Sunday, October 18, 2009


Starring: Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh & Christopher Plummer
Director: Taylor Hackford

A Maine woman is accused of murdering her longtime employer, which brings her estranged daughter home for the first time in years. Now, the two women begin to sort out unanswered questions from the past. Gripping adaptation of Stephen King's novel (by Tony Gilroy) holds your interest from start to finish, as the real story unfolds. Bates' performance is a powerhouse and the rest of the cast is equally fine. Kudos too, to Hackford's arresting visual treatment. (131 mins.)

My Rating: ***1/2

Thursday, October 15, 2009

CHAPLIN (1992)

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr.
Director: Richard Attenborough

Reverent, lovingly detailed bio of Charlie Chaplin--from his squalid childhood in London to early moviemaking days with Mack Sennett, to international stardom, celebrity, and scandal. Downey is astonishingly good as Charlie and the film starts out great, but flattens midway through and tries to cover too much ground. Geraldine Chaplin plays her own grandmother, Charlie's severely neurotic mom.

Well-intentioned and often well-acted biopic. Unfortunately, director Richard Attenborough takes almost a scandal-sheet approach, forgetting what made Chaplin so important was the movies he made. worth seeing for Downey and equally impressive turns by Kevin Kline (as Douglas Fairbanks Sr.) and Geraldine Chaplin. (144 mins.)

My Rating: ***

Monday, October 5, 2009

BEDLAM (1946)

Starring: Boris Karloff & Anna Lee
Director: Mark Robson

One of the lesser entries in the Val Lewton-produced horror film series at RKO, this release still has its moments as the courageous Anna Lee tries to expose the cruelties and inadequacies of an insane asylum run by Boris Karloff, who is first-rate, as usual.

Set in the 18th-century London. Robert Clarke appears unbilled. B&W. (79 mins.)

My rating: ***

CRISIS (1946)

Starring: Dagny Lind, Inga Landgre & Marianne Lofgren
Director: Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman made his directorial debut with this 1946 drama which found a number of his key themes already in place. Ingeborg (Dagny Lind) is a middle-aged woman living in a small Swedish community where she supports herself giving piano lessons and running a boarding house. Ingeborg has devoted much of her life to looking after Nelly (Inga Landgre), a teenage girl who was abandoned by her mother Jenny (Marianne Lofgren) when she was a baby. Ingeborg deeply loves Nelly and think of her as her daughter, and she's distraught when Jenny appears and announces she intends to reclaim Nelly and take her to Stockholm, where she now runs a successful beauty salon. Despite Ingeborg's pleas that her poor health limits the time she can spend with Nelly, Jenny is adamant, and the teenager decides to go, though her decision is largely motivated by her mixed feelings about Ulf (Allan Bohlin), an older veterinarian who wants to marry her, and her sudden infatuation with Jack (Stig Olin), a mysterious charmer who is a friend and distant relative of Jenny. Kris (aka Crisis) was adapted from a popular stage play by Leck Fisher; the production was hampered byBergman's inexperience, and his mentor Victor Sjostrom was brought in to supervise the last few weeks of shooting. (95 mins.)

My Rating: **1/2


Starring: Roger Livesey, Deborah Kerr & Anton Walbrook
Directors: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger

A truly superb film chronicling the life and times of a staunch for-king-and-country British soldier. Sentimentally celebrating the human spirit, it opens during World War II and unfolds through a series of flashbacks that reach as far back as the Boer War. Roger Livesey is excellent in the title role. Deborah Kerr portrays three woman in his life across four decades with charm and delight. Definitely a keeper.

Title character bears no relation to famous David Low caricature buffoon on whom he's supposedly based. Heavily cut for various reissues; often shown in b&w. (163 mins.)

