) in Kazan’s Magnum Opus to the power of charisma and media in culture and politics.

#2: A Face in the Crowd (1957)

Which begins back in the Ouachita hills of Arkansas. Where roving reporter and hostess, Marcia Jeffries records her human interest stories for A Face in the Crowd. And finds smooth talking, itinerant hobo and spinner of yarns, Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes (Andy Griffith. Never better!) behind bars and sweating out a hangover from a night of carousing. “Lonesome” is also full of down home humor and charm. When not belting out Gospel tunes with the aid of his guitar. Which gets him out of jail and into popularity amongst the locals. And the hosting radio station. Where “Lonesome” starts to come under the scrutiny of Mel. Who knows bad news when he sees it. And tries to warn Marcia as Rhodes starts growing in popularity and starts believing his own hype. Marcia is swept away as events start controlling events and actions.

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A local Senator up for re-election, Worthington Fuller needs a bump in the polls and used “Lonesome”, radio and television to fill that void on stump speeches. Where Rhodes shows a proclivity for a naive, teen aged baton twirling Majorette, Betty Lou Fleckum (Lee Remick in her first film role). Things start going bad as “Lonesome” pursues Betty Lou. Indulges in too much booze and letting his mouth rum while his brain is not engaged. Marcia catches him after a fundraising soiree. Stupid drunk and showing contempt for all the hicks, hayseeds and rednecks that make up his audience. Marcia’s tide starts to change and takes a decision to ambush her creation after an episode of “The Lonesome Rhodes Show” featuring the Senator.

Mel watches from the wings as Marcia opens a microphone and catches Larry in the middle of a particular nasty vent aimed at his unseen, but listening audience. Who are flabbergasted and angered that their media idol would think so lowly of them. Massive numbers of complaining phone calls flood both the radio and television stations as Larry and his entourage head towards a victory dinner where the Senator is supposed to announce his candidacy.

Or not. While Larry is en route. The radio and television stations start calling Senator Fuller’s campaign workers. As contributors and backers turn their backs and abandon ship on Fuller and Rhodes. Who arrives at a spectacularly decorated, nearly empty and opulent penthouse suite. Crestfallen, rambling and confused. Larry lashes out at everyone and everything. Until Marcia arrive and tells him that she opened the off stage microphone and helped Larry commit Celebrity Seppuku.

Marcia leaves and Mel lays into Larry most prophetically. Giving him a heads up to his immediate future with an appropriate cool down period and anonymity. A change of name and venue. And the long lingering aftermath of fallen, faded glory.

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Overall Consensus:

In another role of quiet fortitude, Mr. Matthau wisely saves his best lines (And he has many quickly, dryly delivered lines in this film!) until the final reel. And the moment “Lonesome” Rhodes realizes that the curtain is quickly, finally raining down on his present career. Mr. Matthau delivers the soliloquy matter of factly. Yet devastatingly. Without well deserved malice. Just a prediction on how the media system works, Often fails. And quickly repairs and re-imagines itself for continued contented consumer consumption.

Under the masterful, sometimes creepy touch of Elia Kazan. In a far ahead of its time film that prophetically, scathingly screams to the rafters about the dangers of charisma, charm, celebrity and mass, instant exposure. A roughly sketched and filled in canvas portraying sweetly played out seduction and love between “Lonesome” and Marcia (Essential for it all to work). Egos, power, back room deals for more of the same. And the foretelling of insidious mass marketed “Info-Tainment” as news we all either enjoy. Or tolerate and endure today!

Giving Mr. Matthau a few years’ respite to hone his skills in television and lesser known films. Before signing on to what many (myself included) believe is the favorite, most personal film of Kirk Douglas.

#3: Lonely Are the Brave (1962)

With a screenplay by Dalton Trumbo. From the novel “The Brave Cowboy” by Edward Abbey. Directed by veteran, David Miller and set in the rough country and mountains outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mr. Matthau finds himself as Sheriff Morey Johnson. The over seer and protector of many, many miles of sun bleached desert, scrub and terrain better left avoided. And slowly drawn into the manhunt for John W. “Jack” Burns. One of the last great non conformists Cowboys (Who doesn’t even have a Drivers License!) rebelling against the onset of changing times. Flawlessly brought to life by Kirk Douglas.

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It seems that Burns got himself arrested in a bar fight. So he could be put in the Duke City lock up to help his long time friend, Paul Bondi (Michael Kane) break out before being shipped to the penitentiary. The break out worked well enough. For Burns. With the aid of two hacksaw blades hidden inside his boots. After getting some payback for abuses delivered by Deputy Sheriff Guitierrez (George Kennedy) and discovering Bondi wants to just do his time. Burns slips through the weakened and pulled apart bars. Mounts his horse, “Whiskey” and starts riding towards the mountains and the Mexican border.

Sheriff Johnson is called to intervene. In a Jeep and with the help of his annoying, repetitive radio operator, Harry (William Schallert). A course is plotted. As far away, a semi tractor trailer full of toilets is driven by ‘Hinton” (Carroll O’Connor in full Archie Bunker mode) for an oblique date with destiny.

Burns uses every trick he knows to stay ahead of the law as he rides and walks Whiskey through soft soil, slick rocks and an ever increasing incline. To be glimpsed through binoculars by Sheriff Johnson. Who has Harry call the nearby Air Base (Kirkland, AFB) and ask to have a helicopter help out. Morey and Harry argument about everything and nothing as the glass bubble canopied Bell helicopter arrives on station, piloted by an uncredited, debuting Bill Bixby (‘My Favorite Martian’, ‘The Courtship of Eddie’s Father’). Who is too anxious by half. Flies too close and hovers too long dropping a rope ladder. And allows Burns to shoot at the helicopter’s tail rotor with his lever action Winchester rifle. Sending it screaming off to crash in the boonies.

