MLK Weekend Roundup: a coming-of-age comedy, 1934 classic romance & a 1975 political thriller

MLKWashingtonHappy Monday all! It’s Martin Luther King Jr weekend here in the States and it’s a company holiday where I work, yay 😀 Another year and yet another snag in the long-overdue MLK biopic. I made this post last year about the status of the project that Paul Greengrass was once attached to. Well it turns out that Oliver Stone has now exited the project, taking to Twitter that his rewrite of the script, which dealt with “issues of adultery, conflicts within the movement, and King’s spiritual transformation” was not well received by producers. (per EW.com)

It’s really too bad as I’d love to see Dr. King’s biopic. Of course I realize he’s not a ‘saint’ as Stone said via Twitter nor do I expect him to be, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s a great man who’s an inspiration to us all.

Now, though I didn’t go to the cinema this weekend, it’s been a wonderful movie catch-up for me. I saw The Way, Way Back on Friday which was pretty good despite the slow start.

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I LOVE Sam Rockwell who stole the film with his effortless charm, and newcomer Liam James is endearingly dorky in this coming-of-age comedy. It probably won’t have made my Top 10 list but certainly would factor in the Honorable Mention if I had seen it last year.

As for the two great classics I finally caught up with, one of them is on my Blindspot list and the other is a spy thriller that my friends have recommended me from time to time.

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I will have my full review of It Happened One Night (1934) on the last Tuesday of this month (1/28) for my Blindspot assignment but let me just say this film lives up to the hype! I’ve only seen Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind, so it’s nice to see a different side to him in this role. Practically everyone I’ve talked to adore this film and I could see why.

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On Saturday night, my hubby and I were in the mood for a spy thriller, having just seen Jack Ryan: The Shadow Recruit on Wednesday (review coming tomorrow). My hubby isn’t a huge fan of older films, but I managed to convince him to rent 3 Days of the Condor (1975) as I’ve heard great things about it. I quite like 70s thrillers like Dirty Harry, The Conversation and The French Connection, no wonder my friend Michael calls it his favorite decade for movies! I quite like this one, it’s more of a slow burn but has plenty of suspense in a whodunnit kind of story filled with political intrigue as well as sexual tension between Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway. It’s a smart thriller by Sydney Pollack, with a taut script and an intriguing ending where things aren’t tied up neatly with a bow. It’s loosely based on a novel by James Grady titled Six Days of the Condor.


So that’s my weekend roundup, folks. What did YOU see this weekend?

Sidney Pollack Blogathon: Castle Keep (1969)

This post is part of the Sydney Pollack Blogathon spearheaded by Ratnakar of Seetimaar – Diary of a Movie Lover Blog. Check out his blog for more posts on the acclaimed director.


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Greetings, all and sundry!

After a brief, enjoyable respite between guest posts. I’ve been asked by our hostess, Ruth to add my unique perspective to the collected works and Mythos of one of the more memorable directors of the last half of the 20th century. One of the great triad of distinctly American cinema that includes John Frankenheimer and William Friedkin. Who first displayed their skill in live television and with the aid of solid reputations, moved seamlessly into film.

A director who gave equal credence and importance to words, comedic and otherwise. As to costumes, sets, locations and action. And more importantly, reaction.

With that said. Allow me a few moments of your time to wax poetic and lyric about the director and one of his early efforts.

Sydney Pollack: Castle Keep (1969) – “Something Memorable out of Nothing”

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A film that was received with mixed reviews when first released. Also one the later dearth of WWII films shot in Yugoslavia. Kelly’s Heroes among them. Pollack’s film centers around the chaotic effect of The Battle of the Bulge had on American troops involved. And a ragtag, polyglot assembly of soldiers recovering from and staying ahead of its icy chilled and ill wind.

