Random Film of the Week: Topkapi

Topkapi_DVDHaving had items stolen from me in the past, I’m not at all a fan of thievery as a *proper* lifestyle choice (grrr!). That said, it’s hard to pass up a good (fake) crime caper and Jules Dassin’s  wonderful, amusing 1964 film Topkapi has been a favorite of mine for decades ever since I saw it as a kid. There’s just something magical about Dassin’s work here. It was his first color film and boy, does he blow the doors out right from the near seizure-inducing start (you’ll probably wince/squint a few times with all those color filters and such coming at you full tilt), and it’s also a film that gets you grinning from start to finish.

It’s more or less the flip the switch to comic tone version of Dassin’s bleak but brilliant 1955 film Rififi with a more varied cast and an even better lengthy heist scene. It’s also a film that’s since inspired a few directors to steal liberally from it (to varied effects), but that’s another discussion for another day. Here, you get Melina Mercouri, smoky voice and all as the lovely Elizabeth Lipp, who has the grand idea to steal a jeweled dagger from Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. She seeks out an ex-lover (Maximilian Schell) who just so happens to be a thief of some renown and the pair plan out their caper with the intent to use nothing but amateurs unknown to any authorities who come sniffing around after the crime has been committed.

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Debbie Reynolds: Dancing On That Smile Stage One Final Time

(thanks ozabbazo77!)
 

Ugh. No mas, 2016. This one’s both barrels, folks. If you’ve never seen Singin’ In The Rain, please do so ASAP as it’s not only a great introduction the classic movie musical, it’s probably going to lighten even the grimmest mood when all is said and done.

Back in a bit.

-GW

Random Film of the Week: The Pirate

The Pirate MPEvery movie fan (this writer included) has a case of “Hollywood Blinders” they slap on for certain films they love because without them, thinking of anything abnormal taking place behind the scenes ruins much or all of a particular movie’s strengths. This little review just so happens to be about one of those films some outright adore while others don’t take to it all that well.

While its comic book colors and highly exuberant performances make Vincente Minnelli’s 1948 musical The Pirate a mostly to extremely fun to watch slice of Hollywood entertainment, it’s the behind the scenes stuff that makes the film somewhat problematic as a classic one can fully enjoy unless you ignore certain elements. For this particular film, those Hollywood Blinders take the form of an eye patch (or bandanna or even a big felt pirate hat if you like watching your colorful, imperfect musicals with two working eyeballs).

The pairing of Gene Kelly and Judy Garland should have been a wonderful one and in fact is when the film hits most of its high marks. But thanks to the studio system’s lousy treatment of her from the beginning of her career, Garland’s star was far from shining bright during the troubled production. The results are amusing and impressive at times, but it’s also a somewhat flawed film with a too quick finale that pops in as if the cameras were running out of film and something needed to get shot or someone had to walk the plank.

(thanks, SuperVintageCinema!) 

Garland’s assorted troubles (including a nervous breakdown that kept her off set for an extended period) thankfully don’t show up in the finished product. But it’s clear that the wide-eyed gal next door who played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz less than ten years previously was a wider-eyed and far more troubled soul on a downward spiral to a much shorter life than she deserved. Toss in a fantastic Gene Kelly dance sequence with The Nicholas Brothers that seemingly got them pushed out of the movies (and Hollywood) for a few years too long and you end up with a film best seen with those Hollywood Blinders on. Nice and tight, now.  So, buckle your swash and slap on that eye patch, folks. There’s a storm a-brewin’ on the shooting stage and you’re getting shanghaied and strapped into your seats for a wild ride… Continue reading

Holding Patterns: While You Wait, Shall We Dance?