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The sun starts to meet the rugged horizon as Burns crests one range and walks Whiskey down towards the wide and imposing super highway. Knowing that freedom lay just a short distance beyond. He mounts Whiskey for the hesitant trip across. As Hinton and his semi full of toilets makes up for lost time and Morey and Harry and many unseen police units head towards the same location.

I’ll end it here. Lest I venture too far into Spoiler Territory.

Overall Consensus:

Mr. Matthau is given more free rein and lines to expound upon his character. A career law man, who kind of empathizes with his quarry, Burns. Half understanding what motivates him. And using that knowledge to help track and estimate Burns’ responses and actions. Slowly getting used to his hang dog, long jawed visage. And letting it become part of his persona.

Again, not a large, singular role. More a part of an ensemble. In a film that would a lot of future talent if not on the map. Then certainly under some serious scrutiny.

More than enough to be considered for a kind of out of line of sight referee for the many juggling balls and plot twists under Stanley Donen’s whimsical touch in a splashy, location filled Parisian romantic variant of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.

#4: Charade (1963)

An elegant, sophisticated and very cleverly written Cary Grant romance with Audrey Hepbuen filling in for Eva Marie Saint in and around The City of Lights. Where no one beside Ms. Hepburn’s recently widowed Reggie Lampert is who or what they proclaim to be. In a game of multiple easily forgettable names, low level treachery. And one goal in common. $250,000 in gold that had been bagged, tagged and slated to be delivered courtesy of the O.S.S.to the French Resistance in WWII. And never arrived!

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The surviving members of the O.S.S. team (James Coburn, George Kennedy, Ned Glass) whose leader was the recently murdered Charles Lampert show up at the funeral and go through ways fair and foul to verify the death. And smart guys that they are, determine Reggie must know where the swag is stashed!

Add to this mix suave, smooth, debonair Cary Grant in full Irresistible mode and a delightful full court press is on! As Reggie flightily accompanies Cary to one new hotel and another. Names and characters change at the drop of a hat. More and more of Mr. Matthau’s master puppeteer, CIA station chief, Hamilton Bartholomew is more than a Federal Super Grade looking for ancient loose change to bring back to its rightful Treasury coffers. Suspense is heightened as threats overt and covert are made and Cary Grant gets to play the knight in shining armor between shard flirtations with Reggie. While distrust and impatience seems to boil up within the survivors of the O.S.S. Jedburgh team as its members start showing up dead. Suspects and clues are winnowed down as romance fills the air. The topic of stamps is broached. Rare stamps that may be hiding in plain sight. Purchased by Charles and the $250,000 before being shot and dumped from a train leaving Paris.

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With the final piece of the puzzle in place (Or is it?). Reggie calls Bartholomew for a meeting on the Paris subway. I’ll leave it here, so as to not reveal and last minute spoilers.

Overall Consensus:

Director Donen may have out clevered and outdone himself in an attempt to tops Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. Coming very close with sublimely romantic locations. A light, often moody Henry Mancini soundtrack. And Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn at the tops of their games. In a story that may become a bit convoluted if not not paid attention to early on. A little too egg crated with a few too many names to keep track of. Though Mr. Mathau delivers quite well as the man in the shadows. Never really fully fleshed out until well into the tale. In a pivotal role that moves him as far away from his previous “Nice Guy” category as possible.

A trait master director, Sidney Lumet may have noticed when giving Mr. Matthau the chance to expand on break a bit. As Presidential Adviser Groeteschele. An eerie, close to emotionless mix of Henry Kissinger and Professor Edmund Teller, the Father of the Hydrogen Bomb. In the 1964 Nuclear Doomsday thriller.

#5: Fail Safe (1964)

Where Mr. Matthau’s Groeteschele holds court at Washington, DC cocktail parties that run into the morning. Tossing around “Throw Weights” and the destructive power of Soviet warheads that can destroy a major city in a millionth of a second. As easily as the young, monied socialites in attendance ask for their drinks to be freshened. A man who has the President’s ear and is completely attuned and comfortable with the inside the Beltway idea of “Power as an Aphrodisiac”.

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While over at SAC (Strategic Air Command) Headquarters at Offutt AFB in Omaha Nebraska. A group of VIPs are visiting as a wing of B-58 supersonic bombers at put on alert. It seems that radar stations have picked up a UFO entering American airspace and the “Hustler” bombers are on their way to their “Fail Safe” points to orbit and waiting until the orders come to obliterate Moscow.

The UFO is revealed to be a non air breathing, reciprocating engine, propeller airliner strayed off course. The Recall Order is sent to the waiting bombers, but signal is scramble by either solar flares or something. And the bombers starts proceeding north towards Alaska. With every intent of turning west and doing what they’ve been trained to do.

The extended “Oops! Form” is sent to the Pentagon. The President (Henry Fonda) is called down to the Bunker. Three and four star generals start pondering the imponderable as fighters are dispatched to intercept. Communications are opened between the President and the errant wing commander. Even though SAC training and tenets demand radio silence once the bombers go beyond their “Fail Safe” points. Groeteschele shows up. Takes everything in. Starts discussing the numerical advantages of a First Strike and states the obvious. “Let the bombers to proceed their targets. And let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Which goes over as well as a lead balloon. Since US Nuclear Doctrine dictates that our weapons are only to be used defensively (Which is Iffy at best.) As a line of communication is established between the White House and the Kremlin. Where a young State Department translator named “Buck” (Larry Hagman) is on hand. While the intercepting US fighters are ordered to Afterburner. Only to fall from the sky and nowhere near missile range as their fuel expires.

