Review: My Name is Julia Ross (Blu-Ray)

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Don’t get pushy. mister. It looks bad to the hired help.

mynameisjuliaross_coverClocking in at a taut 65 minutes 2 seconds, Joseph H. Lewis’ (Gun Crazy, The Big Combo) excellent low-budget sort of gothic noir My Name is Julia Ross will keep you guessing until its very end. There’s a feeling of immediate regret for its lowly heroine (played by Nina Foch) as the down on her luck expatriate ends up taking a secretarial job that puts her life at risk as as she’s taken in by a crooked family that means to do the poor girl in. Why this is happening to her is a little mystery the film will have you wrapped up in for its entire running time and the conclusion closes a tight thriller in just about perfect form.

Julia wakes up with a new name and location wondering what the heck is happening and why she’s wearing monogrammed clothing with someone’s initials. We previously see all her items being trashed by her new “family”, so it’s a case of dread for her fate a few minutes in. Her sole out is perhaps a local gal who works in the mansion she’s trapped in who works as a maid, but even she’s not as sharp as Julia turns out to be at the end. Julia is initially a bit addled from the “medicine” forced into her tea every morning, but her determination keeps her from losing it despite her “mother” (Dame May Whitty), “husband” (George Macready) and a few others making her life a living (albeit luxurious) hell. Living there isn’t the worst thing for Julia… except for the dying part her kidnappers want her to play for real.

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(Not-So) Random Film of the Week: Barry Lyndon

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Where it all begins for one Redmond Barry.

Barry Lyndon is a story which does not depend upon surprise. What is important is not what is going to happen, but how it will happen.

Stanley Kubrick

barry_lyndon_ver1_xlgMy first introduction to Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon was via the most likely means most 11-year olds with little to no interest in certain three-hour plus films made by somewhat visionary directors had at the time: MAD Magazine. I do recall that particular issue was confiscated from the classmate who owned it later in the day by a somewhat strict English (Literature) teacher who didn’t appreciate his not paying attention during her class. Fortunately, the magazine was returned the following day with a note that student had to take to his parents about his reading habits during class and oddly (or not so oddly) enough, a public library copy of The Luck of Barry Lyndon for him to read, write a book report on and return to the teacher. It turned out the teacher was a big fan of Kubrick’s film but had never read the MAD version, so she took it home, read it and liked the parody. Thus the somewhat unusual  temporary gift and form of “punishment”.

You gotta love good teachers, friends. Go and hug one today (er, with consent, of course).

I’ve had the feeling for some time that I may have wished for such a tremendous fate back then, as it took quite a few years more for me to actually read the book Kubrick adapted and altered somewhat using groundbreaking lighting techniques and some of the most gorgeous and true to life costume recreations ever put on film. It’s also a film where you can practically hear its director chuckling as he reworked the book into his own style that in my opinion, fits in well with Thackeray’s original writing. Droll, deadpan humor is laced throughout the dramatic scenes, all of which are masterfully composed shots that may have you pausing the film to admire a landscape or painterly composition (of which there are many). Excellent performances from the cast all around also help, as does realizing that Redmond Barry (Ryan O’Neal) isn’t supposed to “act” here in the sense of a person throwing himself into a part and chewing up the scenery. He’s perfectly cast as a man in a particular point in history where both good to terrible things happen and he reacts as he sees fit (which isn’t always accordingly).

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ALIEN @ 40(-ish) Still Has It (…Mostly)

ALIEN 40

A bit late to the party, but I have my reasons…

So, I waited a few days to post this to more or less commemorate the day I went to see ALIEN some 40 years ago. I was 15, and I took the day off from school to hoof it down to Times Square just to see this on a larger screen than was available in the Bronx. Or, I probably went downtown because I didn’t wan to be caught walking into or out of a theater there showing it. Or both. Anyway, it happened and as with Star Wars before that, I’d say my cinematic life took an upswing thanks to some fine film-making that recalled things I’d seen in the past. Ridley Scott’s direction was impressive, the cast was great and what more can be said about the production design and art direction that combined a few distinct art styles you’d think wouldn’t mesh together at all into something so… beautiful to look at?

