Friday, January 29, 2016


You know how some movies were clearly made during a particular decade? Not because of certain technology used throughout or certain ideas the characters express. Just the general mood and ambiance of a specific title practically scream it was made within that specific era.

And boy, is that the case with Jim Henson's Labyrinth. It's probably the most 80s-looking film outside of Working Girl. (And that's saying a lot, mind you.) Sceneries strewn with glitter, a synthesizer-heavy soundtrack by David Bowie (his appearance is a whole category in of itself), sets made on the (relatively) cheap...just things of that nature.

Of course with this being a work of Henson's, the main attraction of Labyrinth isn't just Bowie (and his package) but also the many creatures in this world. After all, this is from the man responsible for Sesame Street and The Muppets so of course these creatures will bring some marvel to the viewers. (Eat your heart, CGI.)

And yes, while certain elements of Labyrinth now show their age, it's still a film that provides some amusement. Granted, both Bowie and Jennifer Connelly have since disowned their involvement in it but surely they must've held some regard for it in later years. (Okay, maybe not but who knows?)

Labyrinth is just straight-up silliness a good majority of the time but again it's an amusing silly. (That's 80s fare for you.) It's nothing deeply remarkable but it's good if you're looking for something to get your mind off your troubles.

My Rating: ****

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Nowhere Boy

Every now and then we get biopics that focus on the sordid details of a famous person's life. Infidelities, abuse of all sorts, and numerous details that they want the public not to know. Though sometimes these biopics focus on their lives before they became famous.

Such is the case with Sam Taylor-Wood's Nowhere Boy. Revolving around the life of John Lennon before his days with the Beatles, the film depicts his life as a misfit from Liverpool. Taylor-Wood depicts the future music legend as impatient with his life early on and striving to change it.

As anyone with a decent grasp on music of the last century knows, the Beatles were basically responsible for one of the biggest movements in the music industry. Had it not been for this quartet of Liverpudlian blokes, who knows what the state of the music world would be like? (More than likely boring knowing the number of musicians inspired by the Fab Four.)

Back to Nowhere Boy. Starring as Lennon is Aaron Taylor-Johnson, whose career since this has been met with mixed reception. But here he shows the promise normally found in young actors with that extra charisma usually absent in others. (Now if only his career would get back on that promising track...)

Anyway, Nowhere Boy isn't anything too groundbreaking but much like what Anton Corbijn did with Control a few years previous, Taylor-Wood uses her photographer eye to keenly capture the tumultuous private life of a famous musician whose life ended at a young age. (Hopefully Taylor-Wood's career will thrive more now that she's moved on from Fifty Shades of Grey.)

My Rating: ****

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Attack the Block

Joe Cornish's Attack the Block opens on Guy Fawkes Night, a time for those in London to revel in the celebrations of when the British government was almost overthrown. It's a time of fireworks and chaos. What better time for aliens to invade?

Okay, odd premise, granted, but Attack the Block is better than it sounds. It's not your typical alien invasion picture like The Day the Earth Stood Still or War of the Worlds. (And no, it's not a blatant reference to the current crisis going on in the world.) It's way creepier than that in spots.

Attack the Block is also reminiscent of Shaun of the Dead a good majority of the time as well. Both films don't rely on those with certain abilities to save the day. They instead have everyday people fighting the supernatural beings. (Who says you need to know martial arts in order to kick ass?)

Though Cornish hasn't been getting more recognition following Attack the Block, thankfully one of its stars has in recent months; And it's somewhat obvious that it's thanks to this film which earned John Boyega notice from the producers of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (Hopefully Cornish will encounter this in the near future.)

Attack the Block is a fun little sci-fi picture. It shows that, like the original (and perhaps even the latest) Star Wars, big-name stars aren't generally needed for something like this. You just need actors that can get the job done.

My Rating: ****

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


In the early scenes of Michael Lehmann's Heathers, the film appears to be a darker spiritual predecessor to Mean Girls. Bitchy high school girls, sharp-barbed jokes, the main character trying to be has all of the usual elements found in a teen comedy. That is, until J.D. (Christian Slater, channeling some serious Jack Nicholson vibes) enters the picture.