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The Soviet Chairman is wary at first as The President explains to the Kremlin’s translator. SAM batteries pick up the encroaching B-58s and MiGs are sent to intercept, but as always. Some bombers get through. And Moscow is the target.

I’ll leave it right here. So as to not unsettle one of the great Freeze Frame endings in film.

Overall Consensus:

Mr. Matthau excels in playing a cold blooded, inhumane SOB. So enthralled with his expertise, numbers and statistics that he does not see beyond his own massive ego. While Henry Fonda’s President is much more like Solomon when dealing the horrors and ramifications of Mutual Assured Destruction. In a much more dramatic and humane way that Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb only gives a humorous wink and a nod to. Courtesy of George C. Scott and his General “Buck” Turgidson.

Kudos to director Lumet in staying faithful to Eugene Burdick’s novel and staying in the realms of suspense and drama. Which his film seethes with. Even if the B-58 “Hustler” bomber was incredibly fast. It had short range and could not have hit its targets without at least one more mid air refueling. The fact is glossed over nicely by lighting, shadow and a taut sound score. High marks also to Mr. Matthau for his character’s ramrod straight posture. Slow gestures, measured speech patterns and inflection that heighten the tension. Holds the camera and gives Groeteschelle a less than human aura.


Check out Jack’s other posts and reviews



Well, do add your thoughts on Mr. Matthau. And what’s your favorite film from his illustrious career?

Classic List: The Women of Howard Hawks

Greetings, all and sundry. After finishing my three post ‘arc’ highlighting the career of Jack Lemmon, I’ve decided to delve and poke around a bit in the arena of Classics. And cast some light upon the easily known and often unsung heroines. Who plied their beauty, moxie and craft to make their often secondary roles in films more memorable. Almost always opposite a strong leading man. And under the deft and knowing touch of a director who knew how to get the best and more from his leads and entire casts.

The director in question is Howard Hawks. To whom action and comedy were second nature. And often front and center. Tools to used to misdirect, while weaving a slow smoldering romance in the bargain. With the women in question being just as strong, witty and clever as their leading men.

To that end, allow me to introduce:

The Women of Howard Hawks


Katharine Hepburn: Bringing Up Baby (1938)

This is the film where I like to think that Mr. Hawks began developing his ear for rapid fire dialogue from both ends of the spectrum. With Cary Grant as a harried, engaged Paleontologist, David. Who wants nothing more than to assemble the skeleton of his Brontosaurus with the aid of the Inter-Costal Clavicle. Secure a huge donation to his museum. Marry the monied, not so girl of his dreams and live happily ever after.

That is, until David happens across Katharine Hepburn‘s Susan. Who’s a bit scatter-brained and irresponsible and rarely explains anything directly. Preferring to go the long way around while trading tee shots at a local golf course. Leaving David completely flummoxed and unprepared for another chance meeting later that night. At a very glamorous party. Where Susan accrues a tear in her gown and a hasty escape to madcap, screwball situations. A pet leopard named ‘Baby’. A wily fox terrier named George, (Asta from ‘The Thin Man‘ series) who steals and buries the Inter-Costal Clavicle. Chance encounters with Susan’s eccentric relations and friends. And a late run in with the local constabulary, while a second leopard escapes from a traveling carnival and makes itself known.

Overall Consensus:

Yes, there is a lot going on in this comedic gem. A given, as the film clocks in at just 102 minutes. The trick is to just sit back and let the magic happen under the deft touch of a proven master. Playing in the sandboxes of visual and aural humor. Using Ms. Hepburn’s elegant delivery and speeding things up, just a skosh, in a verbal game of Ping Pong. Where the serve, meter of the near musical volley and the out of left field slammed finish is under Ms. Hepburn’s control. With an unusually flustered Mr. Grant trying to keep up. It may take a while to find the rhythm between pratfalls and flawlessly timed sight gags. But it is definitely worth the effort!

Jean Arthur: Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Here’s a great plot idea. Take a half dozen men flying for a fledgling, just scraping to get by mail service that flies over and around the Andes across Bolivia. In sometimes less than airworthy craft. Plying their craft from a close to inaccessible base called Barranca to other shanty towns just as desperate and desolate. Have the motley crew led by self assured, sometimes scruffy, leather flying jacketed and hip holstered Cary Grant and feel the Testosterone swirl and flow.

Into this boys’ club insert not one, but two women. The first, Bonnie Lee. A stranded cabaret singer. Magnificently and wisely brought to life by Jean Arthur. Who is first intrigued by Grant’s mysterious Geoff Carter and his daredevil band of merry men. Then slowly grows to understand who Grant is. What he does and why he does it. And more importantly, how Geoff gets his subordinates to do what they do. Like taking a Ford Tri-Motor up beyond 20,000 feet to test a new Oxygen system while finding a less dangerous path through mountain peaks.

In other word, business as usual. Maintaining an even strain in less that spartan conditions that would send other lesser mortals screaming back home to mother. Yet, Bonnie toughs it out. Trading quips and barbs with Geoff as more is revealed. Even when Barnstorming pilot, Bat Mac Phearson shows up. Evading a checkered past that involved the death of Geoff’s best friend. Seeking a job and acceptance with his wife, Judy (Rita Hayworth) in tow. A bad omen if there ever was one. Since Judy was once an old flame of Geoff’s. All the pilots refuse to fly with Bat. So Judy begs Geoff for a chance. Geoff cedes that Bat can fly, but only the most dangerous flights.