Led by a stoic and eye patched Burt Lancaster as Infantry Major Abraham Falconer. In charge of officers who run the gamut of by the book, art historian, Patrick O’Neal as Captain Lionel Beckman. To extremely flaky Lt. Billy Byron Bix. Offset by religious, wide eyed dreamer, Tony Bill’s Lt. Amberjack. And a mix of veteran NCOs From old time tough Sgt. DeVaca (Michael Conrad) to Peter Falk‘s survivor and perpetual baker, Sgt. Rossi and Scott Wilson’s laid back, good old boy, Corporal Clearboy riding herd over a clutch of enlisted men from across the Army’s spectrum of specialties. Chief among them, Private Alistair Piersall Benjamin (Al Freeman Jr.). An engineer and narrator of the tale.

Some had retreated from the initial German assault and regrouped under Falconer. Other are fresh from far off “Repple Depples” or Replacement Depots. With orders to find, occupy, defend and keep a secluded 10th century castle and village of Maldorais. Which sits on the cross point of several roads leading to Bastogne.

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Prime real estate for Allies and Germans alike. Though the Germans have tanks and infantry to help stake their claim. And the American G.I.s have whatever they carry or can get their hands on. The land is pristine, layered in snow. Forested and hilly before becoming mountainous miles away. Possessing a foggy, fairy tale look and feel. Untouched by the ravages of war as Falconer leads his ragtag brigade. While the castle itself is sturdy, shrouded in mist. With tall battlements, thick stone walls, a deep moat and ancient drawbridge. A huge courtyard, stables, well and accoutrements of a bygone age.

The interior of the castle is resplendent in every degree. Full of art treasures and antiquities. And an infertile Count of Maldorais (Jean-Pierre Aumont) who wants nothing more than a son from his wife, Therese, the Countess (voluptuous Astrid Heeren) to continue the family lineage. And for the Americans leave as soon (kind of) as possible.

Falconer sends his underlings to scout out possible defensive positions. And in the process discover the village’s brothel run by the Red Queen (Catarina Borrato) and her clowder of fetishy women. Sgt. Rossi finds a bakery run by an attractive widow and begins to fall in love with both. Lt. Bixby and Lt. Amberjack begin to gather a following of pacifists. Corporal Clearboy discovers the wonders of Greman Volkswagen engineering, And the Major comes under the attentions of the Countess.

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In other words. Unit cohesion and integrity are going to Hell. While Captain Beckman wants to gather up as many art treasures a possible and beat feet elsewhere as the German get ever closer. Sending out white caped and snow camouflaged patrols and an occasional spotter aircraft.

It is then that Major Falconer devises a strategy of hit and run. With the village being the battle field in winnowing down German troops and tanks, Fighting a strategic withdrawal with Castle Maladorais being its last stand. The troops aren’t thrilled to hear this, but know there’s no other choice.

The Red Queen’s girls are brought into the action as tanks roll down the village’s curved, narrow cobbled streets. The girls occupy various balconies in varying stages of undress. Smiling, waving and flaunting their wares to the Germans below. Before tossing flaming wicked cognac bottles of gasoline downward upon the would be occupiers and their armored machines…

I’ll leave the tale right here for Spoilers sake.

Now. What Makes This Movie Good?

Sydney Pollack at the reins of an often visually beautiful, sometimes dream like and cohesive piece of film. Clocking in at 105 minutes with very few to waste. Especially when stacked against other bigger named and budgeted, (Catch-22 leaps to mind!) yet smaller, more garbled messaged films of that time.

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Working within a very rarified and refined winter world created by William Westlake in his novel of the same name. And tweaked just a bit here and there with a screenplay by Daniel Taradash and David Rayfiel. Mr. Pollack and company tread a fine line between one of the better late 1960s War Films while weaving an attractively seductive, yet surreal Anti-War Film. Mr. Pollack proves that he can stage, arrange and choreograph action sequences with the best of them. And his cast of stage, television and film stars from both sides of the ocean deliver.

What Makes This Film Great?

