Posts Tagged ‘book adaptation’

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints – Minute Movie Review

Freitag, Oktober 15th, 2010


Throughout this partly autobiographical film, writer-director-lead character Dito Montiel tries very hard to push the boundaries of cinema – with often disastrous results. Through the story of how he abandoned everyone at his Brooklyn home when going to Los Angeles and how he returned when his father was very sick, he tries to present a message that is completely lost in the over-ambitious, often pretentious drivel the film largely resorts to. There is a good story somewhere and a few scenes hint at what could have been possibly in that story about growing up in hard times, but the film is much too clever for its own good to ever reach the heights it aspires too.

Random Observations:

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints at the IMDb

The film is based on the book Montiel wrote about his life, where apparently the title makes some kind of sense. Here, it is just more pretentious drivel.

The cast is headlined by the solid Robert Downey Jr. and includes a for once middling Shia LaBeouf. Considering that he is normally the worst actor of his generation, that is quite an accomplishment.

Considering that Montiel first made his name (and a lot of money) through music, it probably would have been a good idea to explore that theme somewhat more than in a few throwaway lines.

Scarface (1932) – Minute Movie Review

Freitag, September 10th, 2010


In the original Scarface (compared to Brian De Palma’s remake), Paul Muni is the scariest of all the old-time movie hoodlums. Through ruthless violence, he rises in the Chicago crime community, killing everybody who stands in his way. The film is, for the time, unflinchingly brutal – which ultimately caused producer Howard Hughes to release it without the Hays Office’s approval – but also a finely layered crime drama and the story of a man who is so caught up in his own situation, he slowly goes (even more) insane. Supported by an excellent cast, especially the always brilliant George Raft, the film is truly memorable for more than it’s violence.

Random Observations:

Scarface at the IMDb

The film is sold as a warning to society, having a title card in the beginning claim that it is all true and that the people should do something about horrible incidents like these. In fact, screen-writer Ben Hecht based much of the story on Al Capone, the original Scarface.

Whether it’s booze in the prohibition original or drugs in the remake, neither film is really about substance abuse.

Small part for Boris Karloff, who looks almost human here.

Directed by Howard Hawks. For once, I was not able to spot any characters, storylines or dialogue he used in other films as well.

The Cowboys – Minute Movie Review

Freitag, September 3rd, 2010


60 year old rancher John Wayne is in desperate need of helpers for a cattle drive, but gold fever has gripped the town and no one is willing to work for him. So he turns to ten young teenagers, none older than fifteen, and hires them for the dangerous drive. Together with black cook Roscoe Lee Browne they set out, facing plenty of trouble and chances to turn boys into men along the way. The film is a far cry from perfect, but it is a good story that is decently told. Wayne’s lead performance is decent, but it’s really the cowboys that should make the film come alive, but which they can’t. It’s a nice swan song to John Wayne Week, but nothing more.

Random Observations:

The Cowboys at the IMDb

The film picks up a lot of speed, momentum and gravitas in the last half hour, but even that is not enough.

The DVD transfer has a horrible image quality.

Film debut of Robert Carradine.

The film was criticized upon its release for sending the message that it is okay to arm children and set them dangerous jobs. During the Vietnam War, this is understandable.

The Searchers – Minute Movie Review

Montag, August 30th, 2010


After his family has been murdered by Comanche, John Wayne sets out to take his little niece back from them. For years he tracks the tribe, with the help of an adopted son, more intent on revenge than anything else. This John Ford film features what may be Wayne’s best performance and has a magnificent story. Ford, of course, is a very able director and the film is very close to being perfect, even if it has become rather dated and the story and themes could be explored much better.

Random Observations:

The Searchers at the IMDb

This film is a favourite of many contemporary film-makers. Steven Spielberg claims to watch it before starting each of his films to remind himself what a perfect film looks like.

The film reminded me of a quote from The Dark Knight: “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

The only film to star both Natalie Wood and her little sister Lana. But while Natalie is by far the superior actress, she is upstaged here by her ten year old sister.