Bat starts to make good. Building some cred until fate intervenes. On a flight in the Tri~Motor, Bat tries to clear the Andes but needs to find another route. Right into a flock of birds that flies through the forward propeller and windshield and paralyzes the Co~pilot. The brother of the man that Bat had abandoned and killed. Bat hangs tough and brings the crippled plane back. At the cost of his co~pilot’s life, but redeeming himself in the eyes of his peers.

Overall Consensus:

One of the earliest and best of the type of film I like to describe as ‘Guy Flicks’. Focusing on the male cast members.Their abilities, faults and foibles. What makes them tick. Usually presented with a Herculean task where a woman may be either a help or a hindrance. In this film, the former is writ large. With Jean Arthur remaining completely feminine and beguiling while never coming close to taking on the ‘Mother’ or ‘Big Sister’ roles so predominant in films of this kind today. Also notable for a distinct lack of a cat fight between Bonnie and Judy. When more than a few key scenes could easily facilitate it.

Rosalind Russell: His Girl Friday (1940)

Hawks shifts gears upwards again in a fast paced, tatta-tat-tat of typewriter keys delivered ‘Battle of the Sexes’ comedy That pits its master of rapid patter, Cary Grant as editor, Walter Burns. Trying to keep up with events of the day amidst many inter office squabbles of The Morning Post. When freshly chapeaued Rosalind Russell shows up as his recently-divorced wife and best reporter, Hildy Johnson. Ready to turn in her resignation. Generally rub Walter’s face in her new found freedom and status with fiance and insurance man Bruce Baldwin. Steadfastly played by Ralph Bellamy.

A natural born schemer and conniver, Walter sees a situation that is tailor made for Hildy’s talents and nose for news. After weathering several machine gun delivered volleys. Walter dangles the bait ever so subtly. Convicted murderer, Earl Williams is due for execution and Walter wants Hildy to cover one last story. Hildy hesitates and Walter slyly slips away to have Bruce arrested over and over again. Keeping him out of the picture as he gives up and goes back to Albany and Hildy does what she does best. Asks rapid fire questions that leave many men flustered and stumbling and well in her dust.

Soon it is discovered that the Governor has issued a reprieve for Williams. But the local Mayor and Sheriff covet this execution for re-election and bribe the delivery man to go away until after the deed is done. Hildy and Walter follow leads and find the reprieve and an escaped Williams inside a roll-top desk in the press room of a local police precinct. Just in time to bring the curtain down on the crooked Mayor and Sheriff. And avoid a kidnapping charge for Walter.

All wrapped up in a Happy Ending. Almost. Walter asks Hildy to remarry him and spend their Honeymoon at Niagara Falls. On the way, they can cover a story about a strike in Albany.

Overall Consensus:

Not exactly a screwball comedy. More of a ‘What can possibly go wrong?’ comedy. Delivered by proven master, Grant. With the aid and assistance of Ms. Russell. Who had read the lines of Hildy Johnson for Mr. Hawks. Who liked her meter and quick delivery. Which created a re-write and made Hildy female, instead of male. Thus, a Classic was born.

This is another instance of Hawks heightening femininity. Near a wasted effort in Ms. Russell’s more than competent hands. Delivered in an opening salvo within seconds of her entrance in the Post’s City Desk and her first interdiction with Walter. Ms. Russell’s lines are lilting at first. Evolving quickly into a stepped on, verbal firefight. That ends with Walter easily ducking Hildy’s angrily thrown purse as his back is turned. A splendid bit of cinema well worth the price of admission.

The story just gets better once Hildy takes the bait and pursues the story. Looking like a million dollars in a different ensemble and hat as she quickly asks a second and third follow up question. When those she asks are stumbling with the first. Not only great examples of writing, timing and delivery, but superb glimpses into determined, yet subtle feminine wiles. Of a class and with style not seen in decades.

Barbara Stanwyck: Ball of Fire (1941)

Mr. Hawks takes a turn for the whimsical with an egg headed adaptation of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’. Led by tall, stiff and often stoic Gary Cooper as Professor Bertram Potts. Who, with the aid of his seven learned colleagues desires to assemble an Encyclopedia of Human Knowledge. With a special addendum to contemporary slang to be penned by Potts.

At a loss for where to begin, Potts ventured off to a local Burlesque and becomes enamored of Miss ‘Sugarpuss O’Shea, a dancer of notable talent brought saucily to life by Ms. Stanwyck. On again, off again girlfriend of crime boss, Joe Lilac. Played with an inflated ego and a touch of slime by Dana Andrews. Who uses the Burlesque as a front for his various nefarious enterprises.

It seems that Sugarpuss is just as intrigued by Professor Potts as he is smitten with her. As events quickly unfold, there is a falling out between Sugarpuss and Joe. And she winds up on the Professor’s doorstep looking for a place to lay low. Potts objects at first. Slightly less than Kathleen Howard’s very set in her ways, Miss Bragg, the Housekeeper. But sees what a breath of fresh air and wonderment she is for his mainly bachelor, content to be cloistered colleagues. Teaching them the latest colloquialisms between impromptu Conga lines. While Potts starts to fall in love and soon proposes to Sugarpuss.

