"Master And Commander" (2003)
(At The Oaks Theatre)
"Guns Of Navarone" ()
"I Remember Mama" ()
"The Young In Heart" ()
"Shadow Of A Doubt" (Universal, 1942)
"Forever And A Day" (1943)
An amazing parade of British and American actors and international directors (including Rene Clair) lend rich, understated performances to this wartime morale booster. The destiny and spirit of England is viewed through the prism of a single country house which over the decades has become engulfed and reshaped by the bustling, energetic boundaries of London. The Trimble family fortune rises and falls, gives way to waves of modernity, and finally confronts the German Blitz, where the old family manor shelters dozens of plucky Brits in its bomb shelter basement. They sing old music hall songs as the bombs fall from above, and our present-day heroine recounts the tales of the generations of her family that have lived in the house in years gone by. Merle Oberon, C. Aubrey Smith, Ray Milland, Claude Rains, Una O'Connor, Elsa Lanchester, Brian Aherne, Reginald Owen, Edward Everett Horton, Buster Keaton and Gladys Cooper are among the dozens of celebrities who flit across the screen in well-placed cameos and episodic roles. Charles Laughton gets a brief, underwhelming role as a besotted butler (a nod, perhaps, to his great role as Ruggles Of Red Gap...) Although over a dozen writers worked on the script, and although its sentimental message (about British courage and pluck) is a bit predictable, this is an entirely effective, charming, and cohesive work... Plus... geez, when are ya ever gonna see a cast and crew like this again? A fine film, of historical and artistic interest -- well worth checking out!
"That Uncertain Feeling" (United Artists, 1941)
A blithe screwball comedy from director Ernst Lubitsch about an "ideal" modern couple (known to their friends as "the Happy Bakers") whose marriage is on the rocks... Merle Oberon has a six-year itch; her husband (Melvyn Douglas) is a bit of a boob, an alright guy, but a bit obsessed with his work and at times inattentive. When Merle bumps into a free-thinking, artsy malcontent (a young Burgess Meredith, in a choice, juicy role), she falls in his arms and throws her marriage away. The story was originally filmed by Lubitsch in the silent era, but whether it's 1925 or 1941, the plot is still startlingly frank and modern: Douglas takes the affair and divorce in his stride, and even does a bit of fooling around on his own in a bid to get his wife back... The film features brisk, witty dialogue and a zippy start, and though it kind of loses a little steam midway through, it's still pretty fun. Several great character actors are in the cast, including Eve Arden and Sig Rumann... Maybe not the greatest Lubitsch film ever, but it's still a gas. Recommended!
"Jeepers Creepers 2" (Twentieth Century Fox, 2003)
I was pleasantly surprised by this film... The original Jeepers Creepers was a true horror movie dark horse -- intelligent, funny, legitimately dark and creepy, and with a real zinger of a surprise ending. I didn't expect much from the sequel, though: how could we anticipate much more that a cheap knock-off of the first? But lo and behold, director Victor Salva manages to make a film that, while not top-rung, is still a cut or two above the current crop of cookie-cutter scary films... His characters are venal and flawed without being too stereotyped (though this time around, I admit, this film's busful-o-cannon fodder teens are flimsier than the brother-sister pair in the first flick...) and his sense of what to show and how to build tension is pretty intriguing. Once the scene is set, though -- twenty teens trapped on a broken schoolbus, terrorized by The Monster once night falls -- the movie settles in on an action-only pace that is less original than the Salva's first installment. Nonetheless, this film doesn't suck, and it a good, cheap thrill, not bad for a "dumb rental."
"Terminator 3" (Twentieth Century Fox, 2003)
This film does suck, though. A lot. Played more explicitly for laughs than either of the other Terminator flicks, T3 has only one marginally exciting sequence -- the elaborately staged automobile chase scene in the film's first third. The rest of the film is a total bore, one action movie set piece after another -- big shootout with the cops, massive destruction within a secret military base, helicopter chase, etc. -- and a bit of tired, half-heartedly mysogynistic pseudo-sexual slapstick (Arnold cramming the female Terminatrix's head into a toilet, the two of them bursting explosively apart after grappling at close quarters... Golly gee, what could it mean?) It's all been seen before, and in a vague effort to get around the been-there, done-that factor, the director responds by occasionally deflating the action in a bid to "surprise" us: "Wow, the helicopter chase didn't go on forever and ever? The cops don't all get creamed??" This of course only makes the film less exciting and more of a time-suck. The ultimate example of this is that the new, improved Terminatrix herself is startlingly dull and easy to kill. Really, nothing happens in this film. Nothing at all, except the big fat "ka-chinggg" of Arnold Schwartzenegger cashing in on what may be his lamest, most listless performance to date. Even Kindergarten Cop and The Villain were better than this. If you liked the first two Terminator flicks, this one should just make you feel very, very sad.
"The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen" (Twentieth Century Fox, 2003)
Yeesh. An inexcusably muddled, disjointed action film. Sean Connery is the sole redeeming feature in a movie that is otherwise distinguished by poor sound design, overly busy visual design, negligible character development; flat, occasionally chintzy, special effects, and very little of the ironic humor that marked the original Alan Moore comic book. It's all just so blunt and obvious and poorly rendered. Why? Can it really be that hard to make a good action film?
"The Legend Of Suriyothai" (Columbia Tristar, 2003)
Francis Ford Coppolla bankrolled, er, executive produced this historical epic about a legendary figure in 16th Century Thai history, Queen Suriyothai, who died on the battlefield amid one of her province's periodic wars with its neighbor, Burma. The film features a fabulous pagent of costuming, some appealing actors and director
"Bruce Almighty" (2003)
Meh. This flick revisits a familiar theme -- the Powers That Be endow a malcontented mortal with godlike powers, and leave it to him to learn the twin lessons of temptation and humility. This version of the story throws a slew of special effects at the situation, seeking to update the older films such as Zotz!, and The Man Who Could Work Miracles, but winds up being about as rickety as those earlier efforts. A heavy-handed dose of Christian-ish Hallmark greeting card preachiness takes hold in the final act: God, played by Morgan Freeman, bluntly spells it all out for our now-weepy hero, who has already figured out that his egotism and materialism has gotten in the way of his being a good human being. I like Jim Carrey, in spite of my self, but this flick fell a few yards short of the skillful spiritualism of, say, Ground Hog's Day, which pretty much told the same story (news reporter hero, and all...) but much, much better.
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