 

Well, today I’m working on some CES and other posts for the other site I’m writing for, GamerFitNation, but I don’t want to leave you all un-entertained here while I get stuff done elsewhere. Here’s a fun sequence from 1944’s The Canterville Ghost to watch and grin over. Just track down the complete film and watch it, as it’s a pretty amusing take on the old Oscar Wilde story you may or may not have read in grade school. Or seen on a small or large screen, as it’s been made into a few TV movies and films over the years. Alrighty, I’ll be back in a bit…

Movies I (Still) Need To See #1: The Power


 

As I watch a wee bit too much of TCM when I’m not doing anything constructive, I’ve ended up with a mighty long list of films I need to see before I shuffle off this mortal coil. Not all of these films are important or even good, mind you. But I feel it’s my civic duty to entertain myself as much as possible. Or, to quote The Police: “When the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around”. Anyway, I figure I may as well kick of another series of articles about films I haven’t seen yet in the hope that some of you get the idea and start bucket-listing flicks you’d like to see. Anyway, kicking things off is The Power, the George Pal produced 1968 sci-fi thriller that I’ve only seen in the 1967 MGM Lionpower promo feature that pops up from time to time on TCM.

The Power (1968) MP 

That footage made me laugh because the film predates David Cronenberg’s 1981 classic horror/sci-fi hybrid Scanners by 13 years and almost comes off as an influence in a few ways. Granted, Cronenberg’s films stand up well enough on their own. But this oldie looks like it would make a nice companion piece to the newer film (and should certainly be better than the pair of non-Cronenberg directed Scanners sequels that sunk whatever franchise rights the first film had. Not that it needed a sequel in the first place, mind you. Anyway, that’s the first film I could think of, NOT the first one on my list of films. That’s just how I roll, people… randomly. Which, by the way, is a habit I’m trying to break. Back in a bit…

WATCH THIS: Nothing Lasts Forever… Unless It’s on TCM!

Nothing Lasts Forever MP 

Finally, one of the bucket list 80’s film for many folks my age is coming to TV legally and I couldn’t be happier. Well, I actually COULD be happier if TCM was showing Nothing Lasts Forever at a more sane hour. For a big premiere of a film many have desired seeing on the big screen, that 2am (EST) start time just made me say, “really?” out loud when I found out. Which was funny because I was at the library and when I said that, two guys who were talking next to me thought I was referring to the conversation they were having that I didn’t hear. Oops.

Okay, not that I’m not a complete night owl at times (all my candles have wicks on either end), but come on now. Still, this bodes well if the damn film also nets a DVD/Blu-Ray release at some point in the near future. Or at the very least, more and earlier showings on TCM. Here’s a fan-made trailer from a few years back just to pique your interest in case you’re wondering what I’m gushing about:

(thanks, mpjstreeter!)
 

I’m not sure if they track their ratings as obsessively as network stations do, but I’m betting a lot of people will be staying up later than usual to catch this. The other upside to all this is if you still happen to be awake and giddy afterwards, you can sit through John Carpenter’s 1981 classic, Escape From New York, which amusingly enough fits the theme of the previous film, albeit in a more comically violent manner. Anyway, I’ll put on some coffee as soon as I walk in the door, maybe do a few push-ups and jump into the shower to keep awake. I was up late into the morning today (see my previous post) and had forgotten the film was on later today, er, tomorrow morning. Fear not, dear readers – I’ll be awake to see it in its entirety. My Sunday may either be spent half asleep for the better part of the morning or wishing I could see the movie again because I missed something.

MGM had better come through with a home video release at some point. I’m betting a lot of people will be replacing bootlegs with a better version that will hopefully have some decent special features.

Random Film of the Week: The Big Parade

(thanks, SilentPianoNinja for making this spectacular modernized trailer!)
 

The Big Parade MPIf you know someone who’s straddling the silent movie fence or avoiding it entirely for some strange reason, The Big Parade is a great movie to get them into appreciating a great many important films they’re missing out on. Director King Vidor’s absolutely brilliant and hugely influential 1925 film benefits from stellar performances all around, and a half comedic/half dramatic structure that introduces its cast of characters with vigor and plenty of humor in that first half before pulling no punches in its latter half’s battle scenes.