My Rating: ***


Starring: Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Tom Wilkinson & Paul
Director: Tony Gilroy

If you know your con-game movies, then you're familiar with the differences between short cons and long cons. The short con is all about making a quick buck -- like getting a bartender to give you change for a 20, when you really paid with a 10. Long cons, on the other hand, require months, if not years, of setup, and come with a payoff to match. They also make for timeless movies like The Sting, The Grifters, House of Games, and Tony Gilroy's Duplicity. Like those other time-tested con movies, Duplicity is about more than just lying, deceit, and trickery -- the story's mind games also serve as a metaphor for bigger issues -- in this case, love. In the opening scene, Ray Koval (Clive Owen) seduces Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts) at a cocktail party thrown by the government of Dubai. Their passionate night together ends with him drugged, and her taking pictures of some sensitive documents in his possession -- and thus begins a most unusual courtship between people who inherently mistrust everyone around them. It would be just plain wrong to reveal much more about the plot, but years later, the two end up on opposite sides of some serious corporate espionage, and their time together in the past has more of an effect on their present than anyone -- the characters or the audience -- really understands.

Tony Gilroy proved that he could fashion an airtight thriller with Michael Clayton, and he's done it again here. The complex plot never confuses viewers -- you always know where you are in the story. And even if, at a given moment, you don't know why characters are having the same word-for-word conversation in totally different times and places, you can trust it will all make sense in the end.

In addition to creating a brain-twisting thriller full of double agents and triple crosses,Gilroy also makes Duplicity a credible romantic comedy at the same time thanks to dialogue that sparkles with humor -- the kind of dialogue actors kill to say. Clive Owen knows how to deliver a laugh line, and he gets more than his fair share of them, but it's his ability to charm his victims -- he makes it seem like it's fun to be lied to -- that makes him ideally suited for the part. And while we're on the subject of charm, Julia Roberts can still flash that 1,000-watt smile, but she's also grown into a more confident actress, able to play cold and calculating just as effortlessly as she can warm and charming. Together, they make a smart and sexy pair, entirely different from their battling lovers in Closer. While Owen andRoberts may anchor the movie, the whole cast gets to have fun, especially Tom Wilkinsonand Paul Giamatti as feuding corporate CEOs. Their first confrontation makes for a hysterically funny opening credit sequence. Wilkinson gives his business tycoon a know-it-all smugness that conflicts hilariously with Giamatti's paranoid and angry character -- he's half Gordon Gekko and half Donald Duck. And Carrie Preston steals her few scenes as a corporate travel planner who falls for all of Ray's considerable charms. But, however strong the acting is, Tony Gilroy deserves the lion's share of credit for making such a delightful movie. His writing and direction find the perfect balance of comedy, sexiness, and tension. The con-game elements may drive the story, but it's the romantic comedy that givesDuplicity heart and soul. (125 mins.)

My Rating: ***

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Starring: Jarl Kulle, Bibi Andersson, Nils Poppe & Sture Lagerwall
Director: Ingmar Bergman

A woman's chastity gives the Devil sty in his eye, so he sends Don Juan back to Earth from Hell to seduce her, but the modern-day woman finds his old-fashioned charm amusing rather than irresistible. Droll Bergman comedy is a bit slow, but witty and playful.

Bits of the Bergman elegance and insight, snips of humor and captivating paradoxical detail. (90 mins.)

My Rating: ***


Starring: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Henry Daniell, Edith Atwater, Russell Wade & Rita Corday.
Director: Robert Wise

Fine, atmospheric tale from Robert Louis Stevenson short story of doctor (Daniell) who is forced to deal with scurrilous character (Karloff) in order to get cadavers for experiments. Last film to team Karloff and Lugosi, their scenes together are eerie and compelling. One of the classic Val Lewton thrillers. Screenplay by Philip MacDonald and Carlos Keith (Lewton).

A doctor is blackmailed by a villainous coachman when he wishes to stop securing bodies for medical research in Scotland of the 19th century. For horror fans, this is one of the best; for others, a good and chilling version of Robert Louis Stevenson's tale. (77 mins.)

My Rating; ***