Turner Classic Movies is doing a series on disability on film this month. It’s really an interesting look at how its been portrayed and social feelings towards people with different abilities. Tonight they showed a rare find restored by the Netherlands Filmmuseum, “Lucky Star” (1929).
“Lucky Star” is a silent film directed by the prolific Frank Borzage, about what happens after a man who returns to his rural town after being injured while fighting in WWI. In this poor town, Tim (Charles Farrell) returns to his town in a wheel chair and befriends local girl Mary (Janet Gaynor), the one person who doesn’t seem to think twice about his new wheels. Their relationship starts as sort of mentor-student with Tim guiding Mary from dirty child to a young woman with increasing self-respect. As they grow closer their interactions slowly change, much to the chagrin of Mary’s mother who doesn’t want her “wasting her time on a cripple.”
For me the most engaging thing about the film is Farrell’s portrayal of Tim. He is fully self-sufficient with a drive and ambition, perhaps even more so than the other people you see in his rural town. The reactions of other people only bother him in their leading to his loneliness. Only after Tim’s feelings towards Mary change towards romantic interest do you see his pain, and Farrell really helps you understand the emotional and physical struggle. But Tim’s absolute determination and Mary’s love see the film through the end.
Farrell’s acting and Borzage’s direction make the film’s social commentary effective while keeping it a bit more on the subtle side. “Lucky Star” is an engaging and interesting melodrama that’s definitely worth a watch.
DragonCon is a festival of all things geeky. Every year during the first weekend of September there are four days of Sci-Fi, comic book, anime, and video game mayhem. Last night there was the world premiere for a new independent film featuring Doug Jones, Felicia Day, and Andrew Bowen.
“Rock Jocks” (2012) is about a group of geniuses who work for a secret government agency that shoots down astroids. Faced with budget cuts and the threat of elimination, they have to work together save their jobs and the world. “Rock Jocks” has a solid story and great script that felt like what you would get if “Clerks” (1994) and “Repo Man” (1984) had a love child who became an astronaut. That being said this is definitely not a family film, with a great amount of adult humor and swearing including security guards contemplating the various ways that expletives can be used.
Following the premiere of the movie was a short panel session with the writer/director Paul Seetachitt, Andrew Bowen, and Robert Picardo. They were all very excited to share the final product and stories about making the film. It was shot on a small cannon and you can definitely tell in the image quality. But the story and characters are so much fun, you soon forget and just enjoy. Overall, I enjoyed myself and would definitely love to see it again.
If you’re interested in seeing this film, check out their website
I’ve been on a British mystery kick. After watching way too many episodes of “Midsomer Murders” I decided to go with a classic. Agatha Christie, the best-selling mystery writer of all time, meets Billy Wilder, writer-director extraordinaire in the script of “Witness for the Prosecution” (1957).
The film is a riveting court drama the tops any seen today. Christie’s tale leads you to question your own suspicions and plays wonderfully with Wilder’s quirky sense of humor seamlessly inserted into the dialogue. Additionally, Wilder’s decision to minimize music puts greater emphasis on the inflection on words spoken and stretches of silence.
Marlene Dietrich is accused murderer Tyrone Power’s wife whom he brought to England after WWII. The complications of their relationship are nearly the opposite of those she played in “The Blue Angel,” but carry as much intrigue. Charles Laughton as Banister Wilfrid is both a comic curmudgeon and brilliant analytical mind. His performance was the reason I had a repeat watch immediately.
While there is a sequence where you find yourself doing a face-palm with Dietrich, it’s not too hard to forgive and carry on. The end of the film requests that I “not divulge the end,” so all I can say is that as I sat watching this film, exclaimed to my hamster, “CharlesLaughton is Amazing!”
If you’re a Billy Wilder fan, check out my reviews of “The Seven Year Itch” and “Double Indemnity.”
If you haven’t figured it our by now, my tastes tend to be a little on the quirky side. So it should come as little surprise that while most people were breathlessly awaiting the new Batman movie, I was standing in line to buy tickets for a little period piece with far too little fanfare.