The great and handsome as heck John Gilbert along with the beautiful Renée Adorée give what would have been Academy Award-winning performances had the Academy existed at that point in time and for me, this is one of the more stirring pre-sound epics worth rounding up friends and/or family to watch this classic with. You’ll need a kettle of popcorn, a barrel of root beer (that barrel will come in handy later) and perhaps a box of tissues to go ’round the room, as this is 141 minutes of fantastic film making that’s truly stood the test of time Continue reading

SDCC 2014: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Teaser Makes Me Feel A Bit Green…

The third part of Peter Jackson’s busy amusement park version of Middle-earth is on the way to theaters in December and as you can see from this teaser trailer, you’ll be getting pretty much what you expected if you liked the other two parts of this two part film expanded into three. I’m actually a film behind in this saga (I need to see The Desolation of Smaug at some point), so I’m not in a tearing hurry to rush out to a theater 11+ miles away and see this one. Heck, given the extended, special, collectors and other edition home video versions that are BOUND to surface in 2015 and onward, I may as well wait until the DEFINITIVE version of this trilogy rolls out just so I can see every bit of film as it was intended to be seen (er, as far as home versions go). I should probably just follow a friend’s advice and get a nice HD projector to make that one big white wall in the living room a mini movie palace, but we’ll see what happens financially over the next few months or so.

Oh, and you can actually WIN a nice trip to New Zealand to poke around some of the actual locations from the film (minus the green screen effects, of course). That video above will clue you into how to enter and such. Good Luck!

Random Film of the Week(end): Blow-Up

(thanks, Cinedelica TV!) 

Blow-Up Cannes MP“Nothing like a little disaster for sorting things out.”

Some people hate Michelangelo Antonioni’s groundbreaking 1966 film Blow-Up (or Blowup depending on how you prefer it spelled, I go with the poster myself) with a passion reserved for cruel dictators and people who drive vans full of puppies and baby rabbits into lakes. Me, I’ll admit to disliking and being frustrated with the film when I saw it as a not quite ready to see something so heady teenager thinking it was going to be something entirely different. However, as years have passed and I’ve seen it a few more times, I’ve come to truly appreciate the film for the things it nails while realizing most people who despise the film tend to over-analyze it to the point of making themselves confused as to exactly what the movie is about.

For all its swingin’ London scenery, excellent use of that great Herbie Hancock score, skinny exotic models posing for a seriously unlikable main character and seemingly “boring” stretches where seemingly, nothing important happens for some viewers looking for a proper narrative before something important DOES happen (that’s picked upon as important to those plot followers, naturally). The funny thing is, any attempts as locking in that golden “Aha!” moment are interrupted by a few distractions that intentionally take focus away from things unless you’ve clued into what’s actually going on here. With all that, Blow-Up is actually a surprisingly minimalist and easy to understand film, albeit an experience that demands your complete attention. Well, once you cut through the arty fat and get to the hidden in plain sight meat on the bone dangling in front of you, it’s a more fulfilling viewing experience. On the other hand, it’s also a film that while open to a few interpretations, still revolves around a central theme some continue to overlook. Continue reading

Random Film of the Week: Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet_MPEven though the first time I saw Forbidden Planet was when I was about five or six years old on a medium-sized black and white TV with not always perfect reception and the film was rather horribly panned and scanned from what I recall, I fell in love with it and it’s remained one of my favorite science fiction films. I’ve since seen it countless times and it remains quite a fun film to watch thanks to everything melding together so flawlessly (including its handful of flaws).

I think it was also one of the first movies I actually remember looking at the music credits for and being surprised that two people composed the “electronic tonalities” that were buzzing my eardrums and pleasantly sinking into my brain’s recesses. Louis and Bebe Barron’s impressive score drove home right away that this was no ordinary 1950’s flick with a low budget and cast of no-names mugging it up for the camera. I’ll also admit to thinking director Fred Wilcox was a relation, but I think my mother or father pointed out that many people have the same last name who aren’t related at all (but I don’t think I believed her at the time). Flash forward a few years later and when I finally saw the film in color on a huge TV in its original widescreen format, I was even more floored thanks to the beautiful color palette and (mostly) still impressive visual effects. I was also a bit jealous because back in 1956, it must have been blowing audiences back in their seats to see this on a massive Cinerama screen with those sounds booming from multiple theater speakers… Continue reading