(Thanks, Moviepilot Trailers!)

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Burt Reynolds: Last Train Out For The 1970’s Man’s Man

I’d (way too) old enough to still remember seeing Burt Reynolds appear on Dan August way back in 1970-71 and liking the show just for the rather dynamic opening of Burt doing all those stunts (and that catchy title theme):

 

(Thanks, The Rap Sheet!)

 

Amusingly enough, I was also watching Mannix over on CBS back then and yep, both shows were cut from the same (and literal) rough and tumble Quinn Martin cloth. meaning they were reliably action-packed and very guy focused (although both Mike Connors and Burt clearly had appeal to anyone hooked into those shows). I still recall in school one day some fearless (but none to bright) kid tried to copy that floor slide Burt did in the opening only to find out the laws of physics and a non-waxed floor made for a painful-looking science lesson. Hey, I got a laugh out of that foolishness, so it was all good.

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I read Burt said this was his favorite film. I heartily agree. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth the watch.

I didn’t see any of Burt’s movies until John Boorman’s brutal, brilliant Deliverance popped up in heavily edited form (I think on ABC) and yes, I was creeped out big time by it, but it also became a favorite flick whenever it aired. Now, I wasn’t one to follow all of his work, but much of everything I saw was well made and Burt always came off as a pretty cool cat. Even in his more dramatic work up to a point, he did quite okay portraying an interesting variety of characters. I liked his work on Sharky’s Machine a lot because the film works as both cop drama and intentionally amusing dark comedy. yeah, Burt was a pretty decent director, too. Foo. I hate writing these posts because it’s hard to put words into proper sentences when one’s mind is racing like a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am about to clear a huge jump. Go watch a Burt flick at some point, I say. Pick a good one.

-GW

(Not So) Random Film of the Week: The Big Sleep

the big sleep MPI’ve probably seen Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep about a dozen or so times over the years and I still can’t properly describe the plot of the film even after finally reading the Raymond Chandler novel it’s based on. That said, it’s always been a fun classic film to watch a few times because Humphrey Bogart plays his part so effortlessly and the other actors follow suit with some solid performances.

Yes, I know the film is all about private eye Philip Marlowe’s (Humphrey Bogart) somewhat interesting and somewhat laid back investigation process in a particularly confounding murder/extortion/sex/drugs case where a number of bodies drop before all is said and done.  That said, the plot spills all over the place like a tipsy barmaid wearing roller skates trying to carry a tray of drinks onboard a capsizing ship.  In the end, none of the plot bumps really hurt the movie because you’ll likely end up loving the end result for Howard Hawks’ directing and the cast doing their best with that loopy William Faulkner/Jules Furthman/Leigh Brackett script (which got a few other hands involved as well).

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The film is also a great look at the real-life blossoming Bogart and Bacall relationship with the snappy chemistry between the pair (working together for the second time) getting the sparks going full on despite the Hays Code restrictions. In other words, a little innuendo goes a long way, folks. That said, rather than do a rote retelling of the plot (which would take a longer post, trust me), this bit of pillow fluff will take a detour into Philip Marlowe’s amusingly laid back approach to dealing with most of the film’s other actors.

(Thanks, TheTrailerBlaze!)

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FUNDED! It’s A Good Life, Indeed

The Good Life Funded

Well, this is fine news indeed. I’d bet a penny that SWERY and Yukio Futasagi are very likely doing this routine to celebrate:

(Thanks, laughland!)

Actually, as the note the team sent out yesterday says, the really hard work is just beginning. Me, I’m happy to have contributed my paltry amount to the cause and will now wait patiently for the game to be completed. I’m not going to be one of those folks bugging, nagging, and pestering the folks working on this game at all because I respect game developers quite a great deal, particularly those that do work as interesting, intriguing and surprising as these two gentlemen have previously.

-GW

Blu-Ray Review: The Apartment

The Apartment BRI’d forgotten Billy Wilder’s forever brilliant The Apartment was a perfect seasonal movie for those of us isolated types looking for a lift as well as anyone else who has cold and loathsomely lonely winters. Granted, the first time I saw it (I think I was maybe 10 or 11), I was too young to understand much of what was going on. During these darker days as I age none too gracefully, Jack Lemmon is sort of my spirit animal, so this five Academy Award-winning film has become a personal favorite.