Both he and Veronica (Winona Ryder) soon develop an anarchy-fueled relationship of sorts. They kill a number of their peers and frame them as suicides. But how long will they get away with their crimes? And how much longer before they go too far?

Bear in mind that back when Heathers was released, the many dark elements were a warped form of comedy. But nowadays with teen suicides and school-related attacks making headlines at an alarming rate, Heathers becomes even darker in nature. There's absolutely no way in hell that this could get made today, especially as a comedy.

As mentioned earlier, Heathers is a very dark film. (It's certainly not your average John Hughes picture, that's for sure.) All of the later-uncomfortable elements aside, Daniel Waters' script has a wicked edge to it.

Heathers is the kind of film reserved nowadays for those with a really warped sense of humor. Sure, it's an accessible one but it'll more than likely alienate some of its viewers because of its content. (And honestly, there's a lot that probably made Lehmann and Waters cringe years later.)

My Rating: ****

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Man Who Fell to Earth

Nicolas Roeg clearly knew what he was doing when it came to casting the lead role in The Man Who Fell to Earth. He needed someone that was otherworldly and mysterious, the very essence of Thomas Jerome Newton. Who better for the part than ethereal and androgynous musician David Bowie?

At the time, Bowie was one of the biggest names in the music world. With a shock of (dyed) orange hair, he was someone that absolutely no one was prepared for. All these years later, it's because of Bowie's fearlessness when it came to expressing himself that made him such a prominent figure not just in music but pop culture as a whole. Truly he was one of a kind.

Amusingly there's a comparison or two between Bowie and his character in The Man Who Fell to Earth. Newton slowly becomes consumed by numerous earthly temptations; Bowie meanwhile was in the throes of cocaine addiction during production. This could be viewed as a prime example of art imitating life but more than likely this detail was just a coincidence.

Back to the film itself. The Man Who Fell to Earth is more or less an allegory on capitalism's crushing nature towards society. Admittedly this is a detail that's overlooked because of Roeg's imagery and Bowie's chic nature but hopefully it'll be one that gets noticed more on re-watches.

The Man Who Fell to Earth is a very strange film (and not strictly because of Bowie's involvement). It's also the most 70s-looking film this side of Tommy. (And that's saying a lot.) But all in all, it's certainly something worthy of a look.

My Rating: ****1/2

My Brilliant Career

Early on in Gillian Armstrong's My Brilliant Career, our protagonist Sybylla Melvyn (Judy Davis) shows no interest in a domestic life, something her family expects of her. She instead yearns for an independent life as a writer. But this is the late 19th century; it would be some time before society allowed women to express themselves.

Unsurprisingly, Sybylla's family is aghast by her free-spirited nature and they're determined to tame her. It's of limited success and offers of marriage practically repulse Sybylla. But will her opinions change when Harry Beecham (Sam Neill) enters her life?

Much like how Miles Franklin's novel was released at the beginning of the suffragette movement, My Brilliant Career was released at a time of screen feminism. Released the year after Girlfriends and An Unmarried Woman, it shows a woman living her life beyond the kitchen. (Once again, we need more films of this nature.)

Like Sense and Sensibility years later, My Brilliant Career has (then) modern-day feminism against a backdrop of the past. Indeed the feminist ideas of when the films were made and when they were set are different in some regards but the point is that feminism is not a new concept; it's literally something that's been around for generations.

Anyway, My Brilliant Career is a very well done film. Thanks to Armstrong's direction and Davis' performance, they show that women, regardless of age or era, strive for an identity of their own. Even if there's something in their way, they manage to persevere.

My Rating: ****1/2

Sunday, January 24, 2016


Childhood is rough enough as it is. There's dealing with annoying siblings, problems at school, and numerous other woes that one realizes aren't so important when they're older. But what about those things one realizes at an early age that are actually crucial?

Céline Sciamma's Tomboy revolves around a young trans boy as he and his family move to a new home. As a nice deviation from other fiction of a similar nature, he feels no angst over his identity. (If only the same could be said for his mother...)