Sugarpuss says yes. But as luck would have it. Joe finds out about Sugarpuss being AWOL and sends some of his boys to find her and bring her home. Seems that Joe has marriage on his mind as well, but more to keep his activities quiet than marital bliss. With Sugarpuss on her way. A few of Joes’ hired help keep the Professor and his merry men in check and at gunpoint until the nuptials are over.

Determined to find a solution, Professor Potts begins a roundabout lecture with his colleagues to distract their keepers. That involves scientific theory, a bit of double talk, a reflecting magnifying glass and the slender cord holding a large painting above the head of pistol wielding, Duke Pastrami (Dan Duryea). Science wins the day and the Professor and his gang is off to save the day. Kind of, but yes.

Overall Consensus:

Ms. Stanwyck rules the day and the roost once she becomes the focus of attention. Easily taking Pott’s and his clowder of collegiate professors’ breath away with her insouciance and bold for its day, sexuality. Sugarpuss wows from a distance and close up. Turning a gaggle of aged egg heads into if not wide eyed boys, then not so clumsy teenagers.

A rare treat to watch, considering the treasure trove supporting Seven Dwarves. Familiar faces, shapes and sizes. With distinct, unique dictions and deliveries. From Oskar Homolka and S.Z. Sakall. To Richard Haydn and Aubrey Mather. All add something innocent and memorable. And Ms. Stanwyck has them all. Including Potts, wrapped around her little finger without even knowing it.

Joanne Dru: Red River (1948)

Take an iconic John Wayne Chisholm Trail Western. Add a quick on the trigger youngster who’s anxious to prove himself and put him under the Duke’s wing. Teach him everything there is to know about cattle, riding, horses and shooting. Send him off to college to return as Montgomery Clift. Just in time for the first major cattle drive from Texas to Kansas.

Fill out the hired hands for the drive with Walter Brennan, Noah Beery Jr., John Ireland and Harry Carey and his son. Add a thousand head of cattle, give or take. A few roving bands of Indians. A hand who has more than a sweet tooth for sugar. A cattle stampede. A cause for a flogging and a break up between John Wayne and Montgomery Clift. Who takes what cattle has been rounded up and head towards Abilene.

En route, a wagon train full of settlers in ambushed by Indians and Clift rides to the rescue. Staving off a second wave attack and then aiding Tess Millay (Joanne Dru). Gorgeous, worldly, with a spine of steel. Who doesn’t scream or panic when an arrow pierces her shoulder. Instantly intrigued by this handsome hero who removes the arrow and patches her up as the Indians retreat. Then using her discreet wiles, finds out more about Clift’s troubled Matt Garth. His life, dreams and tenuous relationship with his adoptive father, John Wayne’s Thomas Dunson.

Not even raising an eyebrow as Matt and the drive leaves and Dunson crosses her path a short time later. Going out her way to feed Dunson and pour some drinks. While secreting a derringer in the sling supporting her left arm. Dunson sees it and remains unimpressed as the ice is broken and Tess learns so much more.

Overall Consensus:

Red River is one of the rare films by Howard Hawks whose ending I thought was rather weak and could have stood some re-write and several more takes. That said, everything else is an expansive and wondrously executed example of what one should expect from a master.

The men are men. Sins, secrets, shortcomings and all. The few women in attendance are tough, because the environment demands it, but much more so in Tess Millay. Who can see through the rough exteriors of men and read them within moments of first meeting them. Where Tess is calm, curious and a bit demure with Matt Garth. As she looks through and weighs Matt’s unseen baggage and finds him worth her time.

Then turns the coin to cold, succinct and somewhat callous for her tete a tete with Wayne’s Tom Dunson. With a demeanor better suited for a saloon or brothel as she deals Black Jack single handed for Dunson as she decides whether or not to shoot him. Though it is there for only a few brief moments. It is great talent rising to the moment and pulling it off flawlessly!

Which leaves room for Dessert and….

Honorable Mention:

Margaret Sheridan: The Thing from Another World (1951)

In order to create a round half dozen in chronological order. I’ve tacked on this actress and film. Even if Mr. Hawks is noted as its producers. There’s too much of his trade craft and trademark fingerprints all over this offering to think that was all he added.

The story circles around a group of Quonset Hut bound scientists who discover something has crashed to Earth near their station at the North Pole. A cargo plane and its crew arrive to explore further and bring back another something frozen in a long block of ice. That thaws and releases the Thing inside. Who has a taste for human blood and sprouts seed pods that can create more Things.

Nearly invisible in this pond of Testosterone and superior gray matter is Ms. Sheridan‘s Science Assistant and stenographer, Nikki. For whom there are few secrets. An extremely good listener who occasionally offers off-hand comments and advice that are bankable. As well as taking note of details that others quickly miss.

Easily holding her own amongst the Brainiacs and Poindexters of Polar Expedition-6. While never dallying in the realm of panic and ‘Scream Queen’.


Check out Jack’s profile page and links to his other reviews



Well, what do you think of the women of Howark Hawks? Do share your thoughts about this list in the comments.

Weekend Viewing Roundup: Step Up Revolution, Fantastic Mr Fox, An Affair to Remember

Hello all! Hope your weekend was lovely. Did you venture to the cinema to see some good movies? Well, we opted for home cinema this weekend, catching up on some movies we’ve missed. We were talking about Persepolis at dinner and really wanted to see it Saturday night, but it wasn’t available on iTunes! Good thing the replacement turns out to be well, fantastic. And just before this post goes up, I also watched Sherlock Holmes: Games of Shadow which was quite fun despite the plot being rather all over the place. I’ll do a mini review of that at a later time.