It’s a bit strange to see this film after having seen so many films that have been obviously inspired by it.

We continue our Themed Weeks Theme with John Wayne Week. Two more Wayne westerns on Wednesday and Friday!

The Remains of the Day – Minute Movie Review

Mittwoch, August 18th, 2010


Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) is the butler of the well-meaning Lord Darlington (James Fox), who is a strong proponent of appeasement to Nazi Germany. Stevens has dedicated his life to his work and is a perfect example of those old school British butlers. Meanwhile, a new housekeeper (Emma Thompson) arrives, but her love for him is not requited since he does not allow himself any feelings, also turning a blind eye to his master’s folly. The film is essentially a costume drama that is elevated by the strong theme of loyalty, dedication, servitude and their ultimate futility. Great performances elevate the romantic sub plot, which is perfectly underplayed.

Random Observations:

The Remains of the Day at the IMDb

Based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, whose When We Were Orphans I always thought was the first novel I ever read in English outside of school. However, since it was only published in 2000 (and I have the paperback, no less), this simply can not be. Further proof that my memory is horrible – how’s that for a completely pointless insight into my life?

Hugh Grant is in this and on the record as stating that this was the best film he ever made.

I never thought much of Anthony Hopkins as an actor, finding him vastly overrated. This film, however, is almost enough to make me change my mind.

The Black Dahlia – Minute Movie Review

Montag, August 16th, 2010


After being moved to a higher office in the Police Department because their charity fight brokered everyone a pay increase, rivals Aaron Eckhart and Josh Hartnett team up. They are having a good time of it until a girl is murdered and Eckhart’s desire to find the killer and once more claim the spotlight starts to create trouble. But this is only half of the overly convoluted, stupid, erroneous and downright insulting thing this film calls it’s storyline. Director Brian De Palma set out to make a modern day film noir and his recreation of 1940s Los Angeles is certainly very beautiful, with great production design and cinematography, but in all that glory he forgot to create a compelling and coherent story or to hire actors that can act or at least direct them decently. The film is overly ambitious and fails spectacularly, which is still better than all the middling fare out there, but not enough to make it worth spending any time with.

Random Observations:

The Black Dahlia at the IMDb

The film is based on James Ellroy’s novel, which in turn is based on a true story. Which in this case means: the murder actually happened, but it was never solved and none of the people apart from the victim in the novel ever existed, and even the real Elizabeth Short aka The Black Dahlia bore little resemblance to the book or film version. So basically they just used a true murder as a hook to get people interested in the crappy story. (For full disclosure, I should add that I have never read the novel, but if the story is anything like in the film, it’s bound to be bad.)

Whatever happened to Josh Hartnett? There was a time when he seemed like the next big thing, but now he seems all but forgotten. Could it be that this film exposed his limited acting ability?

The only actor in this film who is any good is Aaron Eckhart. Everyone else, even otherwise talented people like Fiona Shaw, Hilary Swank or  Scarlett Johansson turn in absolutely lacklustre performances that are distracting from the film more than anything else. On the other hand, maybe that was intentional.

The Sundowners – Minute Movie Review

Mittwoch, August 11th, 2010


Married Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr travel across early 20th century Australia with their teenage son. He works as a drover, going where the work takes him and enjoying the restless life, while she and the son long for a home to call their own. They are joined by Peter Ustinov for one job who then decides to stick around when they take jobs on a sheep farm for one season. There, all manner of entertaining drama happen, while the two sides struggle to convince the other of their lifestyle choice. The film is less of a single coherent story and more of a collection of wanderings, creating the feeling of restlessness very successfully. It’s not a great film – to little happens for that – but it’s a good story well told.

Random Observations:

The Sundowners at the IMDb

A sundowner, as one character thankfully explains to another, is an Australian term for people without a home, who just camp wherever the sun goes down, making their home there.

This is one of those typically understated Mitchum performances. You don’t really realize its impact until afterwards, when the whole nuances of his character become clear in retrospect.