Most of the time fiction focuses on trans women in their twenties or thirties. Very seldom do trans men get their moment in the spotlight. Thankfully Sciamma provides that spotlight. (More stuff like this, please.)

Tomboy also shows that there are those of a young age that realize who they are. There could be a little boy that knows he's not attracted to girls. There could be a little girl who likes her hair short and hates wearing dresses. These are just a few examples out of many of what the children of the world might feel.

Tomboy is proof that we need more films of this nature. This is not something only encountered by people at the early peak of their lives; it can be something that children feel as well. Don't immediately assume that all girls want to play with dolls or all boys want to play sports.

My Rating: ****1/2

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Classic Symbiotic Collaborations: The Star-Director Blogathon

Theresa of CineMaven's Essays from the Couch is hosting her first blogathon. The theme for it involves the many famous collaborations between actor and director. Lemmon and Wilder, Stewart and Capra, Bogart and Huston...the list goes on and on. I decided to focus on one that doesn't frequently gets talked about. Maybe because it's a collaboration that lasted only three films. Maybe because it sometimes gets overshadowed by the more famous collaborations the director had with other actors. I am of course referring to the brief collaboration of Grace Kelly and Alfred Hitchcock.

On the set of To Catch a Thief

Well, Hitchcock's films with Cary Grant and James Stewart seemed too obvious, so I wanted something different. Anyway, for a fresh reminder, these are the films that Kelly and Hitchcock did together:

(1954, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
(1954, dir. Alfred Hitchcock
(1955, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

Let's have some fun, shall we? (More after the jump.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Remembering Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon

Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood has another blogathon up and running, this time it's about legend Ruby Stevens -- sorry, Barbara Stanwyck. As per usual with these blogathons as of late, I decided to give myself a challenge. For this one in particular, I chose to write about the films that got Stanwyck Academy Awards nominations (though sadly, no wins). Those films (and whom she lost to) are:

(1937, dir. King Vidor)
Lost to Luise Rainer for The Good Earth
(1941, dir. Howard Hawks)
Lost to Joan Fontaine for Suspicion
(1944, dir. Billy Wilder)
Lost to Ingrid Bergman for Gaslight
(1948, dir. Anatole Litvak)
Lost to Jane Wyman for Johnny Belinda

(More after the jump!)

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Backstage Blogathon

Fritzi of Movies Silently and Janet of Sister Celluloid are at it again with another blogathon, this time it's about behind-the-scenes drama. No, not the real life type. Just the fictional ones. Being the type desperate for more attention (not really...sort of), I decided to chip in. My film of choice?

(1942, dir. Michael Curtiz)

In my eyes, I feel that this is overlooked a good majority of the time. There are a number of possible reasons. It could be because the film that Curtiz followed Yankee Doodle Dandy up with. (Nothing too important. Just a little film called Casablanca.) There’s also the fact that, despite it being an Academy Award-winning performance for him, this isn't the usual fare leading man James Cagney is known for. Hopefully by the end of this post this will be sought out by those curious.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

BOOK VS MOVIE: The Revenant

The willpower to survive is unlike anything else. Once one puts their mind to it, it's an unstoppable force. Heaven helps whomever gets in their way.

An endless amount of reality TV shows and works of fiction that revolve around the pursuit of survival. Many depict the harsh wilderness the protagonists are in but sometimes a fierce lust for revenge is depicted as well. Combine the two emotions together, and you have someone who should be outright feared.

Michael Punke's The Revenant depicts in grim detail what trapper Hugh Glass endured in the unsettled wilderness of the Louisiana Purchase. From the extent of Glass' injuries to the downfalls his company faced, Punke paints a portrait of the vicious side of both the past and within humanity.

Granted the screen credit says "based in part on the novel by Michael Punke", but Alejandro González Iñárritu's adaptation feels like something entirely different from what Punke presented. (That's not generally a good thing, mind you.) It plays up the revenge aspect of Glass' story more than anything else (even making Glass a more tragic figure), which feels forced in some scenes. At least the work from Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson is good.