Mr. Pollack’s deft touch at allowing plenty of time and exposition to let the castle and village work its fairy tale magic on his cast through off beat and kind of quirky dialogue that would later become one of his trademarks. There hasn’t been a G.I. born who hasn’t thought of the possibility of “sitting out’ a war”. And the enclosed world of Maladorais offers those opportunities and distractions in abundance. Whether it is sex, a simple task like baking, which can easily become a life’s work. Or tinkering with the wonders of a first production VW. Each character is slowly seduced while Major Falconer watches from a safe distance with his diversions. Until it’s time to put childish things aside and get serious when the need arises.

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Cinematography from Henri Decae is more than one could ask for. Sharp and defined inside Castle Maladorais. Then offering extremely wide span and often misted exterior shots in the village and surrounding woods. Tailor made for Major Falconer sit astride a white stallion which becomes his personal form of conveyance.

Original music by Michel Legrand shows early signs of greatness. As it buttresses the visual and enhances emotion from lighthearted to treacherous. Art Direction by Jacque Douy and Mort Rabinowitz is lush and plush in the extreme inside the castle. And spartan and rustic inside and around the village. While Malcolm Cooke’s masterful editing saves momets and increases intensity when the Germans finally arrive.


Check out Jack’s other posts and reviews


Thoughts on this film and/or Sidney Pollack? Let it be known in the comments.

Music Break: 1995 Sabrina’s Soundtrack

sabrina1995posterI just realized I haven’t done a Music Break since last November! Well I’m feeling rather melancholy tonight so I watched a little bit of the 1995 version of Sabrina. I adore this movie… it’s just sooo enchanting. It’s a modern-day Cinderella story of sort. Sabrina Fairchild, the chauffeur of the billionaire Larrabee family, is a bit of an ugly duckling whose sudden transformation into a beautiful woman end up standing in the way of a Billion dollar deal.

Harrison Ford and Greg Kinnear are not what one would expect as the Larrabee brothers but both worked well here. Julia Ormond is lovely as Sabrina… gorgeous but vulnerable. People who love the original probably scoff that Ormond & Ford are no [Audrey] Hepburn & [Humphrey] Bogart, I think it’s a bit unfair. I thought Ford is perfect as the workaholic, a bit curmudgeon Linus who unexpectedly falls for the carefree Sabrina. And Kinnear is surprisingly charming and affable as the billionaire playboy David. They made those roles their own and they suit the time and era they’re in. Truth be told, after seeing the original, I actually enjoy this remake better [sorry Michael!]

I never get tired of this movie… Sydney Pollack‘s direction mixes drama and comedy deftly and boy does he have an eye for scenery. This movie is just gorgeous to look at, everything from the Larrabee estates to the streets of Paris where Sabrina took her long walks are exquisite shot.

But even more beautiful that the scenery is John Williams’ music. This theme song is one of my favorites from his extensive collection, definitely made my top ten scores from this genius composer. It’s so elegant, lush, mesmerizing… and also heartbreaking.

I love Sting’s voice and it works surprisingly well for Moonlight. I listen to this track often… it never fails to sweep me off my feet. Linus tells Sabrina “It’s as though a lovely breeze has swept through this whole house” And the song has that same quality to me… it’s just mesmerizing and the melody has such a timeless feel to it.

There is another song called How Can I Remember sung by Michael Dees that is lovely as well, and I love the moment La Vie en Rose was played as Sabrina recites the quote from Gertrude Stein “America is my country, and Paris is my home town.”

Williams composed this soundtrack two years after Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List, two other favorites from his work. It’s amazing how he could make one iconic score after another. Even hearing just a couple of notes you instantly know what that music is and it’d take me back to that specific movie.

Sabrina was nominated for Best Original Music and Best Original Song (Moonlight) at the Oscars in 1995, but neither one won.


Hope you enjoyed the soundtrack. What’s your favorite score by John Williams?