“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (2012) is the film adaptation of a book by Seth Grahame-Smith, a little known author with big impact. “Abraham Lincoln,” like Smith’s first book “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” takes a story that everyone knows well and gives it a twist. You see, the history of one of America’s favorite presidents has a secret: he’s really a master vampire hunter.
Adaptations of books is a tricky thing for the movie business. Its impossible to present a direct translation, but when the author is also the screenwriter, you know you’ll get close. Smith and director Timur Bekmambetov give the subject gravity and excitement without getting too campy. The cast of primarily unknown actors is entirely believable and well case. The great Rufus Sewell is the one name actor in the case, giving primary vampire Adam an ease and intensity that meshes well with the subject matter.
With a book adaptation and story mash-up such as this its way too easy to go overboard, stepping on toes and become ridiculously cheesey. This thankfully, stays perfectly serious, creating an enjoyably fun film full of Vampire slaying goodness. This one will be soon be added to my collection.
There are a lot of movies that come and go. Some are block-buster smashes, some are forgotten. “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” was in the theaters 8 years ago, but it’s barely remembered.
Set in a 1939 alternate universe, “Sky Captain” is a mixture of Buck Rogers, Captain America, and the Rocketeer. Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow are the heroes who can’t seem to quite sort out their feelings. Nice surprises in the casting include Michael Gambon, Angelina Jolie, and even an archival footage appearance by the great Laurence Olivier. It feels like a classic Warner Brothers war film in dialogue and art direction, but never quite gets the formula right. There are too many clichés and close calls to really be enjoyable.
The muted color saturation is beautiful and seems to fit the portrayed time period well. The over abundance of computer generated graphics give the film a comic book feel that reminds me in a way of “Sin City” (2005). They’re not entirely off-putting, you will just be aware the entire time that this is completely a fantasy world. There’s enough about this film that should ensure its syndication on cable TV, and I would very happily turn it on as small diversion to my everyday activities.
I’ve really gotten into BBC’s “Sherlock.” The way they’re adapted the Arthur Conan Doyle character of Sherlock Holmes for the modern age is completely engaging and entertaining. So I thought I might go back and see other inspirations from the past. But instead of critiquing the iconic Basil Rathbone encarnation, I took the way-back machine a little further.
Buster Keaton‘s 1924 film “Sherlock Jr.” (1924) is a wonderful example of how the character has influenced popular culture for a century. Keaton stars as our young hero who is trying to woo his love interest by day and works in a cinema at night. Fascinated by Sherlock Holmes, he dreams himself into a mystery. This movie completely tickles my film nerd bones, for as the character dreams, he imagines himself not only as Holmes, but as apart of the cinema world that, as a theater projectionist, he views everyday. Of course, reality always spills into a dream, and he finds his lady deep in a mysterious robbery and kidnapping, that only he can solve. The rest is less mystery and more silent comedy hijinks and fantastic stunts. In this Keaton is an absolute master, keeping you constantly engaged and oblivious to the skill involved in the flawless execution and timing.
I love this film. Its brisk 45 minutes goes by far too quickly and leaves me wanting to start it all over again.
I do enjoy James Bond. Ian Flemming’s books or the continuous line of films, I’m always interested in the historic time capsule of society and politics. When it comes to spoofs, knock-offs, and inspirations it’s mainly a case of hit or miss.
“OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies” (2006) is a throwback to the Sean Connery style James Bond, French style. Based on a novel, writer/director Michel Hazanavicius brings to life the story of a self-absorbed and socially unaware French secret agent Hubert in the person of Jean Dujardin. Hubert is dashing and capable, held in high esteem by his superiors and women, but the audience is witness to his large ego and bemusement at the world around him.
The film feels period authentic to the early 1960s with excellent costumes and sets, right down to contemporary stock footage and automobile back plates. Political events also bring a strong link to the past bringing the thought that these events may have possibly happened.
“Cairo, Nest of Spies” is a French comedy and I feel that some of the jokes are culture specific. Not to mention that some of Hubert lack of cultural awareness and political uncorrectness made me a little uncomfortable. But overall its a well made film with good performances. I wouldn’t be too upset if I didn’t see it again, but I’ll still turn it on to lust after Dujardin.