Both Punke's novel and Iñárritu's film are clearly different works despite revolving around the same story. Punke shows Glass' journey to civilization with a heart filled with rage while Iñárritu dramatizes (and glorifies) said rage with a brutal perspective. One may preferred one more over the other but tastes vary from person to person.

What's worth checking out?: The book.


There's something annoying about female-led projects always being put on a pedestal whenever they're released. Women are half of the world's entire population. Why does everyone start talking about them once they make their presence known amid this bullshit patriarchy?

There's no logical reason as to why women can't be respected by their male peers regardless of intelligence, sense of humor or beauty (which in of itself is overrated). They're the reason for why we walk this earth. If giving birth to you isn't enough of a reason to respect even your own mother, what is?

Okay, that's not exactly the point David O. Russell's Joy is trying to make though it does prove women need to go to certain lengths to be held in the same regard as men. And even that is easier said than done.

This seems to be something that happens constantly not just in fiction but also in real life. Women constantly have to prove their worth to society, get their moment in the spotlight, and then their efforts get brushed under the carpet. (It's even worse for women of color.) Why else do you think there are so many stories about men?

Sorry, back to the review. Joy is good but if you're a woman watching this, you might feel anything but that a good majority of the time. Jennifer Lawrence is good (as she often is in a Russell film) though she needs to do something outside of Russell's films and The Hunger Games franchise. (At least the latter's done with.)

My Rating: ****

The Big Short

The world we're a part of is not a perfect one. Far from it. It's one filled with corruption, unsavory people and flawed systems. That said, glimpses of this mangled society could provide some decent entertainment from a fictional standpoint.

Adam McKay's The Big Short depicts the years leading up to the housing market crash in 2008. From the perspective of several hedge fund managers, traders and investors, the film chronicles them as they watch the economy they know slowly implode.

This is a departure from McKay's earlier work like Anchorman and Talladega Nights. However, it does maintain a comedic air in some scenes. (Particularly the scenes that explain business jargon to the audience.) But overall McKay shows that he's capable of making more mature works. (And that's saying a lot.)

Apparently The Big Short is mature enough to attract the likes of several actors who recently were graced by the voters of AMPAS. Though Christian Bale has been the one getting all of the acclaim (for reasons only the various award voters know), the best of The Big Short are easily Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling. (Though a smaller role, Brad Pitt is also very good.)

The Big Short is good though there are some elements that are distracting. The editing, for instance, is sporadic and immensely choppy. (It might work for some but it may give others a headache.) And maybe -- just maybe -- the business jargon could've been dumbed down a bit for those who don't play the stock market.

My Rating: ****

Monday, January 11, 2016

Crossing Delancey

There's a moment early on in Joan Micklin Silver's Crossing Delancey where Isabelle "Izzy" Grossman (Amy Irving) is beckoned by dashing author Anton Maes (Jeroen Krabbé) at a party. Her eyes light up as she approaches him, possibly imagining a future with him...then he gives her his empty glass.

A later scene shows Izzy's grandmother (Reizl Boyzk) is trying to set her up through a matchmaker. (Izzy is not amused.) The matchmaker finds pickle vendor Sam Posner (Peter Riegert) but Izzy turns him down. But even as she starts seeing Anton, she can't entirely pass up Sam's charms.

Sure, a premise like that sounds like the same old song we've heard time and time again. But Crossing Delancey is thankfully a nice change of pace. It doesn't force Izzy to immediately choose between Anton or Sam. The film simply shows her living her own life as she wants to live it.

In a decade where rampant sexual appetites were everywhere from teen comedies to network television, it's practically a relief to get a film that doesn't rely on the physical act. Being released the same year as Working Girl, it also shows a woman's life far away from the domestic setting.

Crossing Delancey is a deeply charming film. Thanks to the work from Irivng and Riegert (who's also great in Local Hero), it depicts the budding romance that we so seldom get nowadays. Quite honestly, we need more films like this one.

My Rating: ****1/2


Claudia Weill's Girlfriends is the kind of film that got lost amid the numerous (male-driven) titles of the decade. After all, it was released the same year as The Deer Hunter and Midnight Express. (Then again, An Unmarried Woman and Halloween also hit theaters that year.)