Director Fred Zinnemann reminded me a lot of Terrence Malick with his focus on nature and wildlife in some shots. Sure, Malick has elevated this to a new art form, but Zinnemann certainly was a forebear for him.

The film shares many themes with Australia, but is much better (and subtler!) at exploring them.

Home from the Hill – Minute Movie Review

Dienstag, August 10th, 2010


This film, authentically depicting small town life in Texas mid-20th-century uses hunting as it’s hook, hence the title, an extract from a Robert Louis Stevenson poem. Robert Mitchum plays a middle aged father of a 17 year old boy that has been raised by his mother, a deal he made with her so that she would stay despite his numerous affairs. When he decides to make a man of the boy and teach him how to hunt, it changes the dynamic of the family. But this is only the start of a sprawling story with many different elements, clearly taken directly from William Humphrey’s attempt at the fabled “Great American Novel”. Strong actors, especially George Hamilton as the son and George Peppard as his slightly older mentor and illegitimate half-brother (and Mitchum, naturally), make this a film that despite some lengths is well worth watching and emotionally rewarding.

Random Observations:

Home from the Hill at the IMDb

Directed by Vincente Minnelli, whom I really need to stop considering a musical director.

Apparently, the hunting scenes are extremely realistic. No idea if that’s true, though.

George Peppard went on to star in everyone’s second favourite prostitute movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Robert Mitchum made this film when 42, an age when many of his contemporaries where still playing the romantic leads seducing 20 years younger women.

Strangers on a Train – Minute Movie Review

Montag, Juli 19th, 2010


When tennis player Guy meets strange guy Bruno on the train, he is presented with the idea for a perfect murder: each would commit the other’s murder, thereby erasing all motive from the equation. But when Bruno actually goes through with the plan and kills Guy’s cheating wife, so that he can marry the woman he loves, things start to unravel, since Guy has no intention to commit murder. The film, based on a novel by acclaimed American crime writer Patricia Highsmith, is a prime example of why Alfred Hitchcock is called “the master of suspense”. It’s an engaging thrill ride with many twists and turns and by the time the climatic finish comes along, you’ve become heavily involved in the story. Plus, it’s a really neat idea for the perfect murder.

Random Observations:

Strangers on a Train at the IMDb

Now here is proof that 1951 produced better films than the Best Picture Oscar winner An American in Paris. After two films each, Hitchcock has taken a clear lead.

Raymond Chandler worked on the screenplay. Chandler is of course best known for creating Philip Marlowe, the greatest hard-boiled detective of all time. While the books are much better, I can also recommend the film version of The Big Sleep.

Once you have seen a few (in my case, that’s 17) of Hitchcock’s films, it becomes real fun to spot his cameos.

Can someone explain to me why actress Laura Elliott (whose birth name, incidentally, was Imogene Rogers), changed her stage name to Kasey Rogers in 1956? She played the murdered wife here in a truly memorable turn. Neither of her two husbands was called Elliott either.

Stage Fright – Minute Movie Review

Mittwoch, Juli 14th, 2010


Acclaimed stage actress Marlene Dietrich runs to her lover Richard Todd to help after her husband’s death. When he becomes a suspect, he turns to his amour Jane Wyman to help him. Sure that Dietrich has set him up, she decides to pose as her dresser in order to clear her friend’s name. This Alfred Hitchcock thriller is incredibly slow and boring for the first hour, but really picks up the pace after that. Dietrich as the stage diva is simply superb and a great supporting turn by Alastair Sim make the film worth watching, even if it is one of the director’s lesser efforts.

Random Observations:

Stage Fright at the IMDb

We continue our celebration of American Cinema of the 1950s with this British Film. That’s what I get for just assuming that Hitchcock worked exclusively in Hollywood in the 50s…

The film was dismissed at the time because it “cheated” the audience. I don’t want to go to far into the matter here so as not to spoil the film, but let’s just say that Hitchcock did something nobody had ever done before.

I really liked it when Hitchcock was showing off, having the camera follow an actor inside a house through the door, then have the door close and follow the actor further without any cuts.