Oh, I also got around to finally get to the first one on the list of classic movies I promised to catch up on this confession post. The first one on that list is An Affair To Remember… oh and what an affair it was. Before I get to my reviews, here’s a guest review from my friend and FC contributor Cecilia, one franchise that’s eluded me and I’m still not sure I want to get into…

Step Up Revolution (2012)

Few weeks ago I saw Street Dance 2 at the cinemas and pretty much disappointed with it as the first movie was pretty good with it’s lovely scenery, British accent, and of course great dance moves and songs, but the sequel turns out to be disappointing. Then it just made me have this thought that Step Up Revolution must be better than Street Dance 2 for sure.

Step Up Revolution is tells the story of Emily (Kathryn McCormick), whose dad is working on some real-estate development plans which going to threaten the place where Sean (Ryan Guzman) and his dance crew usually gather around. Sean and his crew, well known as The Mob, is working on some flash-mob projects in order to win some cash. The same story as we saw on most dance movies all over again, the crew who are struggling before they lose the place where they usually practice. I actually don’t mind with the story. It is poor, both the script and the storyline. But I’ve never been looking for a good story on dance movies, as I actually looking forward to the dancing scenes and great songs.

Step Up 2: The Streets and Step Up 3D are memorable for me. Giving my salutation to Jon M. Chu as he made the dancers on his movies memorable with their own different dancing characters. Moose (Adam Sevani) is on the top of my favorite Step Up dancer list. I still can remember precisely his sweet dancing scene with Camille (Alyson Stoner) using Fred Astaire’s song I Won’t Dance on Step Up 3D. Sadly, Jon M. Chu is now being the producer on Step Up Revolution, instead of being in the director’s seat.

What I like about this movie is that it shows the brilliant ideas of flash-mobs. Huge number of people dancing in a public place unexpectedly, creating chaos and coolness that I wish would happen in real life where I live. The film still offers great dance moves and songs, the most memorable song for me is Let’s Go by Travis Barker, as it is goes well with those passionate dancers dancing in Miami’s heat. The Mob is packed with people who has different kinds of expertise, one is good at music, one at art, one at the digital stuffs. But the crew who does the dancing stuffs is not showing their various specific dancing characters. It’s not at all like what I saw on Step Up 2 and Step Up 3D.

Another disappointing part is on the 3D aspect. This movie is actually beautiful while showing the clear weather at Miami, showcasing the colors of Summer. But they don’t seem to maximize the creation of eye-popping 3D. Step Up 3D made good use of balloons, water, laser, and more, but in this one, all I can remember is the eye-popping sand. However, one good thing from this it has an even better sense of fashion. I liked how they dress Penelope (Cleopatra Coleman) up with rocking outfit as a DJ, and how they dress Emily in a silver dress on one of the dancing scenes.

The final dance scene did not wow me as I had expected, however, if you’re looking for entertaining dances and some good songs, Step Up Revolution is worth a watch. It is not as boring as Street Dance 2, but not exactly an improvement as a Step Up sequel. Still, it has its own fun factor though, thanks to the mob.

– review by Cecilia Rusli

2.5 out of 5 reels


Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

When I reviewed Moonrise Kingdom, a bunch of people were recommending more Wes Anderson’s movies, and on the top of that list is this animated feature, voiced by an ensemble cast of Wes’ regulars.

George Clooney is basically reprising his Danny Ocean role in another heist adventure, this time as a sly fox aptly named Mr. Fox. For 12 years, he and Mrs Fox (Meryl Streep) live a peaceful life with their son Ash (Jason Schwartzman). He’s long abandoned his thieving ways and now work as a newspaper columnist. But somehow that long-suppressed animal instincts is back with the arrival of his athletic young nephew Kristofferson. He’s still got what it takes, but what Mr. Fox doesn’t realize is, when he and his partner in crime Kiley decides to raid the three nastiest farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean, that the repercussion extends to the entire animal community.

I immensely enjoyed this one, perhaps slightly more so than Moonrise Kingdom. The stop-motion animation itself is fun to watch, and Wes peppers each character with its own quirks and personality. The script is as sharp as ever and their conversation is quite profound at times.

Why a fox? Why not a horse, or a beetle, or a bald eagle? I’m saying this more as, like, existentialism, you know? Who am I?

There’s also a healthy portrayal of family that’s delightful to see. Mr & Mrs Fox are so cute together, even when she was scolding him for going back to his life of crime and the realistic rivalry between cousins Ash and Kristofferson. The battle between Mr. Fox and the three farmers, led by the scariest one of all, Franklin Bean (Michael Gambon) gets to be quite fierce at times but never losing its sense of humor. What I find interesting is that the three farmers are all Brits but the animals speak with American accent, ahah. No matter though, it’s all very amusing. I especially enjoy the ‘digging’ scenes and there are quite a few of them in this movie.

Seems like the three Wes Anderson films I saw all have a familial them running through ’em. The characters also go through a growing up process, so to speak, one thing for sure, Mr. Fox won’t feel so ‘invincible’ as he did in the beginning of the movie and he also got to appreciate his family and friends at the end.

I’ve come to enjoy Wes’ Autumnal color palette and style, but fortunately, his work is more than just style over matter. Now I’m up for more of his work, perhaps Rushmore next?

4.5 out of 5 reels


An Affair to Remember (1957)

I’ve always wanted to see this film ever since the first time I saw Sleepless in Seattle, but that was years ago. I can’t believe it took me so long to finally see this one. Oh my, now I’ve really fallen in love with this one. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr shine in this ultimate classic love affair. Both playboy artist Nickie Ferrante and night club singer Terry McKay were engaged when they met in an ocean liner, but they hit it off instantly and the chemistry between them was undeniable.

