February 28, 2010

Foxes (1980)

Foxes is an honest (if nothing else) story of how four teenage girls (Jodie Foster, Cherie Currie, Marilyn Kagan, Kandice Stroh) survive against all odds, including drugs, alcohol, boys, abusive or absent fathers and, neglectful or cold mothers (one of the latter played by Sally Kellerman). This was director Adrian Lyne's first film about surviving against all odds (before Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct) and because of its almost documentarian feel works as a time capsule (if nothing else). Music from the film actually took in bigger consumer dollars in 1980 with Donna Summer's huge hit On The Radio, and semi-hits from producer Giorgio Moroder, Cher and Grammy-nominated Janis Ian, played a lot - um - on the radio.

February 22, 2010

The Snake Pit (1948)

Olivia De Havilland is still remarkable as a mentally ill woman in The Snake Pit despite the fact that mentally ill as it is depicted here is akin to my mother going food shopping today. Yes, the film is dated but that is not the fault of our lead actress who was deservingly nominated for an Academy Award. Watch it with a grain of salt or maybe a Prozac.

February 20, 2010

Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968)

Gina Lollobridgida and the extremely colorful art direction are the only reasons to see Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell, a none-too-funny comedy about an Italian woman who doesn't know which of the three American soldiers that she shtupped during World War Two is the father of her now sixteen year old daughter (Janet Margolin). The supporting cast (including Shelley Winters, Telly Savalas, Peter Lawford, Lee Grant and Phil Silvers) play the non-existent jokes much too broadly - both of which (cast and jokes) can be blamed only on director and co-writer Melvin Frank. Fortunately, Frank also hired Lollobridgida who is stunning and likable despite the sour script (which was used thirty years later as the basis for the ABBA musical, Mamma Mia.)

February 18, 2010

Aparecidos (2007)

Engrossing and surprising, Aparecidos (The Appeared) is a political ghost story from Argentina based on historical fact. Writer/director Paco Cabezas has fashioned a film with a strong message that is applicable to many different countries during many different eras and cast the excellent Ruth Diaz as an attorney who finds out a little too much about her father's past on the way to pull his plug. There's not too much blood in this offbeat gem so don't let that keep you from searching it out.

February 17, 2010

Resurrection (1999)

Bad casting choices might spoil the outcome of Resurrection for some but it's still a creepy watch (helmed by 80s music video director - yes, Duran Duran - Russell Mulcahy) about a serial killer who is rebuilding the body of Christ for the titular event. Kudos are deserved by executive producer, co-writer and star Christopher Lambert despite his somewhat distracting Schwarzenegger-esque accent. Add a star if you've never seen Leland Orser or Robert Joy in a movie.

February 16, 2010

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Sassy Jane Russell and sweet Marilyn Monroe bring their many charms to this wonderful film of the Broadway musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Howard Hawks directs the lively, colorful, entertaining and tuneful tale about two showgirls looking for love (and money) into a frothy and uncomplicated soiree. Monroe's iconic Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend, Russell's so-hot-they-needed-a-pool Ain't There Anyone Here For Love and the duet Two Little Girls From Little Rock show how neither woman has ever been better - and not many films have either.

February 15, 2010

Ghost Ship (2002)

The first five minutes of Ghost Ship is an extraordinarily creepy exercise in horror and the story that follows, though not as consistent, offers a goodly share of twists and scares. Gabriel Byrne, Julianna Margulies and Ron Eldard play the crew of a salvage ship that finds the titular vessel floating in the Bering Strait. Add some good effects (both traditional and computer generated) and decent acting (including Australian horror teen queen Emily Browning) and this ship does a good job of staying afloat.

February 14, 2010

Valentine (2001)

Valentine is a red (pun intended) herring horror film in which we are diverted from the real killer's identity until the movie's end - or in my case, about 15 minutes before it. Since most horror films play out in the same way, it isn't the most original premise but the acting by Denise Richards (!), David Boreanaz, Marley Shelton and the rest keeps the momentum. If you're alone on this day of love, it beats Romeo and Juliet.

February 13, 2010

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996)

It's not the anachronism that spoils Baz Luhrman's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet but the casting of actors that don't understand the cadence of Elizabethan English - and this includes Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes as the star-crossed lovers. Miriam Margolyes as the nurse, Pete Postlethwaite as the priest, and Brian Dennehy as Ted Montague fair best (with a nod to whipper-snapper John Leguizamo as Tybalt) but the film might have been more palletable had Luhrman used modern English or cast actors that have experience speaking Shakespeare's words. It's not a tragedy but it is not a very engrossing watch.

February 9, 2010

Only When I Laugh (1981)

Neil Simon should have done more research about alcoholism before writing Only When I Laugh because Marsha Mason does not live (or in this case, act) like any alcoholic that I've known (and I've known a few). The script is dated, full of stagey one-liners in place of characterization and ends sappily with a metaphoric Hollywood hug between Mason and her chip-off-the-old-block daughter, Kristy McNichol. The saving graces are the supporting performances from James Coco and Joan Hackett who bring truth to their contrived lines.

February 8, 2010

Fallen (1998)

Fallen is somewhat interesting but lacks the realism a story about demons needs to be successful (as in The Exorcist). The acting is fine but I couldn't help but wondering how Denzel Washington could say the demon's name - Azazel - with a straight face. Perhaps the story's creators are atheist or agnostic because this movie about religion's discarded plays like a movie.

February 7, 2010

Gin gwai - The Eye (2002)

Atmospheric and surprisingly tender, Gin gwai (The Eye) is one hell of a ghost story. The Pang Brothers have fashioned a fascinating and scary script (much of it straight out of the headlines) and hired some excellent actors (including Lee Sin-Je, Lawrence Chou, Sue Yuen Wang and Chutcha Rujinanon) to tell this creepy story of supernatural sight. Watch it with the lights out.

February 6, 2010

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967)

Forty years on, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is still relevant and not in the least dated. Katherine Hepburn won an Academy Award for her performance but Spencer Tracy and Beah Richards match her word for word - with able support from Sidney Poitier, Katherine Houghton (Hepburn's niece) and Isabel Sanford in a small yet pivotal role. The San Francisco location (with an opening nod to San Jose), the excellence of Stanley Kramer's direction and the intelligence of William Rose's script make this one never to be missed.

February 1, 2010

Darkness Falls (2003)

Thrills, good effects and a fascinating back story greet you in Darkness Falls. Although the script has a few of the plot holes usually found in horror movies, they pale compared to this fast-paced story about the Tooth Fairy; I'm telling you it's fascinating. Chaney Bley (RIP) and Emma Caulfield lead the appealing cast in this fight to stay in the light (which does it all with a PG-13 rating).