Poor C.C. Baxter (or “Bud” to some) toils away at his data collection job at a huge New York City insurance firm, often keeping late hours with no overtime thanks to his nearby apartment being used as a hot spot for a trio of philandering company executives, Mr. Dobsich (Ray Walston), Mr. Eichelberger (David White), and Mr. Vanderhoff (Willard Waterman). Baxter is hoping to climb the corporate ladder a bit faster by doing this (yes, he even has a calendar to keep track of who gets his place and when). But he’s also so accommodating that he even cleans up afterwards and takes suggestions from his cheating superiors such as restocking his liquor supply and buying cheese crackers without asking for a dime in return. Things get even more complicated after the big boss Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) gets wind of Baxter’s bachelor pad and dangles a big promotion over his head if he can get access to the place for his own affair. Baxter agrees to the trade, but finds out that Sheldrake is romancing Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), the cute elevator girl he’s been chatting up.

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Romero & Landau: Two For The Road

We have to stop meeting this way, but so it goes:

night_of_the_living_deadGeorge A. Romero created one of the most influential, essential horror movies back in 1968 with Night Of The Living Dead, a film that still packs a punch on a few fronts. As his feature film debut, Romero’s flesh-eating ghouls would inspire a legion of filmmakers to copy and attempt to improve upon his film’s strengths. Some did, most didn’t. He stayed primarily and comfortably within the horror genre, making six follow-ups to the original along with some solid films such as Martin, Knightriders, and Creepshow.

I can still recall the first time I saw Night on broadcast TV late at night (I think it was ABC that ran it first), the network placed an on-screen overlay during the “news” segments that ran during the film so people wouldn’t think actual dead folks weren’t rising up to chomp on flesh. I forget how young I was, but even in its edited for, the movie had me half under a blanket and that surprise ending gave me nightmares for a few days afterward. A few years later when TV spots for Dawn Of The Dead popped up, I was actually so scared I decided not to try and attempt to buy a ticket. I saved that underage trial by fire for ALIEN, released a year later.

Side note: George lived up here in the Bronx – I believe in the same area I’m in now. Not that it matters much, but finding that out always made me think of another neighborhood guy who did well for himself.

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Loving The Alien: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

 

The best film directors are master manipulators who can magically transform an entire theater audience into a group of happy to sappy sapient lemmings or wide-eyed marionettes easily controlled from start to end credits. Their best films have the masses cheering the heroes, hissing at the bad ones, empathizing with the downtrodden and generally feeling whatever emotion a scene calls for. Yes, there are exceptions to this non-rule (too-likeable villains, swapping out all attempts at sympathy for more explosions and eyeball rolling plot twists you can see coming 20 minutes before they occur). But when you get right down to it, you know your cinematic needs are being taken care of when certain directors are at the helm.

Or, as an old friend once said:

(thanks, svofski!) 

In other words, this is a Spielberg film, folks.
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Random Films: Stuff To Watch Happen When You’re Not Watching Stuff Happen (Part 1)

(Thanks, Lord Juri’s Channel!)
 

So, yeah. We’re in uncharted yet somehow all too predictable waters at the moment. I’m seeing those history and philosopy books I read or scanned and documentaries I watched as a kid up coming to life in rapid succession and nope, that’s not a good seaworthy feeling in the guts that’s happening. Diversions, diversions are required in this case, but I prefer focused ones that fit the climate over ones that beg me to continually forget it. Anyway, a few recommends to see for you if you’re so inclined, have an open mind and don’t want to be left behind.

No commentary needed on these, but trailers are added to get your eyes and brain to get your fingers clicking on getting these added to that ‘must-see’ queue. Four for today should be enough – there are a load more I’ll get to over time. Distractions about disruption over participation in destruction, I say.

theboywithgreenhair 

(Thanks, Screenbound Pictures!)
 

a face in the crowd poster 

(Thanks, Warner Bros!)
 

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(thanks, Poetic Realism!)
 

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(Thanks, Movie Trailer Graveyard!)
 

Back in a bit…

– GW