I always love tales of unrequited love of sort and for a while, their romance didn’t seem to go as planned as the go off the ship. What a shame as they seemed destined for each other. Under the watchful eye of fellow passengers, the couple falls for each other in the most delightful way. Under less skillful talent, this movie could easily be overly sentimental and corny, but witty script and sharp delivery of the actors kept it from being so. In fact, there’s something so authentic about their relationship that makes you root for them to be together.

The scene at Nickie’s grandmother in Italy is especially touching as Grandmother Janou too, fell for Terry and she made not-so-subtle hints about that throughout their meeting. The scenery is beautiful, though of course I wish some of them weren’t just a backdrop. I was enchanted not just by Kerr’s performance, but also her gorgeous costumes!! This is the second film I saw her in [the first one was Beloved Infidel] and I must say I really like her as an actress. The music is of course, sublime. The main theme that shares the same name as the film is beautiful and I appreciate it even more so now that I have experienced this movie. I also love Kerr’s voice, especially when she sang this title song. No wonder the four Oscar noms were in cinematography, music and costume design.

I watched the Special Features after the movie and though the shoot wasn’t entirely smooth, the superstar couple got along well. Interesting that both were going through tumultuous relationships during filming [I had no idea Grant had an unrequited love for Sophia Loren!]. I guess that line ‘We’re heading into a rough sea, Nickie’ was spot on in real life as well.

In any case, I could see why this film is so beloved and was even referenced in contemporary films long after its release. Boy that finale was sooo heart wrenching! An accident prevents their meet-up atop the Empire State Building, and both were crushed that they couldn’t be with each other as they had promised. It was quite a build-up to get to THAT moment that made all of that waiting worthwhile. By that point, I was sniffling on my sofa as I watched that scene, just like Meg Ryan and Rosie O’Donnell did in Sleepless in Seattle! 😀

Kudos to director Leo McCarey for crafting such a beguiling love story, it’s certainly an affair to remember, in every sense of the word. This is one of those classics I wouldn’t mind revisiting again and again in the years to come.

5 out of 5 reels


Thoughts on any of these movies? Do share what movie(s) you watched over the weekend.

Weekend Viewing Roundup: The Adjustment Bureau and North by Northwest

This weekend cinema-viewing choices came down to Rango and Adjustment Bureau, which trailer was quite intriguing. In the end my hubby and I went with the latter, even though Rango won the weekend box office just as I predicted in Scarlet Sp1der’s poll last Tuesday.

It seems that the viewing theme this weekend is men in dapper suits (and fedora) 🙂

The Adjustment Bureau

An affair between a politician and a ballerina is affected by “mysterious forces” keeping the lovers apart.

I said in my trailer post this was based on Philip K. Dick’s novel, but it’s actually his sci-fi short story called Adjustment Team. The script by George Nolfi (who also directed his feature film debut) is VERY loosely based on it. In the short story, the protagonist’s is real estate salesman Ed Fletcher instead of NY congressman David Norris (Matt Damon) in the movie.

The main theme of the film deals with fate, and whether we’re in control of it or is it in the hand of unseen forces that has all our lives mapped out? It seems so unthinkable that we don’t have our free will to lead our lives as we see fit. Even if we know we may make mistakes along the way, we can’t fathom someone preventing us to make decisions on things that matter to us, especially love. But that is what happened to Norris when seemingly by ‘chance’ he meets Elise (the lovely Emily Blunt) in a man’s bathroom of all places and the two fall for each other.

The thing about this film is that though it’s billed as a sci-fi thriller (or is it drama), it doesn’t feel like you’re watching a science fiction, at least the kind of sci-fi I expect. There are no weird looking robots or scary metal plates underneath people’s faces or anything like that, just dapper men in gray suits and cool fedora. They’re not ‘angels’ as one of them explained to Damon’s character, more like ‘case officers’ assigned to each individual on the planet (without their knowing or consent obviously) to make sure they go according to plan that’s already written in their ‘book.’ These agents report to the Chairman, which is a god-like figure that’s implied at the end of the movie to be omniscience as he/she is everywhere among us.

I’m a sucker for forbidden romance and sci-fi, so put the two together and I’m hooked. Damon is sympathetic enough, and sums up quite a believable chemistry with Blunt, which is important considering the whole plot hinges on their relationship. The performances overall are pretty decent, though nothing to write home about. Damon is sympathetic and likable enough as the ambitious politician (he seems to be a leader real Dems would dream about). Blunt is very attractive whilst still retain that approachable quality about her. She’s also quite convincing as a ballet dancer, she must have gone through pretty intense training for that. Anthony Mackie and Terrence Stamp as members of the Bureau are also respectable in their roles.

Yet I can’t help feeling it’s all a bit underwhelming for me. Of course some movies are intentionally mysterious and vague to make you ponder, which is expected to a degree. But in this one I feel that there are way too many questions left to ‘chance’ and the filmmaker doesn’t seem sure what to make of the totalitarian world the characters inhabit. I don’t mind that it’s not overly action-packed, but had enough fun parts, such as the Bourne-like chase through multiple doors, but it just gives you more clues instead of getting you closer to the answer. Some reviews call this ‘Inception-lite’ but I actually felt that Chris Nolan did a much better job in providing clues for the audience that the experience was much more satisfactory. Somehow this one doesn’t linger in my mind much, or I just wasn’t too enthused to think about it much afterward. So in the end, it was a pretty decent 2-hours of entertainment, but not a particularly memorable one.