Five for the Fifth: August Edition

Hello folks, it’s time for the AUGUST 2012 edition of Five of the Fifth!

As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here. So let’s get started, shall we?
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1. Well, last Friday I saw Total Recall, which a lot of people say is totally unnecessary. Well, be that as it may, I didn’t think it was horrible, but it’s not all that memorable either. You’ll see a double review of it on Monday from Ted and I, since he loves the original and remember it fondly, whilst I can’t um, recall hardly anything from it.

Speaking of remakes, I happened to see the original Sabrina (1954) with Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and William Holden with my husband. Well, interestingly enough, both my hubby and I still like the 1995 remake better for many reasons. Somehow Julia Ormond just makes a more compelling character of Sabrina, and Harrison Ford and Greg Kinnear are both perfectly cast as Linus and David Larabee. In fact, about half way through the film we both are bored by this one. I might blog more about that one later, but for now I’d have to say that I prefer the remake than the original, and so I’m glad we owned the dvd of the Sydney Pollack version as might watch that one again after this.

So my first question to you is: which remake you think is better or at least on par with the original?

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2. Woo hoo! Skyfall‘s full trailer is here! Most of you probably have seen it already but hey, why not watch it again…


Well, well, well, looks like there’s an interesting twist here about Bond pretending to be dead scenario. And for a Bond movie that was said to be more dramatic given Sam Mendes’ direction, there seems to be a good amount of exhilarating action in this trailer. I like this trailer and we finally get to see the Bond baddie Silva and the new, young & hip Q! But what is with that bleached blond look that Javier Bardem is sporting?? He looks like a Spanish Max Zorrin, I certainly hope Silva won’t end up in our future list of worst Bond villains!! Oh and Bond is tied up in a chair again, boy I hope there won’t be any ball-busting fiasco going on again, ahah.

So, what did you think of Javier Bardem as Silva and Ben Whishaw as Q?



3. I was just reading about Liam Neeson in a British film magazine (can’t remember which it is) on his evolution from dramatic actor to bad-ass action hero.

From films like Schindler’s List, Kinsey, Michael Collins, Chloe and a bunch of other lesser-known films, seems like after playing Ducard, a.ka. Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins, the tall Irish thespian um, embarks on a whole new career as the go-to action hero. I LOVE this tweet from last week:


Ahaha… soooo true!! I mean TAKEN’s Bryan Mills is even more bad ass than James Bond!! I do like Neeson though, and somehow, beneath all that bad-assery, there’s still a sensitive soul in there, that’s perhaps his appeal.

So, what’s your favorite Liam Neeson role and thoughts on his foray into action hero territory?

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4. I’m really loving these video journals from Peter Jackson. I love that we get a glimpse into behind the scenes of filming this hugely-anticipated film without having to wait for the DVD/Blu-ray is out. Now The HOBBIT video journal #8 is up, I definitely LOVE seeing Lee Pace on there and training to for his role as Thranduil the Elven King.


Now, you probably have heard that The Hobbit will be made into a trilogy. Not surprisingly, it’s getting mixed reviews and I do think it’s perhaps a bit excessive. But then again, I have not read the books, so I’m not really sure how he could stretch the material, about 400 pages of them, into three films. This IGN article assess the pros and cons of doing The Hobbit as a trilogy. It seems that from Peter Jackson’s perspective, he seems to be motivated by his love for the subject matter, but the studio probably just wants to milk this lucrative franchise, just like what they did with Twilight, Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.

So what are YOUR thoughts about this Hobbit trilogy debate??


5. Ok, for the last question, I’m going to open up the floor to you all… now that the Summer blockbuster months is over, there are still a lot of Fall movies we’re all hugely anticipating. Just in the next four months, here are four I might check out at the cinema in the next couple of months:

Now, there are others I’m interested in, but those might be more of a rental.

What about you? What are your top four movies you are most anticipating in the next couple of months?



Well, that’s it for the August edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