And again, this was made during a time when women were coming into their own and becoming independent. Before that time, women were expected to settle down, run the household and nothing else. Then women's lib came around, and thankfully everything changed.

And Girlfriends was also made during a time when independent film was on the rise. Thanks to John Cassavetes' contributions in the previous years, it proved that the big studios with their recycled scripts and A-list stars weren't the only ones capable of making successful films.

Girlfriends has a great lead performance from Melanie Mayron. It's not a performance filled with emotional outbursts or big speeches. It's one that simply has her living her own life. (More roles like this for actresses, please.)

Girlfriends proves that this is the kind of film that a young someone should see when they don't know what to do with their lives. It shows that you don't need to have your life all sorted out by the time you're in your twenties. Just appreciate the moment.

My Rating: ****1/2

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Hateful Eight

Over the last twenty years or so, Quentin Tarantino has been a popular name to numerous moviegoers. Of course, the violent aspect of his films (as well as certain choices of word uses) tend to bring controversy. Though sometimes it's because of said controversy that makes it easier to discuss his films.

His latest work The Hateful Eight isn't immune to controversy either but again it helps with discussing it. Yes, there's gratuitous bloodshed. Yes, there's outdated language that your elders might've used. But there's a certain style to all of it.

There's an ambiance to The Hateful Eight that's reminiscent of some of Sergio Leone's films, right down to the score by Ennio Morricone. But there's an element more reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch. (Doesn't take a genius to figure out what that element is.)

Tarantino recruits a number of actors he's worked with before and a few he hasn't. All of them pull their weight with Tarantino's sometimes overindulgent script, especially Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walter Goggins. (Also Tim Roth is a riot during his early scenes.)

The Hateful Eight isn't Tarantino's best film but it isn't his worst either. There are several moments where it feels like as he's getting off on the gruesome violence. (And that's saying a lot considering his other films.) If it was just a touch shorter, maybe it might be held in better regard.

My Rating: ****


Frequently we get films and TV shows involving someone discovering a conspiracy. All the President's Men, State of Play (the British mini-series, that is), The Insider...many times such works focus on what the government is hiding. But what if it's a more supposedly harmless corporation doing the hiding?

Peter Landesman's Concussion focuses on the National Football League's cover-up of the injuries numerous football players have endured on the field. What's revealed could easily put a major damper on one of the biggest sports around. (It's almost a shock that it hasn't.)

Even if one isn't too big on football (or sports in general), Concussion could be of interest to anyone. It does focused more on the medical side of the story, the result of numerous hard blows to the head. Granted, it only glimpses at how such injuries affect the victims and those close to them. (A film can only show so much without scaring its audience away.)

Admittedly this isn't one of Will Smith's strongest performances but he does try his best here. He, along with Gugu Mbatha-Raw, have proven in the past their capabilities as actors. But the thin script puts them in a confined position with what they can do.

Concussion all in all is fine but when it comes to elements outside of the plot, it leaves a lot to be desired. Yes, Smith and Mbatha-Raw do manage to salvage it but just barely. It's certainly a title you can wait to see.

My Rating: ****

Friday, January 8, 2016

The France on Film Blogathon

Summer of Serendipitous Anachronisms is hosting a blogathon where the subject matter is the birthplace of the hot air balloon, the bikini and modern dry cleaning: France. Whether it's films from and/or set in France (read: almost always in Paris), the objective is to discuss films involving the country where cinema was created. So what film will I be discussing?

(1963, dir. Louis Malle)

This is one of those films that I myself didn't know of until a few years back, and it became a film that left an indelible mark on me. (Thank you again, Alex, for the recommendation all those years ago.) And I hope you'll seek it out too after reading it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Loretta Young Birthday Blogathon

Cinema Dilettante and Now Voyaging have teamed up to do a blogathon in honor of Academy Award-winning actress Loretta Young. Admittedly I'm not well-versed with her work (apart from the one I'll be covering, I've only seen one of her films), but I still felt like chipping in my two cents. So which of her films will I be writing about?