3 out of 5 reels


North by Northwest (1959)

A hapless New York advertising executive is mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies, and is pursued across the country while he looks for a way to survive.

I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to Hitchcock’s classics, but I’m glad I finally got around to this. This is also the second Hitchcock/Cary Grant movie I ever watched, the first one was To Catch a Thief which was kinda underwhelming for me. Fortunately this one indeed lived up to the hype!

From the moment the film started with Grant’s Roger O. Thornhill whimsical scenes with his secretary, I knew I’m going to enjoy this movie. Within 10 minutes, Roger is kidnapped by two henchmen who were so convinced he was George Kaplan, the man they’ve been looking for, that nothing Roger said would make them believe otherwise. From then on the case of mistaken identity just took on a life of its own and Roger is dragged along farther and farther. In the process, he ended up being a wanted man for drunken driving all the way to murder involving a member of UN’s General Assembly!

A scene at the auction w/ Mason & Landau

All the while, with every step Thornhill takes, we’re taken along for the ride and what a ride it was. Hitchcock’s directing style here is quite energetic and done with such a style that even without the sophisticated special effects of today’s thrillers, it still pretty suspenseful. The dialogue is snappy and fun, delivered with poise and whimsy by the suave Cary Grant. He may be too old for the role (by his own admission, I mean the actress playing his mother is actually younger than him!), but it didn’t detract from how effective he was in this movie.

Marie Saint in that gorgeous red dress!

Eva Marie Saint was gorgeous and seductive as the ‘stranger on the train’ Eve Kendall who flirts up a storm with Thornhill. Can’t believe she was Martha Kent in Superman Returns! English actor James Mason and very young (and handsome) Martin Landau were also particularly notable as the villains.

Besides the story and performances, this film also looks darn good. I love the scenery, the classic cars and cute 50s costumes, especially Eve’s red floral dress with the low cut back. It’s as if everyone were so darn stylish back then. There are iconic scenes aplenty to speak of, but the three things that stood out for me were the airplane chase in the South Dakota woodland, the train scenes and of course, that exhilarating chase on top of the statues of Mount Rushmore! I don’t know what it is with witty banters between two potential lovers on a train that I find irresistible, the scene between Eve and Roger have been shamelessly copied many times over but few managed to come close to being half as good (I’m looking at you The Tourist!)

If I could have one gripe though, I think it could’ve been edited a bit more tightly. It currently runs 131 minutes, but I felt like the ending kinda dragged a bit. Still, it was unpredictable until all the way to the end which is always a plus in any movie.

I feel like I couldn’t do this movie justice with my review, but let’s just say I can understand now what the fuss is about this one and why this ranked #40 in American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Movie of the last century. It’s rare to see a movie that has it all: action, mystery, romance, humor, etc. PLUS great performances from the great looking actors! I’m interested to see more of Hitchcock classics now, perhaps Rear Window or Spellbound next to give other classics leading men a chance 🙂

4.5 out of 5 reels


Well, what movie(s) did you end up seeing this past weekend? I’d also love to hear your thoughts about either one of these movies.

FlixChatter Weekend Roundup: To Catch a Thief, Love Never Dies – POTO sequel

Weekend always seems to fly by so darn fast, but after the week I’ve had it was definitely a treat.

Friday: Our monthly girls’ movie nite is here, which is something I always look forward to. Nothing beats a great meal shared amongst friends, followed by a flick we’ve selected weeks before. Just to change things up, this time we decided to watch a classic movie and settled on GrantKellyTo Catch a Thief with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Grant is John Robie, a reformed burglar who’s forced out of his serene life in a plush villa when a series of burglaries bearing his signature moves rocked the Riviera. As he’s a natural suspect, Robie set out to catch the thief himself to prove his innocence. Not exactly well-versed in Hitchcock movies, I didn’t even know this was one of his famous movies. It’s the two stars that sold me on this one, and it’s easy to see why. I mean, it’s tough to find anyone more charming and handsome than Cary Grant, or more devastatingly beautiful than Grace Kelly — even by today’s standard. Though this is more of a rom-com than a typical Hitchcock-ian thriller, it did keep us guessing until the very end. Beautiful cinematography of the French Riviera makes the scenery a star in itself in the movie, and the witty and humorous dialog between Grant and Kelly are delightful and fun. One thing though, as dashing as Grant is, his overly tanned-skin is almost distracting, we’re probably the only ones who notice this, but we all thought it was downright ridiculous to see how dark he was, even more so compared to his porcelain-skinned leading lady. Kelly is also distractingly beautiful, she’s so gorgeous we’re all so in awe of her beauty it took our focus away from the story. Even when she was swimming, she was still as regal as ever. She could be an extraterrestrial she’s so beautiful!

Verdict: Great movie overall, but we all thought the pace was just too slow — which is no fault to the movie of course, we’re just not accustomed to it. Makes us want to book our next vacation in the French Riviera!

Saturday: Spent most of the evening watching and reading about Love Never Dies, the Phantom of the Opera sequel that Andrew Llyod Webber just unveiled last Thursday. Ok, so my blog has been mainly for movies/TV but for POTO I’m making an exception (I’m sure you can guess why). I’ll post more about this in the coming days.

In the meantime, check out a preview of one of the songs ‘Till I hear you sing,’ performed by Iranian-born Canadian actor Ramin Karimloo, who’s currently playing the role of Phantom in the London shows:

Sunday: CBS Three Rivers finally aired 45 minutes late due to an NFL game overrun. Review in a separate post coming later today.