The Sherlock Holmes stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are enjoying a bit of renaissance at the moment, with modern takes on the character on television on both sides of the pond. This take, however, based on novel by Nicholas Meyer, is modernization of a different sort, inserting contemporary concerns into a thoroughly traditional Holmes story.
Don’t be deceived by the fact that John Wayne received an Oscar for his performance as Rooster Cogburn. That award was probably more of a lifetime achievement award than recognition for a single performance, much like Paul Newman’s Oscar for The Color of Money. John Wayne had given better performances and made better films. Probably not coincidentally, John Ford was usually involved.
Despite the “One Degree of Marky-Mark,” this film is not quite the rip-off of The Departed that it appears to be on the surface, but it’s not different enough to make it worth almost two hours of your time. The first-rate cast gives it an illusion of substance that is slightly deceptive, but great performances do not compensate for the run-of-the-mill cop story with a weak villain.
This movie wants to be the Dr. Strangelove of the tobacco wars and I’ll be darned if doesn’t almost do it. Some might say that cigarettes are an even more audacious subject for a comedy than nuclear war, since tobacco takes out more people in a given year then the A-bomb has in the history of the human race. Thank You For Smoking certainly aims for big targets, but they are also easy targets. The film’s position, namely that tobacco companies have behaved with the all the moral fiber of Jeffrey Dahmer’s ne’er-do-well brother, is hardly original nor particularly newsworthy. This acid-etched satire, directed by Ivan Reitman’s son, Jason, scores its points with sharply drawn characters.
Francis Ford Coppola’s feverish anti-war epic Apocalypse Now actually began its journey to screen in the late sixties when Über-macho filmmaker John Milius attempted to meet the challenge presented to him when he was informed that no one had successfully adapted Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness, although several had tried, including luminaries such as Orson Welles. His original screenplay was true to Milius’s conservative, pro-military outlook, containing a great deal of praise for the warrior lifestyle and nothing but contempt for the hippies he saw protesting against the Vietnam War.
Sometime during the last thirty years, Network has gone from an outrageous, absurdist comedy to almost a documentary. Almost. While some of its points about reality television, media consolidation and news-as-entertainment seem eerily prescient, fortunately not all of it has come true. Dan Rather was not gunned down during his last broadcast and, to the best of my knowledge, the Communist Party never had its own network series.
Even after three decades, this movie is still one of the most intelligent, biting indictments of television excess ever produced. The sharp, literate, Oscar-winning script by Paddy Chayefsky still has the power to stoke your anger even while it sends you dashing off to find a thesaurus.
To Kill a Mockingbird is an indelible portrait of courage and principle seen through the eyes of three children in small, Depression-era Southern town. It is also a lovingly faithful adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic novel.The early part of the film focuses on the two children of windower Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), Jem (Phillip Alford) and especially Scout (Mary Badham), a precocious tomboy who only begrudgingly exchanges her coveralls for a dress when it’s time to start first grade.
While their father is off to work, leaving them in the care of their nanny, Calpurnia (Estelle Evans), the two children and their friend, Dill (John Megna), go about the business of being kids, which for them revolves around getting a glimpse of the neighborhood boogey-man, “Boo” Radley (Robert Duvall). They’re curious about their father’s work as an attorney, but they don’t let it intrude on the truly important things in life.
Because of its legendary car chase through the streets of San Francisco, Bullitt probably has a reputation as a more action-packed movie than it really is. In reality, it’s a fairly realistic and low key cop drama about a witness protection detail that goes horribly wrong.
Bullitt is also the film that makes the best use of the onscreen image of Steve McQueen. He remains, to this day, the quintessential embodiment of “cool.” Almost without effort, he exudes a presence that most actors would kill for and he does it with a minimalist style that sometimes makes Clint Eastwood look like Al Pacino in Heat.
Anyone who pops in their DVD of Robert Altman‘s movie adaptation of Richard Hooker‘s novel expecting to see a two-hour version of the TV show is in for a rude shock. The long-running series starring Alan Alda is related to this movie only by title, character names and setting. Stylistically, they are very different animals altogether.
The CBS sitcom, for its groundbreaking subject matter, is still a traditional “workplace” comedy at heart, very much in the tradition of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The TV Frank Burns has far more in common with Ted Baxter than with the religious fanatic portrayed by Robert Duvall in the movie.
The movie version is a choatic, anarchic and hilarious celebration of insanity as an antidote for insanity. Continue reading →