(1947, dir. Henry Koster)

Monday, January 4, 2016


The opening scene of Jerry Schatzberg's Scarecrow is a mostly static shot of drifters Max (Gene Hackman) and Lion (Al Pacino) trying to hitch a ride. Keenly shot by the recently departed Vlimos Zsigmond, it has the viewer wondering what's in store for these two.

Bear in mind that when Scarecrow was released, Hackman and Pacino were still relative newcomers to moviegoers. (Just the year before, Hackman won an Oscar for The French Connection, and Pacino got his big break in The Godfather.) The film further shows that not only did Hollywood get two promising stars but Hollywood was in the midst of a new film generation.

Schatzberg, who had previously worked with Pacino on The Panic in Needle Park, directs a film as more than your average road movie. It's also a character study between the two drifters. Max has his future all planned out while Lion is just going where the wind blows. Seeing the short-tempered Max and the clownish Lion interact adds to this study.

Back to Zsigmond's cinematography for a moment. Here he captures various American backdrops of the Nixon era. Like what he also did with McCabe and Mrs. Miller and The Deer Hunter, Zsigmond depicts the disillusioned American dream. (Truly we have lost one of the greats.)

Scarecrow is easily one of the most overlooked titles of the New Hollywood movement. (Possibly understandable considering the other films Hackman and Pacino did in that era.) Hopefully it'll be one that gets rediscovered in the imminent future.

My Rating: ****1/2

The Marrying Kind

George Cukor's The Marrying Kind opens with Florence (Judy Holliday) and Chet Keefer (Aldo Ray) trying to get a divorce. The judge wants them to tell the story of their marriage to see where it went wrong. What follows is a glimpse into the average American union.

The Marrying Kind is darker in comparison to Adam's Rib or Born Yesterday. (Granted, Adam's Rib focuses on a shooting but the point still stands.) After all, this one's hinging on a potential divorce, and divorce wasn't exactly an approved of decision back in the early 1950s.

Anyway, The Marrying Kind is a step away from Cukor's usual fare like The Women or Camille. Cukor is known for various films with women at the helm, the kind with a touch of feminism in them too. With The Marrying Kind, he shows both sides of the same story.

Holliday (who had won an Oscar for Born Yesterday the year before) and Ray (who was relatively new to Hollywood at the time) play off each other with ease. With her sharp New York accent and his husky voice, they show (as is frequently depicted in movies) that opposites attract.

The Marrying Kind is good but in comparison to Cukor's earlier films with Holliday, it's lacking something. Granted, there were many other big titles from that same year (Singin' in the Rain and High Noon to name a few) but this is a title that's worthy of a look at least.

My Rating: ****

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Clock

Vincente Minnelli's The Clock opens with Cpl. Joe Allen (Robert Walker) walking out of Grand Central Station and into the wonders of New York City. It's within this moment that establishes Joe's character, one of shyness and naivete. (Certainly a far cry from Walker's best-known role in Strangers on a Train.)

Shortly after this, he meets Alice Maybery (Judy Garland). She shows him the sights and they start to warm up to each other. What ensues is practically a precursor for Before Sunrise (and perhaps its two sequels).

Nowadays The Clock is viewed as lesser-known from the director and its leading lady. Minnelli and Garland's legacies are firmly cemented in the musical genre. (Their previous collaboration was Meet Me in St. Louis.) Thankfully The Clock proves that they were more than capable of doing other genres than the one that immortalized them.

Even though The Clock is a lighthearted drama, the antics during production were anything but. As well as rekindling her romance with Minnelli (they were engaged by production's end), Garland became addicted to the prescription drugs the studio provided her. Walker in turn started drinking after finding out about his wife Jennifer Jones' affair with David O. Selznick. Despite all these personal woes, they managed to persevere like the professionals that they are.

The Clock is a very lovely little film. The chemistry between Walker and Garland is great (such a shame both died young from their vices), and it's definitely the kind of film everyone needed back then to fend off the worries of the soon-to-be-over war. It's certainly one that needs to be seen.

My Rating: *****

The Strawberry Blonde

When one watches Raoul Walsh's The Strawberry Blonde, it could be a shock to those familiar with his other collaborations with James Cagney like The Roaring Twenties or White Heat. (Or for that matter, any of Cagney's other gangster pictures.) After all, this is a lighthearted affair, a far cry from the guns a-blazin' found in both men's more famous productions.

So what is The Strawberry Blonde about? Set towards the end of the 19th century, the film follows Biff Grimes (Cagney) as he and his friend Hugo Barnstead (Jack Carson) try to romance Virginia Brush (Rita Hayworth), the titular strawberry blonde. But there's more to the film than that.

Of course the opening sequence shows that Biff eventually settles down with Amy Lind (Olivia de Havilland) but again, that's not the whole point of The Strawberry Blonde. The point of the film is that when you find that one person in your life, everything just seems to click afterwards.

And as is the case with any good film, the cast of The Strawberry Blonde is great. All four of the main actors were either coming off of or about to do the most prolific film of their careers (Cagney Yankee Doodle Dandy, Carson Mildred Pierce, Hayworth Gilda, de Havilland Gone with the Wind). That may be the reason for why The Strawberry Blonde has gotten lost in the shuffle of the many films of the 1940s.

The Strawberry Blonde is an utter delight. It's one of those films that'll bring a smile to your face throughout. (And Cagney would do it again the following year with Yankee Doodle Dandy.) It's just something you need to see for yourself.

My Rating: *****

Saturday, January 2, 2016


It's obvious the moment Franc Roddam's Quadrophenia starts that it's going to be one hell of a ride. Not on the same level as Tommy four years prior but certainly on the same magnitude as Ken Russell's film. Yes, both films are based on albums by the Who but both have completely different (and unique) stories to tell.

Tommy was about the titular deaf, dumb, blind kid that can play a mean pinball. So what's Quadrophenia about? A more simple plot this time around: set during the height of the Swinging 60s, it chronicles a young mod's everyday life as he pops pills, rides his scooter around, and tries to make sense of everything.

Bear in mind this was the era the Who became one of the biggest names in the music industry so it makes sense they would make an album to honor that era in the United Kingdom. But how well does Roddam capture that wonderful and wild time that the band knew best? Even though that era had long since ended (this was made during the late 70s after all), it's one that's revitalized.

It's not often that an entire era is brought back to life effortlessly. But Roddam depicts the mod subculture without a hitch as the era of Thatcher looms. It makes one wish that they could not only re-live that time in history (which did happen as a result of the film) but also live in the film itself.

Quadrophenia is practically the cinematic (and rock and roll) equivalent of The Catcher in the Rye. It captures the cynical nature of youth, the kind only a few fully get. And to think this film almost got cancelled because of the sudden (but not entirely unexpected) death of Keith Moon, the Who's drummer. (But as the saying goes, the show must go on.)

My Rating: *****

I Will Follow

Within the last year or so, Ava DuVernay has gotten her moment in the spotlight. Mainly because of the acclaim Selma received (and the lack of an Oscar nomination on her part) but also from her advocating other female directors. And she herself has been on the circuit for only a few years now.

Her second film I Will Follow hints what would be coming from the director. Revolving around a woman coping with the death of her aunt, DuVernay depicts living with grief and trying to piece together a possible future.

Like Selma years later, I Will Follow shows a variety of characters with varying personalities. DuVernay shows that people are of different tempers and patience, how no two people are alike on an emotional level. (Honestly, fiction tends to get that wrong frequently.)

I Will Follow also tackles the delicate subject of grieving, a subject fiction frequently indulges in. Everyone grieves differently when it comes to the loss of someone close. Some wear the emotions on their sleeve while others keep themselves composed. It's something we'll all endure at least once in our lives.

I Will Follow is good but in comparison with Selma, it's missing that extra je ne sais quoi. Had it been perhaps just a touch longer, maybe it might be held in higher regard. But instead it's just a fairly decent film. (That said, it does show DuVernay's future potential.)

My Rating: ****